The 1980s was an extremely important decade for Hip Hop. The development of the genre had come a long way since its early days in the 1970s. It had gained more popularity, exposure, and respect in the mainstream. In this decade, Hip Hop became more than just a fad or a genre that belonged to the African American and Latino communities in New York City.
It transcended race and culture lines, becoming popular everywhere from Australia to Japan. At this time, Hip Hop began to be included in many different types of music scenes like rock and roll, pop music, jazz fusion, soul music, and even country music.
Many artists saw success with their original versions of Hip Hop songs in the 80s (such as Run DMC’s version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”), while others were able to place their own unique spin on it (such as Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message”).
With this success came increased money for artists as well as more opportunities for producers to make money through sampling (which was becoming popular at this time).
Hip Hop also continued to develop in other areas. By 1980 there were numerous record labels dedicated to Hip Hop. The genre had become a legitimate business, with companies like Def Jam releasing albums and artists like Run DMC signing contracts with Adidas.
Artists that began their careers in the 1980s also started gaining more exposure as time went on. In fact, by the end of the 80s, many of these artists began to gain more fame than some of the older pioneers of Hip Hop. Artists such as N.W.A., Public Enemy, and LL Cool J were able to make Hip Hop more mainstream than ever before, which was a huge accomplishment for the genre (and for those who continued to make it a viable form of music).
In addition, many artists began to incorporate other types of music into their Hip Hop. Biggie Smalls, for example, was known for mixing different genres of music like reggae (as seen in the song “Juicy”) and jazz rap (as seen in “Gimme The Loot”). This was a new trend that many artists started to pick up on in the later years of the decade as they began experimenting with different sounds.
The following playlist contains a variety of songs from the 1980s that helped to shape Hip Hop history. These include some classics from pioneers like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Run DMC as well as some songs that showed how influential Hip Hop had become at this time. This playlist begins with the genre’s beginnings in the late 1970s and ends with its development in the late 1980s.
Sugarhill Gang – “Rappers Delight” (1979)
Rappers Delight was one of the first songs to become popular in Hip Hop. Released in 1979, this song was written by James Brown and released by The Sugarhill Gang. Since this was one of the only songs that existed at the time, it is considered by many to be the first Hip Hop song ever produced. It was released with a beat that sampled from a James Brown song but had lyrics that spoke about what the rappers on the street were doing back then.
Grandmaster Flash – “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (1981)
This track is one of Hip Hop’s first masterpieces of musical excellence and creativity. It features a great beat that samples “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” by Melle Mel and Duke Bootee while also incorporating live instruments such as horns and drums.
This song has been sampled by many artists since its production in 1981 and has been used in countless movies and TV shows (like “The Sopranos,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Family Guy,” etc.). It also helped to define how producers would make music for decades to come, as they used the same formula for making full-length Hip Hop albums.
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message” (1982)
This song was Grandmaster Flash’s first masterpiece and helped to define his place in Hip Hop history. It is also considered to be one of the first socially conscious songs ever created by a Hip Hop group. This song is about life on the streets of New York City, with lyrics that speak about drugs, crime, and other social issues that were prevalent at this time.
Unlike most songs in the genre, this track features no beat but instead uses live instruments like horns and a guitar to make up the music behind the lyrics. This track also contains one of Hip Hop’s most famous lines ever: “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head.” This track also has one of Hip Hop’s most famous beats ever: It samples “The Champ” by The Mohawks while adding its own unique additions (like a cowbell that would become iconic).
N.W.A – “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)
This song is another one of Hip Hop’s greatest. It was written and produced by Eminem’s idols, the members of N.W.A. It was released in 1988 and became hugely successful, helping to define the genre in the mainstream as well as the idea of gangsta rap. This track also helped to introduce listeners to Ice Cube, who had a great impact on Hip Hop in the 90s.
This track helped to spread the idea that Hip Hop could be used to discuss anything and everything while still being entertaining and not taking itself too seriously. The beat is very unique, as it samples “The Payback” by James Brown, “The Boss” by Rick James, “Funky Drummer” by Clyde Stubblefield, and “Theme From The Black Hole” by Parliament-Funkadelic while incorporating elements from other genres such as country music.