1980s - Hip Hop's rise to radio
Kurtis Blow releases his best-selling album The Breaks and is the first rapper to appear on national TV, performing on Soul Train.
Hip-hop meets art pop as the New York scene extends downtown and rappers and b-boys mingle with the white club scene. After meeting hip-hop scenester Fab 5 Freddy, the new wave act Blondie records “Rapture,” featuring singer Debbie Harry rapping and continuing hip-hop’s journey into the mainstream.
Captain Rapp and Disco Daddy release “Gigolo Rap,” the first West Coast rap record.
The Rock Steady Crew and Dynamic Rockers battle—at Lincoln Center.
20/20 airs the first TV news feature story on “the rap phenomenon.”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release their turntable masterpiece The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, which contains the popular and socially conscious track “The Message.”
Directed by artist Charlie Ahearn and created by Fab 5 Freddy, Wild Style marks the first Hollywood exploration of hip-hop style and culture. The film showcases the work of legendary hip-hop and graffiti artists such as Lady Pink, Daze, Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew.
The first international hip-hop concert tour, featuring Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy and the Double Dutch Girls, goes to Europe, marking the start of hip-hop’s worldwide reach.
“Rockit,” the first jazz and hip-hop track, is released by Herbie Hancock and Grandmixer D. ST.
Ice-T releases some of the first West Coast gangsta raps, “Cold Winter Madness” and “Body Rock/Killers.”
Queens group Run-D.M.C. release their first single, “Sucker MCs/It’s Like That,” which gets major airplay on MTV and Top 40 radio. The song signals a new trend in hip-hop: harder rhymes over spare beats with a rock influence.
Style Wars, the first PBS documentary on subway graffiti and hip-hop culture, airs.
KDAY Los Angeles becomes the nation’s first rap-only radio station.
Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin establish Def Jam records, operating the label out of Rubin’s NYU dorm room. U.T.F.O.’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” triggers a slew of answer recordings, including “The Real Roxanne” and 14-year-old Roxanne Shante’s classic “Roxanne’s Revenge.”
Beatboxer Doug E. Fresh releases The Show with Slick Rick and the Get Fresh Crew.
An aspiring rapper named Kris Parker, later to be known as KRS-One, forms Boogie Down Productions with social worker and DJ Scott Sterling, a.k.a. Scott La Rock.
Run-D.M.C.’s hip-hop rendition of the Aerosmith classic “Walk This Way” cements hip-hop’s reach into mainstream media and MTV. Nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Run-D.M.C. becomes the first rap group to be tapped for a Grammy.
Eric B. and Rakim release Eric B. is President. Rakim’s skillful wordplay and articulate rhymes usher in a new era for hip-hop.
Long Island group Public Enemy releases its debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. DJ Cameron Paul’s remix of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” reaches 19 on the pop charts and receives a Grammy nomination.
Hip-hop receives national attention when violence ensues following a Run-D.M.C. concert in L.A. The group is forced to defend itself at a public press conference as conservative pundits and politicians accuse hip-hop of being morally corrupt.
Yo! MTV Raps goes on the air, further ushering hip-hop to a national television audience.
L.A. group N.W.A. releases its first album, Straight Outta Compton. Telling stories about life on the mean streets of South Central, it popularizes West Coast gangsta rap. The controversial track “Fuck tha Police” earns the group an F.B.I. warning.
MC Lyte releases her debut, Lyte as a Rock. She is one of the first female rappers to sign with a major record label.
DJ Scott La Rock of Boogie Down Productions is shot and killed. His partner KRS-One vows to continue creating more socially conscious music.
Power, Ice-T’s second album, is the first rap record to be slapped with a Parental Advisory warning label.
Afrika Bambaataa forms the Native Tongues Posse, part of a new movement towards positive, Afrocentric lyrics and “alternative” rap. Artists include Queen Latifah, a young New Jersey MC and the Jungle Brothers.
Public Enemy’s second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is released to critical acclaim and consumer success.
Public Enemy releases its third album, Fear of a Black Planet. A media frenzy ensues over member Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic remarks, thrusting hip-hop into the political spotlight.
Native Tongues Posse members A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul release albums acclaimed for their intelligent lyrics.
Featuring the hit single “U Can’t Touch This,” MC Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em is scorned by critics but sells more than ten million copies and becomes an MTV staple. Despite backlash among hip-hop purists, MC Hammer goes on to reap massive commercial success.
Rap receives its own Grammy category, but the presentation is not aired on television. Many popular artists, including award winners DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, instead attend an MTV boycott of the Grammys party.
White rap trio the Beastie Boys release Paul’s Boutique, their long-awaited second album.
New York City’s Transit Authority retires all subway cars with graffiti.