Born and Raised in New York City:

 

 

Hip-Hop's Musical Evolution of Rap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bey Alexander

Dr. Beal

Hist 394

 


 

 

The hip-hop culture began in the streets of New York City over twenty-five years ago and has gone through tremendous changes up until now.  Hip-Hop consists of four elements:  rap, graffiti, break-dancing, and the disc jockey.  In this paper, I intend to fully explain the evolution of rap music, from its infancy to the giant industry it is today.

Hip-Hop emerged in the 1970’s upon the arrival of a one Kool DJ Herc.  Kool DJ Herc migrated to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica and settled in the West Bronx of New York.  Kool DJ Herc was a disc jockey that attempted to incorporate his Jamaica style of disc jockeying, which involved reciting improvised rhymes over reggae records.  Unfortunately for Kool DJ Herc New York seemed uninterested in reggae at that time.  This forced Kool DJ Herc to find another appealing sound in order to please his audiences, which he did.  Kool DJ Herc adapted a new style, which involved him by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the popular music of the day.  He learned that by taking two identical records using an audio mixer, that he could play any segment over and over, there fore extending one segment for entire song (Light, 1999).

     In the early 1970’s and with the emergence of disc jockeys such as Kool DJ Herc, hip-hop began to spread through urban areas of New York like “wild fire.”  Kool DJ Herc, who actually coined the term “hip hop,” began to realize that this was the beginning of a new genre (Light, 1999).

     As this phenomena evolved the party shouts became more elaborate, d jays began to incorporate little rhymes such as “throw your hands in the air and raise ‘em like you just don’t care.”  With regards to Kool DJ Herc, as he progressed eventually turned his attention to the complexities of d-jaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent handle the microphone duties.  They became known as Kool DJ Herc and the Herculoids (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     As rap music spread throughout the urban community of New York, many people began to use it as a form of expression that offered unlimited boundaries.  There were no set rules, except to be original and to rhyme to the beat of the music.  One could rap about the issues pertaining to his or her life or something as simple as a day at school.

     Kool DJ Herc opened the door to the world for many up and comers such as Grandmaster Flash.  DJ Grandmaster Flash and his group the Furious Five were hip-hop, greatest innovators, transcending the genres’ party music origins to explore the full scope of its lyrical and sonic horizons.  Grandmaster Flash, born Joseph Saddler, began spinning records as a team growing up in the Bronx.  By age 19, while attending technical school courses in electronics during the day, he was also d-jaying on a local disco circuit.  Over time he developed a series of groundbreaking techniques including “cutting” (moving between tracks exactly on beat), “back spinning” (manually turning records to repeat brief snippets of sound), and “phasing” (manipulating turntable speeds).  In short Grandmaster Flash created the basic vocabulary, which DJ’s continue to follow even today (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     Grandmaster Flash did not begin collaborating with rappers until around 1977, first teaming up with the legendary Kurtis Blow.  He then began working with the Furious Five, rappers Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Mr. Ness (Eddie Morris), and Rahiem, (Guy Williams).  The group quickly became legendary throughout New York City, attracting notice not only for Grandmaster Flash’s unrivalled as a DJ, but also for the Five’s masterful rapping, most notable for their signature trading and blending lyrics (Light, 1999).

     At the peak of Grandmaster Flash’s underground success, another group by the name of Sugar Hill Gang emerged somewhat out of nowhere and snuck into the bottom of the dance charts.  Even to this day many people still think that Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap group established and set up the foundation for what we see today in the world of Hip Hop, this is untrue.  The Sugar Hill Gang happen to make as radio friendly tune which today would be described as a “one hit wonder” (Light, 1999). 

     Despite local popularity, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, did not record until after the Sugar Hill Gangs hit, “Rappers Delight” proved the existence of a market for hip hop releases.  Flash and the Furious Five’s debut “Supperrappin” followed on the Enjoy record label in 1979, and one year later they signed with the famed Sugar Hill Records.

     Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sugar Hill Records debut, 1980’s “Freedom,” reached the Top 20 on the national R & B charts on its way to selling over 50,000 copies.  Its follow up, “Birthday Party” was also a solo hit, 1981 “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the wheels of Steel” was the groups first truly landmark recording, introducing Grandmaster Flash’s “cutting” techniques to create a stunning sound college from snippets of songs by Chic, Blondies and Queen. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s next effort, 1982s “The Message” was even revelatory.  For the first time, hip hop became a vehicle not merely for bragging and boasting but for trenchant social commentary, with Melle Mel delivering a blistering rap detailing the grime realities of life in the ghetto.  The record was a major critical hit and it was an enormous step in solidifying rap as an important and everyday form of musical expression (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     With the foundation set by Kool DJ Herc and with the commercial success of the Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, many people began to recognize the potential of this growing industry in the early 1980’s and no one took more advantage of this situation than Run DMC.

     New York rappers Run (Joe Simmons), DMC (Darryl McDaniels), and DJ James Master Jay (Jason Mizell) originally came together as Orange Crush in the early 80’s, becoming Run DMC in 1982 after graduating from St. Pascal’s Catholic School.  They had known each other as children in Hollis, New York, Mizell and McDaniels even attending the same kindergarten. After circulating demo tapes around the music industry, the trio signed to Profile Records.  Immediately they scored an underground hit called “It’s like that.”  However it was the singles b-side, “Sucker MC’s,” which created the “buzz” on the streets.  It single handedly gave birth to one of raps most prevalent terms, and almost became a genre in its own right.  Many critics’ sign post the single as the birth of modern hip-hop, with its stripped down sound (no instruments a part from the dream machine and scratching from turntable, plus the fashion image of a B-boy:  street clothing, chiefly sports wear, and street language)(Ogg and Upshal, 1999).

     In the wake of the singles success their debut album went gold in 1984, the first time the honor had been bestowed upon a rap act.  This cemented their position as hip-hop’s men of the moment with furious touring, and appearances on Krush Grove movie, a fictional account of the life of Russell Simmons (Joe Simmons’s brother).  They also took a hand at the prestigious King Holiday (a Martin Luther King tribute) and San City (Artists Against Apartheid) events.  They broke further into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986 when they released the heavy metal/rap collaboration “Walk This Way” (featuring Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith).  Its distinctive video caught the imagination of audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.  The partnership had been predicted by earlier singles, “Rock Box” and “King of Rock,” both which fused rap with rock (Ogg and Upshal, 1999). 

     By 1987 “Raising Hell”, had sold three million copies in the United States, becoming the first rap album to hit the R & B number one slot, the first to enter the U.S. Top 10, and the first to go platinum.  In addition, Run DMC also became the first rap group to have a video screened by MTV, the first to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first non-athletes to endorse Adidas products (a sponsorship deal which followed the Run DMC track entitled “My Adidas”).  Run DMC is essence, took Hip-Hop and put it in mainstream flow of society.  This let the world know that rap and hip-hop were here to stay (Light, 1999).

     By the later part of the 1980’s, the Hip Hop movement was unstoppable.  MTV (Music Television) brought rap music into suburban homes around the country.  What started in the Bronx as a party starter had spread as for as Los Angeles, California.  KDAY, a radio station is Los Angeles, became the country’s first rap-only radio station, and hip-hop tours began to attract many fans.  “The Fresh Fest” concert tour, featuring Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, Whodini, the Fat Boys, and Newcleus, become hip-hop’s first big money making tour (3.5 million on 27 dates)(Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     As the 1980’s came close to an end, rap music began to make some changes in the content of their material.  Rap music shifted from party times to social messages.  The first rap group to gain fame through social messages was Public Enemy.

     Public Enemy rewrote the rule of hip-hop, becoming the most influential and controversial rap group of the late 1980’s and for many, the definitive rap group of all time.  Building from Run DMC’s street oriented beats and the rise in “gangster rhyming,” Public Enemy pioneered a variation on hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary.  With his powerful, authoritative baritone, lead rapper Chuck D. rhymed about all many different social problems, particularly those playing the Black community, often condoning revolutionary tactics and social activism.  In the process, he directed hip-hop towards and explicitly self-aware, pro-Black consciousness that became the cultures signature throughout the next decade.  Musically, Public Enemy was just as revolutionary, as their production team, the Bomb Squad.  The Bomb Squad created dense soundscapes that relied on avant-garde cut-and-paste techniques, unrecognizable samples, Piercing sirens, relentless beats and deep funk.  It was chaotic and invigorating music, made all the more intoxicating by Chuck D’s forceful vocals and the arborist raps of his comical counterpart Flavor Flav.  With his comic sunglasses and oversized clock hanging from his neck, Flavor Flav became the groups visual focal point, be he never obscured the music.  While rap and rock critics embraced the groups late 80’s and early 90’s, records, Public Enemy frequently ran into controversy with their militant stance and lyrics, especially after their 1988 album “It takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back” made them into celebrities.  After all the controversy settled in the early 1990’s, once the group entered hiatus, it became clear that Public Enemy was one of the most influential and radical bands of the time (Ogg and Upshal, 1999). 

