20 Moments in Hip-Hop That Changed the World
Hip-hop was born out of the inner city by Black and Latino youth, so by definition its history is also Black History. As the culture has grown over the years its seen numerous great moments in its nearly 40 year history. Within that history are occurrences that profoundly affected the way the world perceives Black culture, for the better.
August 11, 1973: Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell throws a back to school party for his sister Cindy in the rec room of 1540 Sedgwick Ave in The Bronx, NY. Herc goes on to pioneer the technique of using two pairs of the same records in order to extend favorite musical passages or “breaks” — but on that particular night, hip-hop is born.
Itching for a Scratch
1977: The story goes Grand Wizard Theodore (né Theodore Livingston), a disciple of Grand Master Flash, is practicing at home on the wheels of steel when his mother tells him to turn the music down. While moving the record back and forth, he realizes something; he just invented the scratch. DJ’ing will never be the same. Thank you.
Records Sales Delight
1979: The Sugar Hill Gang release ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ the first commercially available rap record. Over a groove cribbed from Chic’s disco hit ‘Good Times,’ Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee brought this then little know hip-hop subculture to the national stage. It wouldn’t be the last rap record to sell millions of copies, but it was the first.
1986: Run-DMC‘s album ‘Raising Hell’ is nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group category. Hip-hop wouldn’t get its own category until three years later (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince won Best Rap Performance for ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’). It’s been a love/hate relationship with the Grammys and hip-hop ever since.
DJ Nominated for President
1986: Eric B. & Rakim drop ‘Eric. B is President.’ Produced by Marley Marl, Rakim’s then revolutionary rhyme cadence and intricate rhyme schemes make would be rappers go back to the drawing board. A member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, the The R ushers in a new era of advanced rapping styles.
The Source Magazine Launches
1988: Harvard University buddies Dave Mays and Jon Shecter launch a newsletter that soon matures into the “bible” of hip-hop politics, music and culture. By 1997, the Source Magazine beats Rolling Stone in newsstand sales. Despite having its stature shaken thanks to inner turmoil and the rise of competitors like XXL and Vibe, the Source marches on with its sights set on re-attaining its status as hip-hop’s preeminent magazine.
MTV Embraces Rap Videos
August 6, 1988: Yo! MTV Raps debuts and brings hip-hop videos to a national and worldwide audience. Hosted by Fab 5 Freddy and Dr. Dre & Ed Lover, the show’s format (interviews, videos, freestyles) becomes the template for all hip-hop video shows that followed on broadcast TV, cable and now the Internet. But we can’t forget Ralph McDaniel’s local NYC gem ‘Video Music Box’, which premiered in 1983.
The Prince of Rap
September 1990: ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ debuts on NBC and enjoys a six year run. Practically the antithesis of gangsta rap acts like N.W.A and the Geto Boys, Will Smith showed the world positive images and would eventually becoming a huge draw at the box office (see ‘Hitch,’ ‘I Am Legend,’ etc.) Now his daughter Willow is a big deal too.
Boyz N Da Hood
July 1991: It wasn’t the first film helmed by a director from the hip-hop generation (we’ll take Spike Lee and Mars Blackmon), but John Singleton marked a new breed of Black filmmakers with swagger. Some of the films that followed in its wake; ‘CB4,’ ‘Menace II Society,’ even ‘Friday’ owes a debt to the precedent ‘Boyz N Da Hood’ set. From Master P‘s low budget flicks to 50 Cent‘s Oscar dreams, hip-hop has maintained a long love affair with the movies.
Somebody Beats the Biz
December 1991: Biz Markie was sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan because the rapper used an unauthorized sample of his song ‘Alone Again (Naturally).’ The Supreme Court ruled in favor of O’Sullivan, which meant that all samples in music had to be cleared before their use or artists would face criminal prosecution. Needless to say, it changed how hip-hop producers made their music.
Clan In Da Front
November 1993: Led by mastermind the RZA, Wu-Tang Clan releases their debut album ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).’ Wu-Tang’s unique deal with Loud Records let individual members signs solo deals to the record labels of their choosing. It’s a new paradigm in the hip-hop record business that proves to be groundbreaking and sets the Wu-Tang on a phenomenal musical and culturally influential run.
September 13, 1996: After being shot multiple times while leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, Tupac Amaru Shakur succumbs to his injuries. The fiery gangsta rappers becomes hip-hop’s first martyr. Thanks to posthumous albums, documentaries and devoted fans, Pac is still one of hip-hop’s most influential artists. His murder is still unsolved.
The Notorious B.I.G. Murdered
March 9, 1997: Sporting a larger than life persona and a flow that is effortless, Christopher “The Notorious BIG” Wallace brings the East coast back to rap prominence. But while out in Los Angeles, the Notorious B.I.G. is gunned down while leaving a Vibe Magazine party. The East Coast/West Coast beef has reached its apex, and unfortunately hip-hop has gained yet another martyr.
L Boogie Rules
August 1998: Lauryn Hill‘s debut album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ is nominated for 10 Grammy Awards in 1999 and she wins five including Album of the Year. The landmark album sets a highwater mark for the female hip-hop MCs, and MCs in general. Ever devoted fans are still waiting on a proper follow up.
Flav Earns Celebreality Stardom
September 2004: Public Enemy‘s Flavor Flav appears in ‘The Surreal Life’ on VH1. Hip-hop’s greatest hypeman becomes a fixture on the network as reality television takes over pop culture. Plenty of African-Americans are also kind of embarrassed, no shots. Flav just may redeem himself with plans to appear in another reality series that will chronicle his quest to earn a high-school diploma.
Jay-Z Gets the Corner Office
December 2004: Recent rap retiree Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is tapped to become President of Def Jam Records. From drug dealer, to star rapper to music exec and mogul; Hova nabs a plush desk job and becomes the ultimate role model of a generation of hip-hop entrepreneurs. So what if he happened to un-retire a couple of years later.
Kanye West Calls Out Bush
September 2005: During a live benefit concert to aid Hurricane Katrina victims on NBC, Kanye West infamously went off script to say, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Five years later, George W. Bush would say it was one the lowest point of his presidency. Despite Kanye apologizing to Dubya, it was one of hip-hop’s realest.
DJ Drama Almost Goes to Jail
January 2007: DJ Drama‘s Atlanta offices are raided by the feds thanks to his sale of technically illegal mixtapes. Despite the fact that most, if not all, the music available on these unofficial albums were provided by the artists themselves and provided plenty of promotion, the lucrative mixtape game of recent years grinds to a halt.
March 2007: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five were the first hip-hop group inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Given that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was founded in 1983, its first class was inducted in 1986 and its Cleveland digs opened in 1995, all we want to know is, what took so long?
Barack Obama Brushes His Shoulders Off
April 2008: In April 2008 while campaigning for the U.S. Presidency, in response to a question about the digs then fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton sent his way in a debate, Obama proceeded to brush his shoulders off. It was an ode to Jay-Z’s ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder.’ Barack is a fan after all, and the melding of politics and hip-hop culture is born.