Rap trios have held a special place in the hearts of fans and critics alike. Whether they emerged from the smoky cipher circles of the East Coast, the sun-drenched streets of the West Coast, the gritty underbelly of the South, these rap acts have contributed significantly to the culture’s evolution. From groundbreaking pioneers who laid the foundation of hip-hop, to modern-day stalwarts who have sculpted the genre’s current soundscape, trios have consistently churned out some of hip-hop’s most memorable anthems and albums.

Pioneering rap trios like Run-D.M.C. laid the foundation for hip-hop as we know it today, breaking down barriers and bridging the gap between cultures. De La Soul took the rap game in a new direction, emphasizing positivity, introspection, and quirky innovation with their unique brand of alternative rap. In a similar vein, Little Brother encapsulated the soulful, thought-provoking side of hip-hop with their poignant lyricism and innovative beat-making.

Meanwhile, groups like Beastie Boys fused punk rock ethos with hip-hop beats to create a sound that was entirely their own, and Salt-N-Pepa revolutionized the male-dominated rap industry, introducing a much-needed female perspective with wit and sass. On the other end of the spectrum, you have groups like The LOX and Company Flow, who took the culture back to its raw, uncensored roots, reminding us of the unfiltered, real-world narratives that hip-hop was built on.

So let’s get into it. From the raw and unfiltered narratives of the Geto Boys to the glossy, triplet-laden flows of Migos, here are the top 25 best rap trios of all time.

25. Dilated Peoples

Essential listening: The Platform

From the sun-kissed streets of Los Angeles, Dilated Peoples emerged in the late ’90s as one of hip-hop’s most formidable trios. Comprised of MCs Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience, and DJ Babu of the Beat Junkies, Dilated Peoples have built a reputation on the strength of their potent lyricism and inventive beats. They’re a beacon of the independent underground scene, their work striking a chord with fans seeking an alternative to the mainstream rap of the era. Albums like The Platform and Expansion Team showcase their commitment to the craft, filled with intricate wordplay, insightful commentary, and Babu’s exceptional turntablism. Though they might not be the most commercially successful act, Dilated Peoples’ influence and respect within the culture are undeniable, cementing their place in the pantheon of great rap trios.

24. Do or Die

Essential listening: Picture This

Hailing from the Windy City, Do or Die brought a unique blend of smooth R&B melodies and rapid-fire rap, effectively defining the sound of mid-90s Chicago hip-hop. Comprising AK, Belo Zero, and N.A.R.D., the trio made waves with their platinum-selling debut single, “Po Pimp,” which showcased their signature style, known as ‘Po Pimpin.’ Their subsequent albums, such as Picture This and Headz or Tailz, further demonstrated their knack for delivering slick, streetwise narratives over plush production. Do or Die’s fusion of fast-paced rap with smooth, laid-back melodies paved the way for future Midwest artists, ensuring their legacy in the history of rap trios.

23. Flatbush Zombies

Essential listening: 3001: A Laced Odyssey

Brooklyn-based Flatbush Zombies ushered in a new era of psychedelic hip-hop, blending gritty East Coast rap traditions with trippy lyrics and diverse musical influences. The group, made up of Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliott, who also handles much of their production, stormed onto the scene with a series of mixtapes, peaking many ears with their drug-laced narratives and unconventional approach. Their debut album 3001: A Laced Odyssey solidified their unique presence in the rap landscape, an amalgamation of grimy New York aesthetics and psychedelic escapism. Flatbush Zombies’ explorative themes and sonically innovative style resonate with a generation of listeners, offering a distinct voice in the vast rap trio lineage.

22. CunninLynguists

Essential listening: Will Rap for Food

Known for their intellectual lyricism and genre-blending production, CunninLynguists have left an indelible mark on the underground hip-hop scene. The Southern trio, composed of Deacon the Villain, Kno, and Natti, have consistently pushed the envelope since their 2001 debut. Their work, including lauded albums such as A Piece of Strange and Oneirology, displays their prowess in storytelling, tackling social issues, personal introspection, and existential themes. The CunninLynguists’ blend of Southern aesthetics, dense lyricism, and adventurous production that borrows from a plethora of genres places them among the most unique and creative rap trios of their time.

21. 3rd Bass

Essential listening: The Cactus Album

One of the first successful white hip-hop acts, 3rd Bass made significant strides in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The trio, comprising MC Serch, Pete Nice, and DJ Richie Rich, laid down a blueprint for socially conscious and lyrically focused hip-hop that simultaneously embraced and challenged their white identities within a predominantly black culture. Their debut album The Cactus Album displayed their abilities to spit intricate rhymes over funky, sample-heavy production. With tracks tackling racism and cultural appropriation, 3rd Bass made a lasting impact on the genre, proving that hip-hop was an inclusive platform where anyone could deliver thought-provoking commentary, regardless of race.

