Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men: 10 Things We Learned
(L-R): Mathematics, Cappadonna, Raekwon, Method Man, GZA, Inspechta Deck, Goshtface Killah, Masta Killa, U-God and RZA.
Kyle Christy/Courtesy of Showtime

10 Things We Learned From Showtime's 'Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men'

A highlight of revelations from Mass Appeal and Showtime's Wu-Tang Clan documentary.

The early '90s marked a period of unrest for New York City hip-hop, as artists from the city's five boroughs struggled to compete with the new crop of emerging talent from the West Coast. Enter the Wu-Tang Clan, whose goal was to put their Staten Island stomping grounds on the map while recapturing the magic that established the Big Apple as rap's epicenter a decade prior. Comprised of RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa - with Cappadonna later joining the fold - the Wu-Tang Clan burst on the scene in late 1992 with their debut single, "Protect Ya Neck," which caught wildfire in underground circles and on college radio. The success of the raucous, hook-less posse cut caught the attention of Loud Records CEO Steve Rifkind, who inked the group to a groundbreaking, non-exclusive record deal, allowing the group's individual members the freedom to sign solo deals with competing record companies.

Months after their November 1993 Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) debut, the Wu-Tang Clan became the hottest crew in hip-hop and earned platinum status while single-handedly putting New York City on their back. Following up Enter the Wu-Tang with a succession of solo albums from Method Man, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, the Clan reached their apex in 1997 with their sophomore double album, Wu-Tang Forever, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 and was certified 4x platinum by year's end. From there, the group continued to succeed as a collective and individually, however, internal turmoil and a lack of cohesion as a unit would cause the crew to unravel, a journey chronicled in Mass Appeal and Showtime’s docu-series Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men.

The four-episode series documents each Clan member's humble beginnings, the formation of the group and their rise to fame. IWith various members speaking candidly about what led to the group's dissension, the series delivers a rawness akin to the brand of music they've presented to fans over the decades.

After watching Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men, VIBE highlights ten things learned, giving added insight into the inner-workings of one of rap's iconic collectives.


The Wu-Tang Clan's Brooklyn Roots

Often credited with putting Staten Island on the rap map, the Wu-Tang Clan are regarded as cultural ambassadors for the oft-overlooked borough. However, while the majority of the Clan's members hail from Shaolin's notorious Park Hill and Stapleton Housing projects, the crew's genesis can be traced by to Brooklyn, the home of GZA and the Ol' Dirty Bastard. As two of the founding fathers of the All in Together Now crew - which would ultimately evolve into the Wu-Tang Clan - the pair, along with RZA, originally called BK home base, cultivating their talents in GZA's neighborhood of Bed Stuy and Ol' Dirty Bastard's childhood apartment of East New York. After RZA and GZA's unsuccessful stints on Tommy Boy and Cold Chillin' Records, respectively, the trio went back to the drawing board, hunkering down in Staten Island and joining forces with the remaining members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and the rest is history.

RZA's Connection To Steubenville, Ohio

One revelation that came to light in Of Mics And Men is the significance of Steubenville, Ohio in RZA's transformation from Prince Rakeem and the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan as a whole. In 1990, RZA and his mother relocated to Steubenville, where the producer became embroiled in a fight for his freedom after being hit with an attempted murder charge for wounding two men during a shootout. "It was a bad night," RZA remembers of the intense encounter. "I had got into some trouble to whereas violence ensued. A kid got shot, it led to me facing eight years in jail. I went to the trial and black dudes don't really go to trial and win. The prosecutors wasn't making no deals with me.” Luckily, for RZA, it would be determined that he acted in self-defense and found not guilty, a moment he marks as a turning point in his life. "My mother came out and she saw me. She looked me in my eyes and said, 'This is my second chance, don't look back, walk straight. Walk that straight path.' I did that. I zigged back." Following his acquittal, RZA returned to New York City with a renewed focus, leaving his criminal exploits behind to dedicate his life to making music.

