If you’re a fan of hip-hop, you know what I’m talking about. In most rap groups, there’s a standout emcee who is the face of the franchise, the leader of the team and the straw that stirs the drink.
But we’re not talking about that.
We’re talking about the other guy in the group. You might call them second bananas or the dude beside the dude, but that really diminishes their role in the group. A good other guy is at the same time memorable and mutable. Sometimes he sets it up, sometimes he brings it home, but he’s the thing that brings it all together like Jeff Lebowski's rug. Other guys are a step above hype men and a step below stars, but they need their own recognition, so I’m opening the Other Guy Hall of Fame today with this inaugural class of inductees.
Willie D, Geto Boys
He’s the classic other guy. He’s got a signature voice and style that make you want to listen, but not enough personality or individual charisma to keep you hooked. His verse on “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me” might have been one of the greatest Southern gangsta bars ever, had it not been for the fact that it was followed by Bushwick Bill’s. Willie D missed his calling, man. He should be doing movie trailer voiceovers.
Woulda been the guy, but … eclipsed by his crew. Bushwick was a crazy little person, and Scarface is one of the greatest storytelling emcees of all time. It’s
hard impossible to compete with that.
MC Ren, N.W.A
Here’s a guy with probably one of the hardest deliveries in the history of hip-hop. Ren assaults tracks with raw aggression and a style of rhyming that became the prototype for others like DMX to follow. And that’s the problem. That’s all he does. There’s no finesse. It’s like they hand him the ball and all he can do is windmill dunks and scowls.
Woulda been the guy, but … the team quit on him. Ice Cube went solo, Dr. Dre teamed up with Snoop and Ren was the odd man out.
Parrish Smith, EPMD
This is a tough one for me because I’m a huge fan of EPMD, but at the end of the day, it was Erick Sermon’s group. Parrish Smith suffered from the double-barreled flaws of having a monotone delivery combined with a lack of charisma. On top of that, he got lost on posse cuts, and you ain’t the man when you’re getting out-rhymed by Dray and Skoob (liggety look thiggity that up) on your own albums.
Woulda been the guy, but … hubris and perspective. The Hit Squad got bigger and he got more irrelevant, then he made the classic “other guy” mistake of going solo and dissing his old partner.
Crunchy Black, Three 6 Mafia
Remember that guy onstage with the Three 6 Mafia during the Oscars back in the day? His name is Crunchy Black. That’s all you ever really need to know about him other than the fact that he has the same number of Oscars as Martin Scorsese.
Woulda been the guy but … he’s Crunchy Black and he was lucky to have been along for the ride.
Malik B., the Roots
He quit the Roots because he liked doing drugs. Now he watches the Roots on TV with Jimmy Fallon with the rest of us. Drugs are bad.
Woulda been the guy but … drugs.
B.G., Hot Boys
In 1999 he was Cash Money Records’ secret weapon. He had the voice, lyrics and delivery wrapped up in a New Orleans drawl that you might’ve overlooked if you weren’t knee-deep in Hot Boys records. But don’t get it twisted: Juvenile was No. 1, Baby Gangsta B-Geezy was a solid No. 2 and Lil Wayne was No. 3. Don’t believe me? Pick up Guerrilla Warfare and listen to “Boys at War.” B.G. is one of the best that never was.
Woulda been the guy but … drugs and a bad record deal. It’s hard to extricate yourself from a s—tty deal and funny money when you can’t stay off that s—t long enough to think straight.
The original second banana, D.M.C. had all the skills but just wasn’t the guy you tuned in for. He was the first to learn the MC Ren lesson that you can’t attack every track, and he literally lost his voice over it. But when I was a kid and my big brother and I played rappers up in our room, I didn’t mind being D.M.C. to his Run.
Woulda been the guy but … nepotism. When your manager is the brother of a member of the group, his interests are naturally gonna be conflicted.
Pras, the Fugees
He’s garbage. He’s only here because of The Score, and even then, his best line was introducing Young Zee from the Outsidaz.
Woulda been the guy but … glaring lack of talent. Pras is also a charter member of the “Fast Forward Through This S—t” Hall of Fame.
Bun B, UGK
Let’s be honest. Bun B is one of the greatest emcees to touch the mic, who, through the curse of bad label deals (thanks, Jive), never made it past dropping hot 16s on everybody else’s s—t. Add to that, his partner was Pimp C (RIP), who was arguably one of the best voices and producers in the game, and you can see how his greatness was overshadowed by his partner’s presence. But don’t get it twisted—Bun can and does stand alone as one of the all-time greats. It’s just that his career has moved past that now, and he’s a fixture in hip-hop culture and not just rap music.
Woulda been the guy but … lack of exposure. UGK made some classics, but Pimp C’s incarceration and untimely death stymied any chance they had to blow up.
Big Boi, OutKast
This is the man who the Other Guy Hall of Fame should be named after. An emcee who ain’t bad in a group that’s one of the greatest, who never disappointed but also never exceeded expectations. Big Boi will get your attention, but in the way that cheddar bay biscuits get your attention at Red Lobster. Yeah, they good than a mug, but that’s not what you came for. Andre 3000 is the Walt’s shrimp of the crew, but you can’t have one without the other, right?
Woulda been the guy but … he got Scottie Pippen-ed. Individually, he’s great, but without his legendary teammate, you just feel like something’s missing. A Big Boi album is like those Pippen-led Bulls teams that were good—just not memorable.
Corey Richardson, originally from Newport News, Va., is currently living in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Ad guy at work, dad guy in life and whiskey enthusiast, he spends his time crafting words, telling bedtime stories and working hard at becoming the legend he is in his own mind.