20. Tha Alkaholiks

Essential listening: Coast II Coast

Straight from the West Coast, Tha Alkaholiks brought a refreshing sense of fun and party-centric anthems to the ’90s hip-hop scene. Comprising J-Ro, Tash, and DJ E-Swift, the trio perfected a brand of funky, booze-laced lyricism that cut through the era’s increasing gangsta rap dominance. Albums like 21 & Over and Coast II Coast are celebrated for their carefree attitude, infectious beats, and sharp, humor-filled rhymes. Tha Liks succeeded in striking a balance between light-hearted party themes and skillful lyricism, securing their spot as one of the most entertaining trios in hip-hop history.

19. Digable Planets

Essential listening: Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Hailing from the golden age of hip-hop, Digable Planets, composed of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving, brought a unique flavor to the game. They are best remembered for their 1993 Grammy-winning hit “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” off their debut album Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space). Their laid-back, jazz-infused style and insightful lyrics exploring socio-political themes cemented them as pioneers of alternative hip-hop. Their second album, Blowout Comb, further showcased their artistic maturity, featuring a more robust sound that still resonates today.

18. Deltron 3030

Essential listening: Deltron 3030

Comprising rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, producer Dan the Automator, and DJ Kid Koala, Deltron 3030 is the epitome of a supergroup. Their self-titled debut album released in 2000 is a high-concept sci-fi hip-hop opus that sets them apart. Known for their cinematic storytelling, they paint a dystopian future, navigating themes of societal decline, technology, and corporate greed. The trio’s creativity shines through their layered production, intricate narratives, and Del’s dense, thought-provoking lyricism. Songs like “3030” and “Mastermind” showcase their innovative approach, skillfully blending hip-hop with elements of electronic and orchestral music. Deltron 3030’s conceptually ambitious work has not only added depth to hip-hop but also carved out a distinct niche that resonates with listeners seeking something beyond the mainstream.

17. Westside Connection

Essential listening: Bow Down

Westside Connection, made up of rap heavyweights Ice Cube, WC, and Mack 10, holds a significant place in hip-hop history for their unapologetic representation of the West Coast. They delivered a bombastic, gangsta rap sound with a confident swagger that resonated deeply within the culture. Their debut album, Bow Down stands tall as a quintessential West Coast hip-hop record, featuring brash, confrontational rhymes over G-funk-infused, hard-hitting production. Not just a showcase of their individual skills, Westside Connection brought a distinctive chemistry that amplified their raw and uncompromising narratives about street life, regional pride, and social issues. As a supergroup, they helped cement the reputation of West Coast rap during a pivotal era in the genre.

16. Main Source

Essential listening: Breaking Atoms

Main Source, the trio of Large Professor, Sir Scratch, and K-Cut, is known for their unique blend of insightful lyricism and innovative sampling techniques. Their debut album, Breaking Atoms, is a revered classic, not only for its musical prowess but for its role in launching the career of Nas. Songs like “Looking at the Front Door” and “Live at the Barbeque” stand as timeless examples of their adept lyrical abilities and Large Pro’s complex, layered beats. Although their time together was brief, Main Source left an indelible mark on the landscape of hip-hop. Their impact on production techniques and lyrical sophistication set the stage for the evolution of the rap game throughout the ’90s and beyond.

15. Fugees

Essential listening: The Score

The Fugees, composed of Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel, redefined the scope of hip-hop in the mid-90s with their eclectic mix of rap, reggae, and soul. Their sophomore album, The Score, remains an undisputed classic, marrying street-savvy lyricism with melodic hooks and genre-defying production. Lauryn Hill’s breathtaking vocals and piercing raps, Wyclef’s multi-instrumental talents and distinctive style, along with Pras’s solid verses, created a potent mix that captivated audiences worldwide. Hits like “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not” transcended the traditional boundaries of hip-hop, earning them commercial success and critical acclaim. Although their time together was brief, the Fugees’ impact on the culture was monumental, setting a new standard for musical innovation in hip-hop.

14. Company Flow

Essential listening: Funcrusher Plus

Company Flow, the trio of El-P, Bigg Jus, and Mr. Len, were instrumental in shaping the underground hip-hop scene in the late ’90s. Their debut album, Funcrusher Plus, was a game-changer, serving up dense, abstract lyricism over gritty, unconventional beats. Company Flow’s music was a reaction against the increasingly commercialized mainstream hip-hop of the era, and their fiercely independent spirit laid the foundation for the DIY ethos prevalent in today’s independent rap scene. Their avant-garde approach to production and writing laid the groundwork for El-P’s future endeavors, including the creation of Definitive Jux Records and the formation of the acclaimed duo Run The Jewels. Company Flow’s influence may not have reverberated in the mainstream, but their contributions to the culture and the independent scene are immeasurable.