The Story Behind The Wu-Tang Clan Logo

The Wu-Tang Clan's "W" logo ranks among the most distinctive and iconic stamps in hip-hop. Of Mics And Men explores the storied history behind the logo, which was created by Wu-Tang Clan producer Mathematics at the behest of RZA. After sketching multiple variations to flesh out his ideas, a hard, 24-hour deadline set by RZA prompted Mathematics to come up with what would be the finalized version of the Wu emblem. "I went to the store, I went to the weed spot," Mathematics recalls. "I came in, rolled up, smoked. Was drinking my 40 [oz.], then I remember I sat on the floor. So, I drew it and knowing all the sketches we went through previously and all the talk, I said, 'You know what? This gotta be it." Compensated $400 - half the amount of RZA's monthly rent at the time - for his services, Mathematics would go on to earn production credits on multiple albums from members of the Wu and the group itself, but the "W" stands as his most lasting contribution to the culture.

Mitchell "Divine" Diggs' Tenuous Relationship With The Wu-Tang Clan

RZA is viewed as the face of the Wu-Tang Clan, but behind the scenes, his elder brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs was pulling the strings, orchestrating various deals and partnerships for the Clan. A self-professed "tyrant" and callous businessman, Divine's exact role in the Wu hierarchy has long been a mystery, but Of Mics And Men helps provide context and casts a light on the shadowy figure. During the early days of the Wu, Divine played the background as a silent investor, using funds accrued in the streets to help fund the crew's endeavors. As time progressed, Divine would be brought into the fold as part of the Wu's management team, a role he flourished in, according to Of Mics And Men. "Whatever I did was the foundation to create Wu-Tang. They came to my house to make the music. RZA's my little brother. So RZA's like, ‘Okay, I'ma make all the music, you're gonna run the business,' and I go start the company. I remember I got my first Macintosh and I was like, 'What the f**k do you do with a computer? And within a month or two, I had QuickBooks in there, Peachtree, which is all basically a bunch of software for accounting purposes 'cause I'm managing the group. And I eventually just got good at it. Before I knew it, I was reading all the contracts, I was negotiating all the deals. Wu-Tang Productions started getting big, we were expanding as a company."

However, Divine's professional and working relationship with the Wu-Tang Clan became strained amid what members perceived as shady business tactics, including his refusal to release them from their contracts with Wu-Tang Productions upon request. Divine admits his hesitation to sign the paperwork, crediting his brother RZA with convincing him to wave the white flag. "I said, 'I ain't giving sh*t back,' he says in reference to giving Wu members the right to pursue other opportunities. "And RZA was like, 'Give all their rights back. Let them all go out of their contracts. If you don't let 'em go, you'll never have them.' My brother is wiser than me in that sense." The decision helped salvage the relationship between RZA and his groupmates, but led to a major hit financially, with Divine claiming to have lost an average of $10 million dollars a year in the process. According to Divine, he and the group are no longer on speaking terms, as his interview for the series were done separately from the other members, evidence of his estrangement from the Wu.

Oliver "Power" Grant's Role In The Wu-Tang Empire

Another clandestine figure from the Wu-Tang family tree is Oliver "Power" Grant, a fellow Staten Island native whom Wu member U-God describes as "A stone cold hustling machine." Despite not having any experience working in the music industry, Power, who was partners with RZA's elder brother Divine, would be summoned by RZA to get in on the ground floor of what would become the Wu empire. "Divine is my man," Power shares in Of Mics And Men. "I never really hung out with RZA, but obviously, yeah, that's my man brother. He's like, 'Yo, you still wanna do this music sh*t? We gotta do it now if you wanna do it."

Making a sizable investment in the future of the Wu-Tang Clan using funds accrued in the street, Power was listed as an executive producer on Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: (36 Chambers). Power would also play a pivotal role in helping launch the Wu-Wear clothing, which he started from the mail-order in the back of Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album. Credited with cross-pollinating the Wu-Tang Clan's music with the fashion world, Power's power moves led to the opening of various Wu Wear stores across the country, resulting in annual revenue topping out at upwards of $25 million during the group's peak years, according to Of Mics And Men.

