What comes to mind when you think of the most influential groups in hip-hop? Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, EPMD, OutKast, Roots, Black Star and even Three Six Mafia have all put their stamp on the rap game, and we might be blessed with one more foundational group. Child Rebel Soldier, CRS, is a new group consisting of Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams. Their first single is on Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing official Mixtape, entitled “Us Placers”, which is themed from Thom Yorke’s (lead singer of English rock band Radiohead) song “Eraser.” Thom Yorke is sampled on the chorus, sounding like a soft-spoken Adam Levine, refraining, “The more you try to erase me, the more I appear.”
Could CRS be talking about the current state of hip-hop? CRS may be the break in the norm. This group, put together by three innovative, original, good-music-making hip-hop heads has cemented themselves in the game as some of the most talented and creative. They are children of the Golden Age of hip-hop from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
When Kanye said, “The fans want a feeling of a Tribe Called Quest, but all they got left is this guy called West” of his first album, he may have been more prophetic than he realized at the time. CRS may become today’s equivalent to Native Tongue, which consisted of A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. Granted there is a numerical difference and they might not let any more people in their group but the musical correlations are hard to ignore. The first three members of Native Tongue were pioneers in sound and brought about the Golden Age of hip-hop that we critics miss so much. With theme driven music involving race, sex and just having fun, Native Tongue was as influential to the hip-hop world as was the art of sampling. Though they never were an official group in which they would all drop an album under the umbrella of that moniker, they would collaborate. The one that stands out the most would be “Scenario” ft.L eaders of the New (which included Busta Rhymes) and “A Tribe Called Quest” off of Tribe’s Low End Theory album. Native Tongue was most influential by perfectly blending themed, issue driven musical content with remarkable talent, to the mainstream. Without them, hip-hop would have died a long time ago.
But back to CRS. Kanye and Pharrell are solid MCs and great producers, along with Chad Hugo. Lupe Fiasco is the best MC in the game. Lupe has wonderful chemistry with the two production styles and has worked repeatedly with the two. Kanye and Pharrell have also recorded songs together. CRS just makes sense, sense that would hopefully match and surpass the mark that Native Tongue set in the sense and tradition of keeping good music alive and well, because we don’t just want good music to come back, we want innovative hip-hop of the future. CRS is the equivalent in the hip-hop world of a powerful business merger between three Fortune 500 companies. Their first single has created a sensational internet buzz that may further catapult sales for Kanye’s new album Graduation, which is set to drop soon, and Lupe’s new album The Cool set to drop on Halloween. With all the hype that CRS has generated, their rumored album would be a monolithic diverging dam that would shift the mainstream back on its original path. One Love.