13. Black Moon

Essential listening: Enta da Stage

Brooklyn-based trio Black Moon, composed of Buckshot, 5 ft, and DJ Evil Dee, emerged in the early ’90s as part of the influential Boot Camp Clik. Their debut album, Enta da Stage, is a definitive piece of East Coast hardcore hip-hop, featuring gritty, minimalist beats paired with dark, street-wise lyricism. Black Moon’s music encapsulates the raw essence of New York hip-hop during its golden era. Songs like “Who Got Da Props?” and “How Many MC’s…” continue to resonate with hip-hop aficionados, showcasing their ability to deliver hard-hitting rhymes over brooding boom-bap beats. While their discography may be sparse, Black Moon’s cultural impact is substantial, influencing countless East Coast artists who came in their wake.

12. Salt-N-Pepa

Essential listening: Hot, Cool & Vicious

Pioneers in every sense of the word, Salt-N-Pepa, comprising Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, and Deidra “DJ Spinderella” Roper, revolutionized the male-dominated rap industry. Their arrival in the mid-80s brought a much-needed female perspective to hip-hop, addressing relationships, sex, and social issues with wit and sass. The group’s global hits like “Push It,” “Shoop,” and “Let’s Talk About Sex” not only dominated the charts but also opened conversations about topics previously considered taboo in the genre. Salt-N-Pepa’s fearless, fun, and feminine approach to rap, combined with their success in the mainstream, broke down barriers for future female MCs and groups, solidifying their place as one of the best rap trios of all time.

11. Migos

Essential listening: Culture

Composed of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff, Migos are the modern architects — along with Future and Young Thug — of the trap sound that has come to dominate mainstream hip-hop. Hailing from Atlanta, they broke through with their 2013 mixtape Y.R.N. (Young Rich Niggas), featuring the game-changing hit “Versace”. Their staccato, triplet-laden flow has since been copied and imitated countless times, signifying their massive influence on contemporary rap. With hits like “Bad and Boujee,” and classic albums like Culture, Migos have continued to solidify their place at the top of the charts while shaping the sound of a generation. Their knack for catchy hooks, coupled with their flamboyant fashion sense and larger-than-life personalities, have made them not just successful rappers, but cultural trap icons.

10. Brand Nubian

Essential listening: One for All

With a potent mix of conscious rhymes and Five-Percent Nation teachings, Brand Nubian — comprised of Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar — made a significant impact on early ’90s hip-hop. Their debut album, One for All, is a seminal piece of conscious hip-hop, resonating with messages of Afrocentricity, spirituality, and racial pride. The group’s eclectic sampling and their socially and politically charged lyrics pushed the boundaries of what hip-hop could address. Even amid lineup changes and controversies, Brand Nubian’s influence on conscious rap remains undeniable, and they continue to be revered as one of hip-hop’s most respected trios.

9. Jungle Brothers

Essential listening: Straight out the Jungle

Jungle Brothers, the trio consisting of Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam, and DJ Sammy B, were pivotal to the genesis of the Native Tongues collective, a group celebrated for its afrocentric lyrics and jazz-infused beats. Breaking out of the late ’80s New York City hip-hop scene, the Jungle Brothers crafted a unique blend of socially-conscious rhymes over innovative, sample-heavy production. Their 1988 debut Straight Out the Jungle introduced a fresh sound to the rap world, merging house music with hip-hop, while their follow-up album Done By the Forces of Nature is revered as a certified classic. The Jungle Brothers’ trailblazing contributions to the conscious, eclectic side of hip-hop make them an integral part of any discussion about the greatest rap trios.

8. Geto Boys

Essential listening: We Can’t Be Stopped

As one of the first groups to put Southern hip-hop on the map, the Geto Boys, consisting of Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill, are nothing short of legends. Known for their controversial and explicit content, the Houston-based trio didn’t shy away from raw narratives about life in the urban South, tackling topics such as mental health, violence, and social injustice. Their 1991 album We Can’t Be Stopped, featuring the iconic track “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” is well regarded as one of the greatest rap albums ever released. Over the years, the Geto Boys’ vivid storytelling, backed by grimy, hard-hitting beats, paved the way for Southern hip-hop and horrorcore, solidifying their status as one of the best rap trios of all time.