     By the early 1990’s rap music had spread from coast to coast.  When hip-hop reached Los Angeles, the rap music industry changed entirely, entering the “gangster rap” age.  This new form of rap would shake up the world and was led by a group named N.W.A.   

     N.W.A. stands for Niggers With Attitude, which was the perfect embodiment of this Los Angeles group’s outlook.  They comprised Dr. Dre (Andre Young), DJ Yella (Antoine Larraby), MC Ren (Lorrenzo Patterson), Eazy E (Eric Wright), and founder member Ice Cube (Oshea Patterson).  These unapologetically, violent, and sexist pioneers of “gangster rap,” are in many ways the most notorious group in the history of rap. 

      Emerging in the late 80’s, when Public Enemy had rewritten the rules of hardcore rap by proving it could be intelligent, revolutionary and socially ace and ware.  N.W.A. capitalized on Public Enemies sonic breakthroughs while ignoring the message.  Instead, the five-piece crew celebrated the violence hedonism of the criminal life, capturing it all in blunt, harsh language.  Initially, the group’s relentless attack appeared to be serious, vital commentary.  Though “N.W.A. And The Posse” was their debut album, they only performed four of the raps on it, and to all intents and purposes, “Straight Outta Compton” counts as their first major release.  For those attracted to the gangster rappers first round, this was more of the same, only sharper and more succinct.  A landmark release, in its aftermath rap because polarized into two distinct factions, traditional liberal (reflecting the ideas of Martin Luther King) and a black militancy redolent of Malcolm X, albeit much less focused and reasoned (Ogg and Upshal, 1999).

     In 1989 the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated “Straight Outta Compton’s” infamous single entitled “Fuck The Police.”  It set a precedent for numerous actions against N.W.A., including the first time anyone in the music industry had ever received a threatening letter from the FBI.  N.W.A.’s next release “Efil4zaggin” (Niggaz4life spelled backwards) which made U.S. number 1 on the charts also surpassed the outrage factor of its predecessor by addressing gang rape and pedophilia, in addition to the established agenda of oral sex, cop killing and prostitution.  Nevertheless, clashing egos prevented the band from recording a third album, and they fell apart once producer Dr. Dre left for a solo career in 1992.  Although the group was no longer active, their influence, from their funky, bass driven beats to their exaggerated lyrics, was evident throughout the 1990’s(Rose, 1994).

     Rap music, which was an industry born and raised in New York City, began to be dominated by the mellow, laid back, bass beats of California.  In essence, the West Coast group’s tales of inner city life in the Golden State solely controlled the rap industry from 1989 to the mid 90’s.  Dr. Dre, N.W.A.’s producer, introduced the world to a young Calvin Broadas, also known as Snoop Dogg, who would shock the world (Perkins, 1995).

     As the embodiment of the 1990’s “gangster rap,” Snoop Doggy Dog blurred the lines between reality and fiction.  Introduced to the world through Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Snoop Dogg quickly became the most famous star in rap, partially because of his drawled, laconic rhyming partially because of the violence that his lyrics implied seemed real, especially after he was arrested on murder accomplice charges (he was later acquitted).  The arrest certainly strengthened his myth, and it helped his debut album, 1993’s “Doggystyle”, become the first rapper to enter the music charts at number 1 (Light, 1999).

     Another rapper who was also from the West Coast and extremely popular at the time was that of Tupac Skakur.  Tupac Skakur became the unlikely martyr of “gangster rap”, and a tragic symbol of the toll its lifestyle exacted on the urban Black American.  At the outset of his career, it did not appear that he would emerge as one of the definitive rappers of the 90’s.  He started out as a second-string rapper and dancer for Digital Underground.  But in 1992, he delivered an acclaimed debut album, “2pacalypse Now”, which quickly followed with a star-making performance in the urban drama juice.  Over the course of one year, his profile rose substantially, based as much on his run-ins with the law as his music.  By 1994, Tupac rivaled Snoop Doggy Dogg as the most controversial figure in rap at the time, spending as much time in prison as he did in the recording studio.  His burgeoning outlaw mythology helped his 1995 album “Me Against the World” enter the charts at number one, and it also opened him up to charges of exploration.  Yet, as the single “Dear Mamma” (a tribute to single mothers) illustrated he was capable of sensitivity as well as violence (Scott, 1997).