The Wu-Tang Clan’s Music Was Allegedly Banned From Hot 97

Weeks after the Wu-Tang Clan's seismic sophomore album, Wu-Tang Forever, debuted atop the Billboard Albums chart, Staten Island's finest were tapped to headline New York City radio station Hot 97's annual Summer Jam concert. However, in Of Mics and Men, Wu member Inspectah Deck revealed that the group's appearance at the concert was the result of an alleged ultimatum made by the station itself. "Hot 97 at the time, they wanted us to do Summer Jam," he claims. "The deal was, 'You gotta come back and we gotta do this Hot 97 Summer Jam or we're not gonna play any more of your records on our station." To add insult to injury, upon the group's arrival at the venue, they discovered that the Bad Boy Records set had bled into their own, which Wu-Tang road manager Mook and the rest of the crew viewed as a sign of disrespect on the part of Hot 97. "We come out our own pocket, get our own tickets, fly back," Mook remembers. "We get to the Summer Jam, Puffy is on the stage. It was him and Ma$e." In response to the perceived slight, Ghostface Killah did the unthinkable, coaxing the crowd into a "F**k Hot 97" chant, upon which the group's mics were cut off and the stadium lights came on, interrupting their performance.

While various members of the Wu shared Ghost's sentiments, his verbal assault on Hot 97 came at a price, with the station banning the group from the station and removing their music from their playlists. According to Inspectah Deck, the Wu's beef with Hot 97 would prove to be costly and alter their bottom line as a group, as well as soloists. "They didn't play our records for like the next ten years," Deck claims. "Us not being involved while they playing the Biggie shit and they playing the Nas sh*t and everybody that was rocking with us at that time, that affected our sales. That affected our touring, that affected everything. That affected our presence."

The Fallout From Leaving Rage Against The Machine’s Tour

Rap's kinship with rock music is a storied one, with superstars from both genres having collaborated on some of the most popular songs in music history and accounted for many of pop culture's unforgettable moments. With their cult-like following garnering them the rock star status and the success of their second album Wu-Tang Forever, the Wu-Tang Clan joining Rage Against The Machine’s tour in the summer of 1997 seemed like a no-brainer, presenting the group with an opportunity to add to their audience and expand their reach even further. "Wu-Tang Forever [tour] was the first time I saw blacks, whites, Native Americans, Latins, my Asian brothers [together]," RZA recalls in Of Mics And Men. "I saw straight, I saw gay brothers and I just had an epiphany: the five human families, the black red yellow white and brown are all in one room. All rocking with us. So, I'm like this, I'm like, 'Yo, it's in my hands. These five families come together and these [hands] become our wings.’"

However, as the tour progressed, tension within the group would boil over, with members of the Wu divided on whether to continue on the tour or call it quits, a decision that partly hinged on the group's unhappiness with their compensation in contrast to Rage Against The Machine's. "People [was] going crazy for us," Mook says. “It was beautiful, but the Clan niggas was feeling like they should get more than $45,000 a night. Rage [Against The Machine] [was] getting all the money." The fallout from the Wu's decision to leave the tour prematurely would mark what many consider the beginning of the end of their legendary run as a full unit.

How Police Brutality Impacted The Group

Throughout the Wu-Tang Clan's dominant run in the '90s, the group's relationship with law enforcement was often strained, with members and their affiliates feeling targeted by the police, particularly in their home borough of Staten Island. One incident that rocked the Clan was the murder of Ernest "Kase" Sayon, a close friend of Method Man who died in police custody following an assault at the hands of police. Footage of the attack quickly spread, resulting in a string of protests in Park Hill and its surrounding areas, prompting a close examination between the history of police brutality against African American residents of Staten Island. In addition to Sayon's murder, tension between the Wu and law enforcement reached a fever pitch when Ol' Dirty Bastard was accused of shooting at plainclothed cops during a car chase, a charge that was ultimately dropped after it was determined the rapper was not in possession of a firearm during the time of the incident. These two instances, which were highlighted in Of Mics And Men, were clear indicators that even their stardom didn't protect the Wu from the harsh realities of race relations in America.

