If you’ve been paying attention, you would know that hip-hop is celebrating its 50th birthday.
For a genre which folks paid little attention to at the very beginning, it has grown to become a multi-trillion industry, whose position is utterly unassailable.
Along the way, we have had the great privilege of listening to some truly gifted wordsmiths, who have changed our lives forever.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message took the game by storm in rapping about inner city decay in Reagan’s America in a way that PBS or CNN couldn’t quite or never wanted to capture.
Kurtis Blow rode the crest wave and recorded a few classics along the way, with If I Ruled The World and Basketball being notably examples. I cite these songs because they were covered by Nas, Lauren Hill and Lil Bow Wow.
LL Cool J’s I need Love was the very first love ballad by a rapper, setting the tone for what would be a phenomenally successful career through the decades.
Rap Trio — Run DMC —took the artform to dizzying new heights, long before they made the decision to cover Aerosmith’s Walk This Way in 1986, which blew up their profile on a global scale.
By the late 80s, Rakim, Whodunni, Will Smith and Big Daddy Kane had staked their claim as the leading players of rap music.
Public Enemy’s fight the power did confirm hip-hop’s place as anti-establishment and white supremacy.
But then something changed.
The realities of the inner-city on the American west coast, crept into hip-hop and this introduced gangster rap to the world.
First it was Ice-T, who captured the zeitgeist with his visceral hatred of the authorities in his debut.
And then NWA stepped onto the scene.
And what they said on wax, really did move the needle.
They fused excellent production (courtesy of Dr. Dre) with gritty story telling (Ice Cube) which laid bare the profound corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department, while advocating violence as the only recourse.