     Tensions began to build between East and West Coast rappers.  Tupac Shakur and his record label, representing the West and Notorious B.I.G. and his record label representing the East, headed the feud.

     The Brooklyn, New York born rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) first gained attention for his work with Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411?”  When he delivered his debut album, “Ready to Die”, in 1994, it became one of the most popular hip-hop albums of the year.  In June of 1995, his single “One More Chance” debuted at number five in the pop singles chart, tying Michael Jackson’s “Scream/Childhood” as the highest-debuting single of all time, “Ready to Die” continued to gain popularity throughout 1995, eventually selling two million copies.  With its success, Notorious B.I.G. became the most visible figure in East Coast hip-hop.  He also became a target in a heated feud between the two coasts, Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur, former allies, became vicious rivals.  Each rapper expressed their feelings by writing distasteful songs of one another’s affairs and it seemed as if it was going to stay that way, when tragedy struck (Scott, 2000).

     On September 13, 1996, while Notorious B.I.G. was preparing for his second album, Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas.  Many in the media speculated that Notorious B.I.G. and his associates were responsible for the shooting, accusations that he and his producer, Sean “Puffy” Comb, vehemently deceased.  However the wheels

had been set in motion for another tragedy.  Early in the morning of March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. was returning to his hotel in Los Angeles after a Soul Train Award party when another car pulled up along side his car and opened fire, killing him instantly.  Shakur had been killed just six months earlier (Scott, 1997).

     Notorious B.I.G.’s second album, the double-disc ironically, titled Life “After Death”, was released three weeks later, debuting and number one on the charts.  His legend along with Tupac’s continued to grow in the years to follow thanks to subsequent posthumous releases including Notorious B.I.G. 1999 Born Again as well as Tupac’s 2001 “Until the End of Time”.

     With the death of both Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., rap music began to shift toward a more radio friendly lyrics with party time undertones, without completely losing the “gangster” image.  By this point even females began to enter the rap music industry.  Lauren Hill emerged with her multi-platinum album, The “Miseducation of Lauren Hill”.  Even though the rap music industry until this point was male dominated, people of all races and walks of life accepted Lauren Hill with open arms (Light, 1999).

     The reigning hip-hop King of the world today is none other than that of Jay-Z.  It is hard to imagine a more perfect success stars than Jay-Z’s. He has had a remarkable ascendance to the top of the rap industry after a challenging childhood in a Brooklyn neighborhood, where he worked on the streets as a drug dealer.  The rapper other wise known as Shawn Carter followed his confident instincts, starting his own record label at a time when this practice simply was not done on such an ambitious scale.  His debut album, “Reasonable Doubt,” became a critical favorite among audiences.  But it was not until his third album, “Volume 2:  Hard Knock Life,” that Jay-Z transcended critically acclaimed status to widespread mainstream success thanks to a string of massive hits.  Yet never one to be content, Jay-Z then embarked on a large-scale arena tour, elevating his popularity to even more astonishing heights.  The tour sold an impressive 600,000 tickets.  By the end of the 1990’s, Jay-Z was arguably the most successful rapper, or at least the most recognized (Light, 1999).

     By the end of the 1990’s rap music had invaded the world.  During the infant stage of rap music, a top performer would put on a show for as little as $50.00 and toward the mid to ending 1990’s, the average price demanded by a top performer was $30,000 to $50,000 dollars.  The economic reality of rap made itself very clear in this decade.  In the year 2000, the top three rap moguls each grossed over $50 million and were listed in the Forbes top 40 wealthiest entertainers.  Rap music has evolved from a New York inner city past time to one of the biggest business in the world today.  In the beginning rap music was considered a fad and many thought that it would fade out, we now know that that was a huge misconception.

 

 

 

The hip-hop culture began in the streets of New York City over twenty-five years ago and has gone through tremendous changes up until now.  Hip-Hop consists of four elements:  rap, graffiti, break-dancing, and the disc jockey.  In this paper, I intend to fully explain the evolution of rap music, from its infancy to the giant industry it is today.