Ol' Dirty Bastard's Beef With RZA Over Signing With Roc-A-Fella Records

RZA's professional relationship with various members of the Wu-Tang Clan has been contentious, but the rift that hit home most for the producer was his spat with Ol' Dirty Bastard, who requested a release from his Wu-Tang Productions contract following his release from prison in 2003. Announcing a partnership with Damon Dash and Roc-A-Fella Records - as well as a name change to Dirt McGirt - during a press conference on his first day as a free man, Ol' Dirty Bastard's decision to switch teams ruffled a few feathers, most notably RZA, who shared his feelings on the situation in Of Mics And Men. "I did not want to sign Dirty off of Wu-Tang Productions," he explains. "I had a lot of plans for him. 'Yo, you're gonna come home, I got a home for you. I got a studio for you. You're gonna have at least a half-million fucking dollars to sit around and play with and we're gonna make the best f**king album. And that's what I had planned for him. And for him to think that anybody's gonna care about him or his music or his career or his life or his babies' life more than me is trick knowledge to me."

However, according to Ol' Dirty's mother, Cheryl Jones, her son had no choice but to part ways with his cousin due to a lack of financial stability. "He was penniless," Jones recalls. "He had no money when he came out. I called RZA, I said, 'Come on.' Everybody thought that he shouldn't have rushed back into work, but if he would've have rushed back into work, he would've been back in jail. Because if that child support wasn't being paid, they would've locked him back up again." Unfortunately, Ol' Dirty Bastard never got the opportunity to release his Roc-A-Fella debut, as the rapper passed away on November 13, 2004, from a drug overdose, snuffing out the light of one of rap's most animated figures.

Masta Killa's Connection To Marvin Gaye

Of all of the Wu-Tang Clan members, the most mysterious is Masta Killa, one of the last artists to join the Wu family. A native of Brooklyn's East New York section, Masta Killa's love for music can be traced back to his youth, where his father introduced him to R&B. "My father was a singer, he was heavy into R&B," Masta Killa shares. "And he would even come up the block singing sometimes. And when I would hear his voice, I would almost jump out the window 'cause I was excited to know that my father was coming home. So, through trials and tribulations, when he left the home for good, that was traumatic for me." However, even though he was absent physically, his father's record collection helped foster a bond between the two in spirit. "One thing he left was all his records and I would play them every day because that's how I connected with him. I remember him singing this record and I would get it and put it on the turntable and listen to it, just to remember hearing his voice."

In Of Mics And Men, Masta Killa reconnected with his father, who gave insight into the rapper's rich legacy, which includes ties to one of the legendary singers of all time, as well as an iconic revolutionary. "When he was a baby, I used to sing The Stylistics to put him to sleep,” says his Killa’s father. “He was always calm, that's his nature, but he needed that music just to put him to sleep, he'd just go right out (laughs).” Killa adds: “Music has always been our foundation in my family. With my mother, her cousin was Marvin Gaye and we had that music in the family, the arts. My mother, her maiden name was Gaye. My mother's from North Carolina and my father's from Virginia, which we are direct descendants of Nat Turner. That's his family."


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From The Big Screen To Hip-Hop: 25 Rap Lyrics Referencing 'The Lion King'

One of the most powerful aspects of hip-hop is the culture's ability to draw from reality and translate those feelings and experiences into the beats and rhymes that provide the soundtrack to our lives. However, in many instances, creatives have been inspired by fictional tales of perseverance and triumph that mirror the everyday struggles in our own lives, giving these stories additional significance and reminding us of our own valor. Twenty-five years ago, Disney's The Lion King would have this impact on a global level, opening a whole new world to people from all walks of life and becoming one of the most beloved films of all-time.

A coming-of-age story, The Lion King is centered around Simba, a young lion set to inherit the throne as King of Pride Lands from his father, Mufasa. In an act of betrayal, Simba’s father is tragically murdered by the cub’s paternal uncle, Scar. Simba, who is made to believe that he's responsible for his father's death, flees the Pride Lands and goes into a self-imposed exile, but is compelled to return to dethrone Scar and take his rightful place as king. Released on June 24, 1994, The Lion King was a massive success, grossing $766 million worldwide and finishing its theatrical run as the highest-grossing release of 1994 and the second-highest-grossing film of all time. It gained a considerable amount of critical acclaim for its score, comprised of original songs written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with a score by Hans Zimmer.

