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XXL Presents... The Top 25 Rappers to Break Out From a Group

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Some of the greatest rap stars in history began their careers as part of a group, before tapping into their potential as solo artists. A little over year ago, 2 Chainz, formerly known as 2 Chainz, had seemingly reached his ceiling as a member of Disturbing tha Peace's Playaz Circle. Today, following a campaign spearheaded by two standout mixtapes, 2011's Codeine Cowboys and T.R.U. REALigion, Chainz emerged as one of the game's most sought after guest MCs and scored a No. 1 album on Billboard with his solo debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story.

Juicy J's also embarked on a solo journey as of late. After well over a decade as one half of Oscar-winning, platinum Memphis duo Three 6 Mafia, Juiceman joined Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang and is presently enjoying a rebirth as a solo artist. He's released well-received mixtapes in the past few years, but his buzz kicked into overdrive in recent months with the release of his popular, "Bandz a Make Her Dance" single.

But Chainz and Juicy aren't reinventing the wheel. They're simply following a trail blazed by the likes of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Kool Moe Dee. Here, XXL ranks the Top 25 Rappers to Break Out From a Group best. —
XX: Staff

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25. Pusha T

Pusha was always known as the brash, cocksure lyricist of the Clipse. Alongside his older brother Malice, the two would cook up stellar offerings with their first two albums: 2002’s Lord Willin’ and 2006’s Hell Hath No Fury. After the release of their well-received Til The Casket Drops in 2009, Malice—who now goes by No Malice—and Push would take a break from the group to focus on their solo lanes resulting in the younger brother signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music and appearing on a number of gems under the power house’s umbrella. His Fear of God mixtape whet the appetite of many that anticipated his solo contributions. Older records with Fabolous (“Comedy Central”), Kelis (“Good Stuff”), Rick Ross (“Maybach Music 2.5”) and more were just the calm before the storm.

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23. 8 Ball

It’s hard to even say ‘8 Ball’ without uttering ‘MJG’ immediately after. Yet, one half of the Memphis rap duo managed to accomplish a solid career unleashing a slew of solo LPs, beginning with Lost in 1998 and Almost Famous in 2001. The projects showed 8 Ball, already a Southern legend, could stand on his own two feet firm.

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21. MF Doom

The 1993 death of fellow KMD group member and his younger brother, DJ Subroc, forced Doom—then known as Zev Love X— to go solo. Hip-hop's masked man did just that years later with his 1999 album, Operation: Doomsday. His moniker was inspired by Marvel Comics villain, Dr. Doom. Eventuall DOOM has gone on to release six solo LPs through the years.

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20. Sean Price

A cornerstone member of the New York City super collective Boot Camp Clik and its duo Heltah Skeltah, Sean Price splashed onto the solo scene with his 2005 album, Monkey Barz followed by Jesus Price Supastar two years later. Currently, the Brooklyn rapper is prepping his anticipated Mic Tyson album for an October 30 release.

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19. Mos Def

Tough most of his work has come as a solo artist, Mos Def originally made a mark as part of groups. He launched his career as part of Brooklyn-based group Urban Thermo Dynamics and after release a solo single on Rawkus Records, former Black Star with Talib Kweli. Their 1998 debut album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, paved the way for both MCs to inject their own brand of conscious lyricism into hip-hop and carve out solo careers. Mos went first with the 1999 gold-selling, Black on Both Sides, which featured seminal tracks like "Ms. Fat Booty," "Mathematics" and "Umi Says." Mos would release three more under-promoted solo efforts all showcasing his champion lyrical dexterity.

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Kurupt "It's a Setup" Kuruption (1998)

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The West Coast God gets aggressive over this smooth late 90s post-Death Row banger and explains his past troubles and coast-to-coast feuds. This is more a defensive assault than a song about how to rob, as Kurupt yells, "everyone is against me!"

Most Menacing Line: Friction, I can feel it all around me/My intuition - LA gang bang mentality got me on a violent spree, violently/Busting, dusting ni**as off silently."

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15. 2 Chainz

Who said rap is a young man's game? Ten years into his career, 36-year-old 2 Chainz's dues have finally paid off. After limited success with Playaz Circle, the artist formerly known as Tity Boi, rechristened himself and created a heavy buzz for himself on the mixtape circuit with releases like 2011's Codeine Cowboys and T.R.U. REALigion. His 2011 smash single, “Spend It (Remix)” featuring T.I. earned him a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the start of Chainz being omnipresent on urban radio. Now with a No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 with his Based On a T.R.U. Story debut, the rapper stands as one of rap's TRU-est breakout stars. TRUUUU!

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14. Bun B

After over a decade strong of putting out heat with his UGK potna in rhyme, Pimp C, Bun experimented with a solo album on what turned out to be a very-well received Trill album in 2005. The LP had Bun’s peers returning the love he always showed them, with the likes of Jay-Z to Young Jeezy, Juvenile, T.I., Ludacris, Scarface and Travis Barker all making appearances. Sadly, Bun’s solo experimentation became a fixture when Pimp C died in 2007. He's since dropped two albums and is set to release his fourth effort later this year.