Hip-Hop emerged in the 1970’s upon the arrival of a one Kool DJ Herc.  Kool DJ Herc migrated to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica and settled in the West Bronx of New York.  Kool DJ Herc was a disc jockey that attempted to incorporate his Jamaica style of disc jockeying, which involved reciting improvised rhymes over reggae records.  Unfortunately for Kool DJ Herc New York seemed uninterested in reggae at that time.  This forced Kool DJ Herc to find another appealing sound in order to please his audiences, which he did.  Kool DJ Herc adapted a new style, which involved him by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the popular music of the day.  He learned that by taking two identical records using an audio mixer, that he could play any segment over and over, there fore extending one segment for entire song (Light, 1999).

     In the early 1970’s and with the emergence of disc jockeys such as Kool DJ Herc, hip-hop began to spread through urban areas of New York like “wild fire.”  Kool DJ Herc, who actually coined the term “hip hop,” began to realize that this was the beginning of a new genre (Light, 1999).

     As this phenomena evolved the party shouts became more elaborate, d jays began to incorporate little rhymes such as “throw your hands in the air and raise ‘em like you just don’t care.”  With regards to Kool DJ Herc, as he progressed eventually turned his attention to the complexities of d-jaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent handle the microphone duties.  They became known as Kool DJ Herc and the Herculoids (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     As rap music spread throughout the urban community of New York, many people began to use it as a form of expression that offered unlimited boundaries.  There were no set rules, except to be original and to rhyme to the beat of the music.  One could rap about the issues pertaining to his or her life or something as simple as a day at school.

     Kool DJ Herc opened the door to the world for many up and comers such as Grandmaster Flash.  DJ Grandmaster Flash and his group the Furious Five were hip-hop, greatest innovators, transcending the genres’ party music origins to explore the full scope of its lyrical and sonic horizons.  Grandmaster Flash, born Joseph Saddler, began spinning records as a team growing up in the Bronx.  By age 19, while attending technical school courses in electronics during the day, he was also d-jaying on a local disco circuit.  Over time he developed a series of groundbreaking techniques including “cutting” (moving between tracks exactly on beat), “back spinning” (manually turning records to repeat brief snippets of sound), and “phasing” (manipulating turntable speeds).  In short Grandmaster Flash created the basic vocabulary, which DJ’s continue to follow even today (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     Grandmaster Flash did not begin collaborating with rappers until around 1977, first teaming up with the legendary Kurtis Blow.  He then began working with the Furious Five, rappers Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Mr. Ness (Eddie Morris), and Rahiem, (Guy Williams).  The group quickly became legendary throughout New York City, attracting notice not only for Grandmaster Flash’s unrivalled as a DJ, but also for the Five’s masterful rapping, most notable for their signature trading and blending lyrics (Light, 1999).

     At the peak of Grandmaster Flash’s underground success, another group by the name of Sugar Hill Gang emerged somewhat out of nowhere and snuck into the bottom of the dance charts.  Even to this day many people still think that Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap group established and set up the foundation for what we see today in the world of Hip Hop, this is untrue.  The Sugar Hill Gang happen to make as radio friendly tune which today would be described as a “one hit wonder” (Light, 1999). 

     Despite local popularity, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, did not record until after the Sugar Hill Gangs hit, “Rappers Delight” proved the existence of a market for hip hop releases.  Flash and the Furious Five’s debut “Supperrappin” followed on the Enjoy record label in 1979, and one year later they signed with the famed Sugar Hill Records.

     Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sugar Hill Records debut, 1980’s “Freedom,” reached the Top 20 on the national R & B charts on its way to selling over 50,000 copies.  Its follow up, “Birthday Party” was also a solo hit, 1981 “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the wheels of Steel” was the groups first truly landmark recording, introducing Grandmaster Flash’s “cutting” techniques to create a stunning sound college from snippets of songs by Chic, Blondies and Queen. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s next effort, 1982s “The Message” was even revelatory.  For the first time, hip hop became a vehicle not merely for bragging and boasting but for trenchant social commentary, with Melle Mel delivering a blistering rap detailing the grime realities of life in the ghetto.  The record was a major critical hit and it was an enormous step in solidifying rap as an important and everyday form of musical expression (Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     With the foundation set by Kool DJ Herc and with the commercial success of the Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, many people began to recognize the potential of this growing industry in the early 1980’s and no one took more advantage of this situation than Run DMC.