In the aftermath of its blockbuster release, The Lion King was embraced by members of the hip-hop community, with artists paying homage to the film and its characters through song and producers pilfering its score for samples. From J. Cole dubbing himself “Young Simba” and juxtaposing his rise up the rap ranks to the protagonist's own tale of redemption to Jay-Z comparing himself to Rafiki, The Lion King's legacy within the culture is iron-clad and has transcended generations.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the film's release, we compiled a list of 25 of the most memorable lyrical references to The Lion King throughout hip-hop history.


1. "How Great" - Chance the Rapper feat. Nicole Steen & Jay Electronica

Lyrics: "I was lost in the jungle-like Simba after the death of Mufasa, no hog, no meerkat/Hakuna Matata by day, but I spent my night time fighting tears back" - Jay Electronica

2. "2SEATER" - Tyler, The Creator feat. Austin Feinstein, Samantha Nelson & Aaron Shaw

Lyrics: "Boy, I'm a king and I ain't lyin', boy, Hakuna Matata/Better watch for them hyenas if you flex then they swarm" - Tyler. the Creator

3. "Don’t Stop" - Wu-Tang Clan

Lyrics: "Hakuna Matata, no Mufasa, I'm not lion/You try to spit on that hot iron, you not iron" - Method Man

4. "Blow (Freestyle)" - Pusha T

Lyrics: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper/Hakuna Matata, feet up sipping java" - Pusha T

5. "V. 3005" - Childish Gambino

Lyrics: "Girl, why is you lying, girl why you Mufasa/Yeah, mi casa su casa, got it stripping like Gaza/Got so high off volcanoes, now the flow is so lava" - Childish Gambino

6. "L.M.F." - Smino

Lyrics: Hakuna Matata, I look like my father/You a lion, Mufasa/Said she Rafiki, you a lion, Mufasa/Baby ain't nothing 'bout me PG, rated X for extraordinary" - Smino

7. "Massive Attack" - Nicki Minaj

Lyrics: "So call me Simba, little mama, cause Mufasa couldn't stop a bi**h/I fly in on that chopper, just to buy Balenciaga" - Nicki Minaj

8. "Eggs Aisle" - Mac Miller

Lyrics: "Yeah I'm here, self-claimed deity/Cryin' during the Lion King, that's just the G in me" - Mac Miller

9. "Death Wish" - Jadakiss feat. Lil Wayne

Lyrics: "Big lion growl at you niggas on that Simba sh*t/I'll be on that "F**k yo' clique, I'll kill every member" sh*t" - Lil Wayne

10. "Get Em High" - Kanye West feat. Talib Kweli & Common

Lyrics: "Chimped up with a pimp cup, illiterate nigga, read the infra-/Red across your head, I'm bred king like Simba" - Common

11. "Sideline Story" - J. Cole

Lyrics: "And my lines is designed from the heart/Young Simba been a lion from the start/Dumb nigga’s, y’all been lyin from the start/My life’s like a movie, truly, and these niggas is dyin' for the part" - J. Cole

12. "Grown Simba" - J. Cole

Lyrics: "Hold up now, don’t get it twisted, I ain't hating, do your thing/I was like a young Simba; couldn’t wait to be the king" - J. Cole

13. "APESHIT" - The Carters

Lyrics: "I'm a gorilla in the fuckin' coupe, finna pull up in the zoo/I'm like Chief Keef meet Rafiki—who been lyin' "King" to you?" - Jay-Z

14. "Go Back" - Chris Webby feat. OnCue

Lyrics: "Lion King was the shit yo, enough said/When Rafiki drew Simba got it tatted on my leg" - Chris Webby

15. "Jones Indiana" - Chief Keef

Lyrics: "Get a new bi**h just how I get new clothes, yeah/Two watches, Pumbaa and Timon, yeah" - Chief Keef