7. Boogie Down Productions

Essential listening: Criminal Minded

Formed in the South Bronx in the mid-’80s, Boogie Down Productions – comprised of KRS-One, D-Nice, and the late DJ Scott La Rock – are true hip-hop pioneers. Their debut album, Criminal Minded, is widely regarded as one of the most influential in the genre, laying the foundation for both gangsta rap and conscious rap. KRS-One’s raw lyricism and Scott La Rock’s ingenious beats made a profound impact on the hip-hop landscape. While the tragic death of Scott La Rock changed the group’s dynamics, KRS-One soldiered on, infusing the group’s later work with a deep-seated social consciousness that remains a touchstone of the genre.

6. Naughty by Nature

Essential listening: Naughty by Nature

Naughty by Nature, hailing from East Orange, New Jersey, is comprised of Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee. Their mainstream success came through a unique blend of memorable hooks and streetwise rap narratives. With anthems like “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray”, Naughty by Nature delivered a universal appeal that solidified their place in hip-hop’s golden age. Treach’s lyrical dexterity combined with DJ Kay Gee’s knack for crafting infectious beats made them crowd-pleasers without compromising their lyrical integrity. Their place in the rap pantheon is secure, not just as hit-makers but as one of hip-hop’s most beloved trios.

5. Little Brother

Essential listening: The Listening

If there’s one group that captures the essence of the soulful, thought-provoking side of hip-hop, it’s Little Brother. Hailing from North Carolina, the trio – comprised of Phonte, Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder – are adored for their poignant lyricism and innovative beat-making. Their debut album, The Listening, encapsulated the ethos of early-2000s underground hip-hop, earning them a dedicated fan base. Songs like “The Way You Do It” and “Lovin’ It” highlighted their abilities to create laid-back, head-nodding tunes that still resonated with the soul. Despite 9th Wonder leaving in 2007, Phonte and Big Pooh continued to reinforce the group’s legacy with quality releases. Little Brother’s influence is not just in their soulful, jazzy production or introspective rhymes, but in their persistent refusal to conform, making them a shining beacon for independent artists in the industry.

4. The LOX

Essential listening: We Are the Streets

Emerging from the gritty streets of Yonkers, New York, The LOX—comprising Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch—have proven themselves to be one of the most resilient and respected trios in the world of hip-hop. Making their first significant mark under Bad Boy Records with their platinum debut Money, Power & Respect, The LOX established their legacy through a combination of streetwise lyricism and memorable commercial hits. The group’s sophomore release, We Are the Streets, only sealed the deal. Whether trading bars with Big Poppa, Hov or DMX, The LOX’s ability to deliver sharp, unfaltering bars over rugged East Coast beats has made them a staple of hardcore hip-hop, and their longevity and influence are testament to their undeniable talent and appeal.

3. Beastie Boys

Essential listening: Paul’s Boutique

Bursting onto the scene with their debut album, Licensed to Ill, Beastie Boys flawlessly fused punk rock ethos with hip-hop beats, creating a sound uniquely their own. Known for their chaotic energy, irreverent humor, and clever lyrics, the trio continually pushed the boundaries of hip-hop, paving the way for future genre-bending artists. Albums like Paul’s Boutique and Ill Communication showcased their experimental prowess and solidified their reputation as innovators. Their massive success and influence, despite not fitting the conventional hip-hop mold, speaks volumes about the group’s impact and legacy within the genre. Beastie Boys’ music continues to inspire, reminding us that hip-hop has no bounds.

2. De La Soul

Essential listening: 3 Feet High and Rising

In the annals of hip-hop, few groups have left an imprint as profound as De La Soul. Composed of Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo, De La Soul is often credited with forging a path for alternative rap, emphasizing positivity, introspection, and quirky innovation. Their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, is an undisputed classic, teeming with psychedelic samples, abstract lyrics, and playful themes that challenged the machismo and materialism prevalent in late ’80s hip-hop. Throughout their career, the trio has continually redefined their sound, pushing boundaries and raising the bar for creativity and substance in hip-hop. Their commitment to authentic self-expression and thought-provoking lyricism has made them a beloved staple in hip-hop, influencing a multitude of artists who followed in their footsteps.

1. Run-D.M.C.

Essential listening: Raising Hell

When it comes to rap trios, none are quite as iconic or influential as Run-D.M.C. Comprising of Run, D.M.C., and DJ Jam Master Jay, the group fundamentally changed the landscape of hip-hop in the ’80s. By blending rock with hip-hop, they broke down barriers, bridging the gap between genres and cultures. With tracks like “It’s Tricky,” “My Adidas,” and the groundbreaking “Walk This Way” collaboration with Aerosmith, they brought hip-hop into mainstream consciousness. Run-D.M.C. laid the groundwork for the genre’s future, with their influence reaching far beyond their native Queens, New York. Their contributions to the culture — from fashion trends to their pioneering use of rock samples — make them undeniably the greatest rap trio of all time.