     New York rappers Run (Joe Simmons), DMC (Darryl McDaniels), and DJ James Master Jay (Jason Mizell) originally came together as Orange Crush in the early 80’s, becoming Run DMC in 1982 after graduating from St. Pascal’s Catholic School.  They had known each other as children in Hollis, New York, Mizell and McDaniels even attending the same kindergarten. After circulating demo tapes around the music industry, the trio signed to Profile Records.  Immediately they scored an underground hit called “It’s like that.”  However it was the singles b-side, “Sucker MC’s,” which created the “buzz” on the streets.  It single handedly gave birth to one of raps most prevalent terms, and almost became a genre in its own right.  Many critics’ sign post the single as the birth of modern hip-hop, with its stripped down sound (no instruments a part from the dream machine and scratching from turntable, plus the fashion image of a B-boy:  street clothing, chiefly sports wear, and street language)(Ogg and Upshal, 1999).

     In the wake of the singles success their debut album went gold in 1984, the first time the honor had been bestowed upon a rap act.  This cemented their position as hip-hop’s men of the moment with furious touring, and appearances on Krush Grove movie, a fictional account of the life of Russell Simmons (Joe Simmons’s brother).  They also took a hand at the prestigious King Holiday (a Martin Luther King tribute) and San City (Artists Against Apartheid) events.  They broke further into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986 when they released the heavy metal/rap collaboration “Walk This Way” (featuring Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith).  Its distinctive video caught the imagination of audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.  The partnership had been predicted by earlier singles, “Rock Box” and “King of Rock,” both which fused rap with rock (Ogg and Upshal, 1999). 

     By 1987 “Raising Hell”, had sold three million copies in the United States, becoming the first rap album to hit the R & B number one slot, the first to enter the U.S. Top 10, and the first to go platinum.  In addition, Run DMC also became the first rap group to have a video screened by MTV, the first to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first non-athletes to endorse Adidas products (a sponsorship deal which followed the Run DMC track entitled “My Adidas”).  Run DMC is essence, took Hip-Hop and put it in mainstream flow of society.  This let the world know that rap and hip-hop were here to stay (Light, 1999).

     By the later part of the 1980’s, the Hip Hop movement was unstoppable.  MTV (Music Television) brought rap music into suburban homes around the country.  What started in the Bronx as a party starter had spread as for as Los Angeles, California.  KDAY, a radio station is Los Angeles, became the country’s first rap-only radio station, and hip-hop tours began to attract many fans.  “The Fresh Fest” concert tour, featuring Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, Whodini, the Fat Boys, and Newcleus, become hip-hop’s first big money making tour (3.5 million on 27 dates)(Brewster and Broughton, 2000).

     As the 1980’s came close to an end, rap music began to make some changes in the content of their material.  Rap music shifted from party times to social messages.  The first rap group to gain fame through social messages was Public Enemy.

     Public Enemy rewrote the rule of hip-hop, becoming the most influential and controversial rap group of the late 1980’s and for many, the definitive rap group of all time.  Building from Run DMC’s street oriented beats and the rise in “gangster rhyming,” Public Enemy pioneered a variation on hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary.  With his powerful, authoritative baritone, lead rapper Chuck D. rhymed about all many different social problems, particularly those playing the Black community, often condoning revolutionary tactics and social activism.  In the process, he directed hip-hop towards and explicitly self-aware, pro-Black consciousness that became the cultures signature throughout the next decade.  Musically, Public Enemy was just as revolutionary, as their production team, the Bomb Squad.  The Bomb Squad created dense soundscapes that relied on avant-garde cut-and-paste techniques, unrecognizable samples, Piercing sirens, relentless beats and deep funk.  It was chaotic and invigorating music, made all the more intoxicating by Chuck D’s forceful vocals and the arborist raps of his comical counterpart Flavor Flav.  With his comic sunglasses and oversized clock hanging from his neck, Flavor Flav became the groups visual focal point, be he never obscured the music.  While rap and rock critics embraced the groups late 80’s and early 90’s, records, Public Enemy frequently ran into controversy with their militant stance and lyrics, especially after their 1988 album “It takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back” made them into celebrities.  After all the controversy settled in the early 1990’s, once the group entered hiatus, it became clear that Public Enemy was one of the most influential and radical bands of the time (Ogg and Upshal, 1999). 

     By the early 1990’s rap music had spread from coast to coast.  When hip-hop reached Los Angeles, the rap music industry changed entirely, entering the “gangster rap” age.  This new form of rap would shake up the world and was led by a group named N.W.A.   