16. "I Am Very Very Lonely" - Chance the Rapper

Lyrics: "This is not the castle this is just the casa tonight/Ain’t no Nala so my Simba ain't gon’ be Mufasa tonight" - Chance the Rapper

17. "What Kind of Love" - Childish Gambino

Lyrics: "You like to call me koala/I'll be your Simba, you're Nala/Wherever you go I'll follow—little lies" - Childish Gambino

18. "Track Two" - Ab-Soul

Lyrics: "Can't lose, you niggas must admire defeat/You lyin' like Nala, nigga, you know where to find a nigga" - Ab-Soul

19. "Perfect Imperfection" - Kevin Gates

Lyrics: Aerosmith jaded/She looked like Nala when she got on top me/I gazed in her eyes and responded, 'Can we go half on a baby?'" - Kevin Gates

20. "Work It Like A Pro" - Waka Flocka Flame feat. Giggs

Lyrics: "Call me Lion King, turn Mufasa for it/Wanna sell that pussy? Then I buss her for it" - Giggs

21. "Bosses" - Plies feat. Kash Doll

Lyrics: "I stand by us like a Lion King/She dancing here like a designer queen" - Plies

22. "Better than you ever Been" - Taylor Bennett feat. Young Thug

Lyrics: "She a horse, voice raspin'/Tiger stripes on her booty, call her Lion King/White toes and they tiny/Ask her do she like hoes, she's say 'slightly'" - Young Thug

23. "Ring" - Gucci Mane

Lyrics: "Quarter million dollars, spent that on that one ring/In a ring full of lions, I'm The Lion King" - Gucci Mane

24. "Hollis to Hollywood" - LL Cool J

Lyrics: "Hear it, pull it like strings, got mad cash to swing/When I do my thing my balls is hairy like The Lion King/I'm in the jungle laying down my mack/You brothers need to chill with that" - LL Cool J

25. "Fuck What You Think" - RZA feat. Islord & 9th Prince

Lyrics: "Of the dark ninja, Lion King of the jungle, Simba/Cut the roof to your family tree, timber" - RZA

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The Dreamville Records roster - Lute, Omen, J. Cole, Ari Lennox, WoWGr8 of EarthGang (above), Cozz (below), JID, Bas (standing), Olu of EarthGang (kneeling) - pose for a photo from the Return of the Dreamers 3 sessions at Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta, Ga.
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Revenge of the Dreamers III: The Top Seven Artists Who Stood Out

The much-awaited Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation album was released this past Friday (July 5), and it exceeded all expectations, and then some.

The first two records of the trilogy predominantly featured Dreamville acts, and their in-house producers. However, this time J. Cole’s label shed their reputation of sectioning themselves off from the rest of the industry and embraced artists and producers from outside of their circle.

The melodic, often raspy, only occasionally recognizable voices of the 32 rappers and singers featured on the 18-track album, echo throughout the project. As was expected, J. Cole spit lots of great verses, but the the other emcees certainly weren't masked by his shadow. In fact, Cole gave ample room for the young bloods on ROTD3 to showcase their clever lines, their vocal range, and their artistry as a whole.

While it was hard to narrow down which artists on ROTD3 were the best, there are several on the project who stood out and earbed than a couple of rounds of applause. The five have yet to achieve chart-topping status, but after their performance on ROTD3, that achievement isn’t far away.

1. Buddy 

Buddy proclaimed himself the “Rap Camp MVP,” and his praise was validated by the Dreamville documentary and the record itself. The 25-year-old’s valley voice can be heard on three songs off the project and he was unlike anyone else, bringing an eccentric vibe to the songs he was featured on. In fact, Buddy’s one of the best parts on the album’s standout song, “1993” and he didn’t even rap on it. Hearing Buddy playfully cut off and hound Smino, Cozz, Doctur Dot (EarthGang), J.I.D and Cole himself, so they could focus on more important things such as smoking weed, brought a carefree element to ROTD3. Some may not expect such jovial vibes from the usually thoughtful Dreamville camp. Like Cole said, Buddy is “a real life legend.”

