There may be no more long-standing defenders of old-school hip-hop's mic-swapping, get-it-done-live tradition than the Jurassic 5, who emerged from Los Angeles' rap underground in the early '90s and eventually included not one but two groundbreaking DJs, Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist. With Chemist gone to a solo career, the 5 are still fighting -- although the band's latest disc, Feedback, makes more concessions to the hook-happy hip-hop mainstream than ever before, with the overworked Scott Storch and Kanye West contributing productions.
While the J5 were getting bodies poppin' in L.A., on the other coast, New York's X-Clan was spearheading a different movement, leading hip-hop's militantly Afrocentric wing. Professor X, the group's outspoken leader, died earlier this year of meningitis -- which means his trademark shouts of "Vainglorious!" and "Si-sssssy!" will probably now go unspoken -- but the Clan has been resurrected by co-founder Brother J and even has a new album, Return to Mecca, ready for release, with kindred spirit KRS-One among the collaborators.