     N.W.A. stands for Niggers With Attitude, which was the perfect embodiment of this Los Angeles group’s outlook.  They comprised Dr. Dre (Andre Young), DJ Yella (Antoine Larraby), MC Ren (Lorrenzo Patterson), Eazy E (Eric Wright), and founder member Ice Cube (Oshea Patterson).  These unapologetically, violent, and sexist pioneers of “gangster rap,” are in many ways the most notorious group in the history of rap. 

      Emerging in the late 80’s, when Public Enemy had rewritten the rules of hardcore rap by proving it could be intelligent, revolutionary and socially ace and ware.  N.W.A. capitalized on Public Enemies sonic breakthroughs while ignoring the message.  Instead, the five-piece crew celebrated the violence hedonism of the criminal life, capturing it all in blunt, harsh language.  Initially, the group’s relentless attack appeared to be serious, vital commentary.  Though “N.W.A. And The Posse” was their debut album, they only performed four of the raps on it, and to all intents and purposes, “Straight Outta Compton” counts as their first major release.  For those attracted to the gangster rappers first round, this was more of the same, only sharper and more succinct.  A landmark release, in its aftermath rap because polarized into two distinct factions, traditional liberal (reflecting the ideas of Martin Luther King) and a black militancy redolent of Malcolm X, albeit much less focused and reasoned (Ogg and Upshal, 1999).

     In 1989 the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated “Straight Outta Compton’s” infamous single entitled “Fuck The Police.”  It set a precedent for numerous actions against N.W.A., including the first time anyone in the music industry had ever received a threatening letter from the FBI.  N.W.A.’s next release “Efil4zaggin” (Niggaz4life spelled backwards) which made U.S. number 1 on the charts also surpassed the outrage factor of its predecessor by addressing gang rape and pedophilia, in addition to the established agenda of oral sex, cop killing and prostitution.  Nevertheless, clashing egos prevented the band from recording a third album, and they fell apart once producer Dr. Dre left for a solo career in 1992.  Although the group was no longer active, their influence, from their funky, bass driven beats to their exaggerated lyrics, was evident throughout the 1990’s(Rose, 1994).

     Rap music, which was an industry born and raised in New York City, began to be dominated by the mellow, laid back, bass beats of California.  In essence, the West Coast group’s tales of inner city life in the Golden State solely controlled the rap industry from 1989 to the mid 90’s.  Dr. Dre, N.W.A.’s producer, introduced the world to a young Calvin Broadas, also known as Snoop Dogg, who would shock the world (Perkins, 1995).

     As the embodiment of the 1990’s “gangster rap,” Snoop Doggy Dog blurred the lines between reality and fiction.  Introduced to the world through Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Snoop Dogg quickly became the most famous star in rap, partially because of his drawled, laconic rhyming partially because of the violence that his lyrics implied seemed real, especially after he was arrested on murder accomplice charges (he was later acquitted).  The arrest certainly strengthened his myth, and it helped his debut album, 1993’s “Doggystyle”, become the first rapper to enter the music charts at number 1 (Light, 1999).

     Another rapper who was also from the West Coast and extremely popular at the time was that of Tupac Skakur.  Tupac Skakur became the unlikely martyr of “gangster rap”, and a tragic symbol of the toll its lifestyle exacted on the urban Black American.  At the outset of his career, it did not appear that he would emerge as one of the definitive rappers of the 90’s.  He started out as a second-string rapper and dancer for Digital Underground.  But in 1992, he delivered an acclaimed debut album, “2pacalypse Now”, which quickly followed with a star-making performance in the urban drama juice.  Over the course of one year, his profile rose substantially, based as much on his run-ins with the law as his music.  By 1994, Tupac rivaled Snoop Doggy Dogg as the most controversial figure in rap at the time, spending as much time in prison as he did in the recording studio.  His burgeoning outlaw mythology helped his 1995 album “Me Against the World” enter the charts at number one, and it also opened him up to charges of exploration.  Yet, as the single “Dear Mamma” (a tribute to single mothers) illustrated he was capable of sensitivity as well as violence (Scott, 1997).

     Tensions began to build between East and West Coast rappers.  Tupac Shakur and his record label, representing the West and Notorious B.I.G. and his record label representing the East, headed the feud.

