Hip Hop is one of the most popular kinds of music on the planet today. On Facebook “old school” hip hip has garnered over one million likes. There are hundreds of Facebook groups devoted to the music. Hip hop artist Jay Z’s album, “The Blueprint 3” reached number one on the Billboard 200. This was his 11th number one album. This made Jay Z bypass Elvis as having the most number one albums by any solo artist. This was a big deal, not just in the world of black entertainment news but for everyone.
Where did hip hop start?
Hip hop got its start on the streets on the Bronx in the late 1960s and early 1970s as rap. It offered a mix of funk soul, new technology, disco and a big dose of social uneasiness and upheaval. It was popular on the streets, in parks and clubs but it did not get much traction beyond the New York City borough where it was born until The Sugarhill Gang released, “Rapper’s Delight.” This hit radio stations in 1980. Blondie, a band fronted by singer Debbie Harry, took the music a step further with the release of its single “Rapture” that featured rapped lyrics. The next year, The Funky Plus 4 became the first rap group to play on national TV when they were asked to be the musical host for NBC’s hit show “Saturday Night Live.”
The 1980s were great for the new genre. Rap acts Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Fives produced groundbreaking music that added lyrics that talked about social and economic issues facing the African American community. At the same time the Black Entertainment Network (BET) was formed to provide black entertainment news and information. The network was launched in 1980. The new TV network was launched to appeal to an African American audience and features urban news, black celebrity news and other programming. Before there were black news websites, there was BET.
RunDMC hit the scene in 1983. Their style of music and lyrics was stark and blunt. Theirs was viewed as an uncompromising style and they payed homage to the rappers that had gone before them. Later, in 1986, their collaboration with Aerosmith when they did a remake of that band’s hit “Walk This Way” breathed new life into the rock band and brought them back to the music scene. That same year, they also collaborated with the Beastie Boys. Rap was growing and moving into other musical genres.
Meanwhile, Russell Simmons, broker of Joseph Simmons of Run DMC founded the Def Jam record label with Rick Rubin. Their first artist was LL Cool J. Soon after they signed Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, JA Rule and Public Enemy. It was not long before it became the dominant label in the genreandge;
The crossover to pop that many rap artists were looking for happened in 1990. MC Hammer’s single “U Can’t Touch This” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” topped the charts. It could have been the success or the commercial aspects of both songs but they were both shunned by most of the rap community and the black entertainment news outlets.
The 1990s saw the rise of “gangta rap” and an East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry was started. While New York City was the birth place of rap, Los Angeles rappers gained more influence as Death Row Records was started by Dr. Dre and Marion “Suge” Knight. The emerging sub-genre featured a lot of flash and emphasis on the violent lifestyle of life on the streets of the southern Californian city. Ice T released his single, “Cop Killer” that was considered to be scandalous. The situation was brought to a head when both Suge Knight and Tupac Sahakur were killed by gun violence in separate incidents.
Eminem exploded in 1999. He became he first rap artist to become the largest music star on the planet. Some have compared the white rapper’s lyrics to Shakespeare. He was able to connect to middle America in ways that no other artist could. In 2000, he released his second album. It sold 1.8 million copies.
Since then, there is little doubt that rap and hip hop are part of our pop culture. No longer confined to black entertainment news areas, it is everywhere.