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12. Q-Tip

Q-Tip's star power nearly reached its apex when he dropped his solo debut, Amplified 1999—following Tribe's incredible run. The LP's lead single, "Vivrant Thing" help push the album to a gold plaque and its visual spearheaded the video vixen craze of the aughts. His follow up, Kamaal the Abstract was shelved indefinitely until it hit stores in 2009. Meanwhile, the year prior, Tip released his proper sophomore solo disc, The Reinaissance nine years after his debut. The LP didn't make much of a dent in the charts, but it was critically acclaimed.

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11. N.O.R.E.

Capone-N-Noreaga hit the ground running with their street-catered album, The War Report, in 1997, but Capone would find himself incarcerated a short time after the LP’s release. That predicament had N.O.R.E. trying to continue the momentum CNN created, but on a solo tip. He did so by grabbing Pharrell Williams and the Neptunes to lace production for “Superthug,” a bangin’ single off his 1998 debut album, N.O.R.E. The project had the star-studded New York City likes of Big Pun, Cam’ron, Jadakiss, Kool G Rap, Nas and Busta Rhymes all lending assists, helping N.O.R.E. score a platinum plaque and open the avenues for his two following LPs to sell gold.

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10. Kool Moe Dee

The Treacherous Three disbanded in 1985, but Kool Moe Dee had more than laid the groundwork to break out as a solo star. Working with Teddy Riley, Moe Dee helped contribute to the New Jack Swing movement. Although a lyrical feud with LL Cool J may have thwarted him, Moe Dee showed resiliency. Will Smith recognized his talents years later in 1998, tabbing the rapper to perform the hook to his “Wild Wild West” track, which served as the title track for Smith’s movie of the same title. Moe Dee's released five albums, including one platinum and one gold.

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9. Big Boi

After releasing four successful albums as a duo, OutKast decided to go the solo route with André 3000 anchoring The Love Below and Big Boi rolling out with Speakerboxxx. Though both albums were released as a package, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, in 2003—even being billed under their group name— Big Boi scored big, especially with the chart-topping single “The Way You Move.” His 2010 proper follow-up was Sir Lucious Left Foot, which became another critical success, cementing the ATLien as a solo force to be reckoned. His next album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is expected to arrive this winter.

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7. André 3000

Three Stacks's solo career took a different turn than Big Boi's following 'Kast's four stellar albums. He too, made his unofficial solo debut on the double disc, The Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Dre's never released a proper solo, but after remaining quiet for a few years, he reemerged at a scene-stealing guest MC with appearances on DJ Unk's "Walk It Out (Remix)," Rich Boy's "Throw Some Ds (Remix)" and Devin the Dude's "What a Job." It would take him years to resurface, but he kicked another string of standout guest spots with verses on songs from Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Drake, Young Jeezy and Rick Ross. He remains one of the game's most coveted guest MCs.

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5. Wyclef Jean

Lauryn Hill may have had the voice that stole the show in the Fugees, but 'Clef wasn't too shabby himself. He more than flexed solo muscle on his seminal, The Carnival album in 1997. The critically-acclaimed LP included hits like "Guantanamera," "Gone till November" and "We Trying to Stay Alive," all which helped catapult 'Clef as a member of the Fugees into another stratosphere. Jean's commercial cachet would decline with every subsequent album— Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book is his only other platinum effort— but he's dropped seven solo albums in 12 years.

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4. Scarface

With all due respect to Willie D and Bushwick Bill, Scarface was the lyricist who stood out most from the Geto Boys. Going solo was just a matter of time. That year proved to be 1991, when 'Face delivered his debut solo LP, Mr. Scarface Is Back. With a powerful voice and enthralling lyrics, the Houston rapper just reinforced the notion that he was—and still remains today—a top-tier MC. His solo catalog has long eclipsed his works with Geto Boys at this point.

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3. Busta Rhymes

Busta broke loose from the Leaders of The New School to bring his Dungeon Dragon act to the solo stage. The group broke up in '94, but Bus' first album, would only make his debut in '96 with The Coming. Selling over a million plus, the album kick-started a wave of five platinum and two gold LPs over 10 years for Bus.

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2. Lauryn Hill

After the Fugees emerged with their masterpiece of an album with 1996’s The Score, they earned critical-acclaim, including two Grammy Awards. The unit consisting of Wyclef Jean, Pras and Lauryn Hill soon disbanded to focus on their own solo projects. Of the three releases—which included Clef’s The Carnival and Pras’ Ghetto Supastar—L Boogie’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would make history. Not only did the album score big on the Billboard 200—spending 81 weeks on the charts—it was critically acclaimed and also crowned Ms. Hill as a top-tier act and dominating force in the industry. She even broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist and topped it all off by winning five of her 10 Grammy nods. Sadly, Hill would never release another solo LP. Though, her platinum-selling MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 would tease die-hards with new acoustic material. She's been mostly performing at select music festival over the past years, but word is she's set to finally release her sophomore album soon.

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1. Ice Cube

When Cube was challenged to go solo, he responded with back-to-back-to-back classic albums in AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate and The Predator in three successive years (1990-1992). Those LPs spawned undeniable singles such as “Endangered Species,” "Steady Mobbin," “It Was a Good Day,” “Check Yo Self” and "Wicked." The first three albums out the gate proved that the West Coast don was a solo force to be reckoned sans N.W.A. His next three LPs wouldn't be as well received by the critics, but they all earned certifications from the RIAA. No other MC on this list has been able to be this impactful and balance critical acclaim and commercial success.