As us dudes at No Hype will be the first to tell you, the #squad is the most important thing in the world. In a world of haters, thots, and execs, the peeps in your crew are the only ones you can really trust: when you can’t finish that verse, or need some courage to chat up the girl on the other side of the club, or just want to turn up in the middle of the day.
The landscape of hip-hop right now is dominated by packs who move with this mentality. Some of these posses are not only stacked but create spaces to let their listeners in. Others fall victim to infighting and money fiascos. Here are the crews of 2015, ranked.
- Young Money
#squad: Birdman, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Austin Mahone, Gudda Gudda, Lil Twist, Drake(?)
Ah, Birdman, rap game King Lear. (Or more appropriately, real life rap game talentless Lucious Lyon.) The arrogant patriarch finally got what was coming to him this year: he banished the prodigal son, Lil Wayne, to the stormy shores of TIDAL, causing lawsuits to get thrown like bottles in clubs; he almost got his new protégé to kill his old one, landing the Thugger in jail for a second. His two other offspring turned on him: Drake dropped a half-assed contractual obligation of an album and Nicki settled down with an enemy lord in Meek Mill. Worst of all, he let a Chris Brown & Tyga collaboration happen. Now Young Money has a succession problem, with no potential savior-Jamal in sight.
- Wu-Tang Clan
#squad: RZA, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck
Leading the charge of Wu-Tang’s gasping quest for relevance has been Ghostface Killah, who put out not one but two albums with cutting-edge acts: jazz-ish trio Badbadnotgood and producer Adrian Younge. He also beefed with Action Bronson, though, and kind of came off as a disgruntled grandpa. Method Man put out a forgettable single, and Raekwon put out a forgettable album.
- G.O.O.D. Music
#squad: Kanye West, Pusha T, John Legend, Big Sean, Yasiin Bey, Teyana Taylor, Mr Hudson
Not a great year for Kanye’s handpicked varsity roster. When the biggest thing of note is a C-lister (Cyhi the Prynce) releasing a fake diss song at your leader, you need to be putting out more shit. And no, Big Sean, I don’t fuck with you.
- Pro Era
#squad: Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly, Chuck Strangers, Powers Pleasant, Kirk Knight
It’s been a long, devastating few years for the Brooklyn crew: co-founder Capital STEEZ commited suicide in 2012, and Junior B died last year. That leaves Joey to put the team on his back: his studio debut, B4.Da.$$, finally arrived this January, a virtuosic mission statement of a young black man fighting both his inner demons and the ones in blue. Producer Powers Pleasant also released a fairly banging debut EP with some cool guitar stuff.
#squad: Drake, PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, ILoveMakonnen, Roy Woods
The hardest I rolled my eyes this year is when I stood on Randall’s Island in the middle of a crowd of thousands of drunk teenagers, all yelling “RUNNING THRU THE SIX WITH MY WOES” at the top of their lungs, as Drake pranced around in front of a lot of shrubbery. No, PartyNextDoor doesn’t provide much that Future already hasn’t, and no, Makonnen can’t rap in time. But still, these guys are blessed. They sell out merch with an owl on it. They have a Beats 1 show. And they have the Legend, the Meme King, who’s good enough to make a Majid Jordan track pretty hot, and also murdered Philadelphia rap. Therefore they are grudgingly awarded sixth place. Fuck the Blue Jays, tho.
- Awful Records
#squad: Father, Tommy Genesis, Abra, KeithCharles Spacebar, Archibald Slim, Lil Slugger
Wrist, wrist, wrist: it’s a goddamn way of life, and just the tip of the iceberg for this gnarly, offbeat Atlanta crew that uploads stuff on Soundcloud faster than superhero movies get rebooted. This year we’ve gotten a squad mixtape called #AwfulHoliday, projects from Abra (sultry), Ethereal (droopy, pungent), Tommy Genesis (bombastic, vicious, trappy) and all sorts of other shit only found in the craziest of your acid-induced fever dreams.
- Black Hippy
#squad: Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q
Thank god! Jay put out his album! It’s been a rough life, waiting for all these Jays to drop their motherfucking masterpieces. I’ve been living from single to awesome single like a junkie; the big fix is finally here. Praise be.
In other news, Kendrick put out maybe the album of the year and became the mouthpiece of black America.
- Odd Future
#squad: Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats, Syd tha Kid
Odd Future is so 2011 rite? Except the non-horrorcore slackers just keep getting more and more famous. “Cherry Bomb” saw Tyler get his slow jam on again, and Earl’s “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” was a perfect distillation of his acidic, restless introversion. The Internet, fronted by lone female member Syd the Kid, made some sweet babymaking music. Also, they have a god damn carnival.
But as far as #BOYSDONTCRY? (cry emoji)
- A$AP Mob
#squad: A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP P
RIP, Yams. The mob’s spiritual guru passed away in January. But the crew went right back to business: Rocky’s second record, “At.Long.Last.A$AP,” hit number one, and he made Rod Stewart seem kinda cool. A$AP Ferg solidified his position as the best feature rapper in the game (bonus points for cozying up to Cara Delevigne), opening up the question of whether this squad’s Pippen is actually better than its Jordan. Of course, the role players like Twelvyy and P on the Boards keep plugging away over grimy beats.
#squad: Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Towkio, Joey Purp, Kami de Chukwu
The race for the number one spot wasn’t close. As much as I find Chance the Rapper’s relentless optimism grating, the work he and his crew have done this year has been undeniable. They’ve aimed for the huge–Vic Mensa trying to be Kanye’s heir apparent, chill be damned–and the esoteric: Towkio’s scattered “.Wav Theory” and the Leather Corduroys doing their best Pharrell impression. The bottom line: everything that Chano has touched this year has turned to gold (or at least, a Pitchfork BNM). What a wonderful kind of day.