     The Brooklyn, New York born rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) first gained attention for his work with Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411?”  When he delivered his debut album, “Ready to Die”, in 1994, it became one of the most popular hip-hop albums of the year.  In June of 1995, his single “One More Chance” debuted at number five in the pop singles chart, tying Michael Jackson’s “Scream/Childhood” as the highest-debuting single of all time, “Ready to Die” continued to gain popularity throughout 1995, eventually selling two million copies.  With its success, Notorious B.I.G. became the most visible figure in East Coast hip-hop.  He also became a target in a heated feud between the two coasts, Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur, former allies, became vicious rivals.  Each rapper expressed their feelings by writing distasteful songs of one another’s affairs and it seemed as if it was going to stay that way, when tragedy struck (Scott, 2000).

     On September 13, 1996, while Notorious B.I.G. was preparing for his second album, Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas.  Many in the media speculated that Notorious B.I.G. and his associates were responsible for the shooting, accusations that he and his producer, Sean “Puffy” Comb, vehemently deceased.  However the wheels

had been set in motion for another tragedy.  Early in the morning of March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. was returning to his hotel in Los Angeles after a Soul Train Award party when another car pulled up along side his car and opened fire, killing him instantly.  Shakur had been killed just six months earlier (Scott, 1997).

     Notorious B.I.G.’s second album, the double-disc ironically, titled Life “After Death”, was released three weeks later, debuting and number one on the charts.  His legend along with Tupac’s continued to grow in the years to follow thanks to subsequent posthumous releases including Notorious B.I.G. 1999 Born Again as well as Tupac’s 2001 “Until the End of Time”.

     With the death of both Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., rap music began to shift toward a more radio friendly lyrics with party time undertones, without completely losing the “gangster” image.  By this point even females began to enter the rap music industry.  Lauren Hill emerged with her multi-platinum album, The “Miseducation of Lauren Hill”.  Even though the rap music industry until this point was male dominated, people of all races and walks of life accepted Lauren Hill with open arms (Light, 1999).

     The reigning hip-hop King of the world today is none other than that of Jay-Z.  It is hard to imagine a more perfect success stars than Jay-Z’s. He has had a remarkable ascendance to the top of the rap industry after a challenging childhood in a Brooklyn neighborhood, where he worked on the streets as a drug dealer.  The rapper other wise known as Shawn Carter followed his confident instincts, starting his own record label at a time when this practice simply was not done on such an ambitious scale.  His debut album, “Reasonable Doubt,” became a critical favorite among audiences.  But it was not until his third album, “Volume 2:  Hard Knock Life,” that Jay-Z transcended critically acclaimed status to widespread mainstream success thanks to a string of massive hits.  Yet never one to be content, Jay-Z then embarked on a large-scale arena tour, elevating his popularity to even more astonishing heights.  The tour sold an impressive 600,000 tickets.  By the end of the 1990’s, Jay-Z was arguably the most successful rapper, or at least the most recognized (Light, 1999).

     By the end of the 1990’s rap music had invaded the world.  During the infant stage of rap music, a top performer would put on a show for as little as $50.00 and toward the mid to ending 1990’s, the average price demanded by a top performer was $30,000 to $50,000 dollars.  The economic reality of rap made itself very clear in this decade.  In the year 2000, the top three rap moguls each grossed over $50 million and were listed in the Forbes top 40 wealthiest entertainers.  Rap music has evolved from a New York inner city past time to one of the biggest business in the world today.  In the beginning rap music was considered a fad and many thought that it would fade out, we now know that that was a huge misconception.


 

 

Work Cited

 

 

Light, Alan. Vibe History of Hip Hop. Book & CD ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, October 1999.

 

Scott, Cathy. The Murder of Biggie Smalls. 1 ed. St. Martins Press (Trade), October 2000

 

Ogg, Alex., David Upshal., and Alexander Ogg. The Hip Hop Years: The History of Hip Hop. Book & CD ed. Trans Atlantic Publications, Inc. September 1999.

 

Scott, Cathy. The Killing of Tupac Shakur. 1 ed. Huntington Press; September 1997

 

Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Music and Culture). 1ed. Wesleyan University Press; May 1994

 

Brewster, Bill and Frank Broughton. Last Night a Dj Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey; Grove Press; August 2000

 

Perkins, William Eric. Droppin’ Science: Critical Essay on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture (Critical Perspectives of the Past). Temple University Press, October 1, 1995