Who: The Los Angeles-based rap group Jurassic 5, featuring the MCs Akil, Chali 2na, Mark 7even, and Zaakir, and the DJs Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark. (Yes, that’s six members. If you’re outraged, take it up with Timbuk 3, the Thompson Twins, and 10,000 Maniacs.) Here they are with the song “What’s Golden,” from their 2002 album Power in Numbers:

Why: I also can’t believe I just crowned a band that isn’t Public Enemy by using a song that is built around a sample from one of Public Enemy’s greatest songs. But while PE may have been past the days of yes-yallin’, Jurassic 5 embraced the tradition. Rap allows for a blizzard of words; J5 just knew more words than anyone else, and styled them more effortlessly than anyone else. After seven years mastering their craft at an L.A. health-food cafe (!) called The Good Life, Jurassic 5 transcended in 2000. Their landmark album Quality Control spiraled out unthinkably creative offerings like “You baby MCs drink Pedialyte/While underground doesn’t like you, the media might.” They followed it up with the equally fascinating Power in Numbers, but J5 wasn’t built for fame. After the Terry Gilliam-esque Cut Chemist left the group (making them an actual quintet!), J5 produced a final album, 2006’s Feedback, featuring Dave Matthews mellowing up the savage Dubya-parody video “Work It Out”. Dave Matthews on a rap song. Told you these guys were clever.

Impact: J5’s influence is hard to judge. While they carried a standard for lyrical excellence, it’s not clear that anyone picked up that standard. Just when you think a band like Black Eyed Peas seems to get it, they’ll throw it all away on a “My Humps.” Rap seems to have abandoned suaveness, but it’s easy to bring back. Just step to the mike and flow.

Personal Connection: Among my friends, I hear “I don’t like rap!” a lot. Instead of speculating on a societal level, I just drop some J5 into the background, and that usually dispenses with such nonsense. Just like country music, which gets similar disdain from a different group of my friends, there’s always something good to be found in any genre.

Other Contenders: the unassailable Public Enemy, here with thrashmasters Anthrax on their classic “Bring the Noise”; LL Cool J, whom I hear the ladies love; New York’s finest, the Beastie Boys; the numerous West Coast collaborations of Dr. Dre, such as this epic Tupac tribute to George Miller; Malcolm McLaren and his quixotic excursion into rap opera.