Hip Hop: The '80s

The Eighties brought along a new direction for rap when in 1982 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released "The Message" and followed by "White Lines (Just Don't Do It)" starting a new concept - that of social commentary, a tradition which continues today.




1982 also brought a new genre of music into the public light with hip hop's close spin-off, Electro. The earliest exaple of which was "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force. Relatively minimal musically, containing sampled portions of "Trans-Europe Express" by Kraftwerk, vocoded vocals and percussion from a Roland drum synth. The video clip of Planet Rock showcased yet another new trend brought along with hip hop music, break dancing.



1983 brought yet another electro hit record when the former Miles Davis musician, Herbie Hancock released "Future Shock". Suddenly a highly educated and respected musician had released a hip hop album. The single "Rockit" became Hancock's most sucessful single ever and high rotation on MTV ensured Hancock of an entirely new young audience who otherwise may have never heard of him.


In 1986 the all-female rap group Salt 'n Pepa released their first single, "Tramp" with little attention to this song that sampled the Otis Redding song of the same name (however often incorrectly credited as sampling Lowell Fulsoms original version of "Tramp") it was the b-side that was remixed and re-released in '87 that became their first hit - the song was "Push It". Salt 'n Pepa became regular hit-makers during the 1990's.


Also occuring in '86 was the release of the debut album by the Beastie Boys titled "Licensed to Ill". A combination of both hip hop and rock music, Licensed to Ill is fast becoming the highest selling hip hop album of all time with it still achieving high sales today, more than 20 years since its initial release. Not only has this album proved its longevity, but the Beastie Boys themselves have remained popular even though they are an entirely white group in a music world most often associated with black musicians. Now aproaching their 50's and one member being suspected of needing the aid of a walking frame, the Boys' latest album, 2004's "To the 5 Boroughs" topped the charts and stayed there for many weeks.

1988 saw the release of "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A on Ruthless records. If Ice-T can be credited with creating gansta rap it was N.W.A that grabbed it by the balls and took it too a new height. Lacking promotion of any kind (the album was banned from the playlists of almost every radio station) Straight Outta Compton managed sales of 2 million units in the USA alone.
With songs such as "Fuck Tha Police" the album drew the ire of police officers and politicians around the world (as well as this author's mother).