2. J.I.D

J.I.D. is quickly becoming one of Dreamville’s most recognizable acts, and it’s easy to see why he was featured on five different songs on the album, more than any other artist on ROTD3 aside from Cole. He represented his hometown of Atlanta effortlessly, especially on the lead-up single “Down Bad,” where his voice— unique as ever—uplifts the chorus. He’s hard to keep up with and he’s always quick with his rhymes, but there's no reason why J.I.D should have to slow down. With a style similar to Kendrick Lamar’s, J.I.D’s destination to the top is inevitable, and the quicker he gets there, the better. After all, who else could have came up with the bars: “I was just f***ed up, I was just down, down bad/I had to tighten the f**k up, but I’m here for the crown/Board of Education vs. Brown/I was bored of education, left the town/F**k a résumé and f**k a cap and gown/F**k a background check back’round when I get the check/N***a, that’s now.”

3. J. Cole

Dreamville founder J. Cole always carries high expectations with him, and he showed out with his seven appearances - more than any other artist - on ROTD3. The project saw Cole working differently from usual, but he displayed adaptability and flourished outside of his comfort zone. On “1993,” fans hear a version of Cole that he often keeps hidden – a fun, wild side that keeps up with the the carefree energy of the younger rappers on the track. For those other listeners who were itching to hear old school Cole from his Born Sinner days, he brought that out on the song “Sacrifices.” Sure, the North Carolina native can be the butt of Twitter memes — but who else can go platinum with no features — but every time he shows up, he shows out and shows the rap industry why Dreamville is such a force.

4. EarthGang

Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus are two most versatile rappers on ROTD3, and together they form one of the most formidable groups in hip hop. While their verses are crafty, it’s not so much their rhymes that command a song, but rather the way they play with and control their voices. Both Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus have a talent for manipulating the tone and range of their vocal chords, and that is especially evident in “Swivel,” their song on the album. They bring a unique sense of quirkiness to each appearance, and when they link up with the equally unconventional Buddy or Smino, magic happens.

5. Guapdad4000

Guapdad4000 is largely known for his hilarious viral social media videos or for his songs about scamming, but he took Revenge of the Dreamers III as an opportunity to show off his musical talents at a high level. He told VIBE, "I felt that I wasn’t going to go down there and outrap the super rap rap ni**as, even though talent-wise, I am a super rap rap ni**a. ... My plan was to just be true to myself, let my tone carry." The Oakland artist does exactly that, turning in two of the best choruses on the album with "Don't Hit Me Right Now" and "Costa Rica." His airy vocals and catchy, earworm hooks hold together the songs he appears on. And he also briefly bars up on "Wells Fargo." Guapdad4000 is hilarious, but his skills are nothing to joke about.

6. Cozz

Cozz is Dreamville’s youngest member at 25 years old, joining the label in 2014 and reintroducing himself to the world on ROTD3. Although he has two projects already released under Dreamville, this is without a doubt the biggest “stage” he’s ever been on and he took advantage of it. The Los Angeles native was bold on this album with his record featuring Top Dawg Entertainment artist, Reason, called “LamboTruck” and speaks to his artistry. He’s a risk taker, a big one at that given the fact that the Kal Banx-produced song is him expressing a few frustrations he has with his label. Every bar Cozz let off on the track was crafty and clever, which is definitely a strength of his, and as a listener it was entertaining figuring out the underlying meaning. Cozz is not one to be slept on, and it’s about time is welcomed into the new class of young rappers.

6. Ari Lennox

Lately touted as the “First Lady of Dreamville,” Ari Lennox can always be counted on to bring heart and soul to any project she touches. Her syrupy, raspy voice was the perfect touch to ROTD3 to make it whole and her heartfelt lyrics were the cherry on top. On “Got Me,” which was a single released prior to the album’s drop date, fans can hear the DMV songstress harmonize effortlessly with features king, Ty Dolla $ign. “Self Love” is a relatable ballad that strikes a chord with people every time Lennox croons, “self love is the best drug/but your love is the worst drug.” With her own debut album Shea Butter Baby already making big waves this year, plus her features on ROTD3, Lennox is taking the R&B world by storm, and she’ll let it rain on anyone who lets her.

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