This month (September, 2004), Hip-Hop celebrates 25 years of commercial success. The artform had existed on the underground
for years, but things changed.
Rap music originated as a cross-cultural product. Most of its important early practitioners-including Kool Herc, D.J.
Hollywood, and Afrika Bambaataa-were either first- or second-generation Americans of Caribbean ancestry. Herc and Hollywood
are both credited with introducing the Jamaican style of cutting and mixing into the musical culture of the South Bronx.
By most accounts Herc was the first DJ to buy two copies of the same record for just a 15-second break (rhythmic
instrumental segment) in the middle. By mixing back and forth between the two copies he was able to double, triple, or
indefinitely extend the break. In so doing, Herc effectively deconstructed and reconstructed so-called found sound, using the
turntable as a musical instrument.
In 1979 the first two rap
records appeared: "King Tim III (Personality Jock)," recorded by the Fatback Band, and "Rapper's Delight," by Sugarhill Gang.
A series of verses recited by the three members of Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight" became a national hit, reaching number
36 on the Billboard magazine popular music charts. The spoken content, mostly braggadocio spiced with fantasy, was derived
largely from a pool of material used by most of the earlier rappers.
The backing track for "Rapper's Delight" was supplied by hired studio musicians, who replicated the basic groove of the
hit song "Good Times" (1979) by the American supergroup Chic.
Perceived as novel by many white Americans, "Rapper's Delight" quickly inspired "Rapture" (1980) by the new-wave band Blondie,
as well as a number of other popular records.
In 1982 Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" became the first rap record to use synthesizers and an electronic drum machine.
With this recording, rap artists began to create their own backing tracks rather than simply offering the work of others in a
A year later Bambaataa introduced the sampling capabilities of synthesizers on "Looking for the Perfect Beat" (1983) - of
quick mixing, in which sound bites as short as one or two seconds are combined for a collage effect. Quick mixing paralleled
the rapid-editing style of television advertising used at the time.
Shortly after Flash introduced quick mixing, his partner Grandmaster Melle Mel composed the first extended stories in
rhymed rap. Up to this point, most of the words heard over the work of disc jockeys such as Herc, Bambaataa, and Flash had
been improvised phrases and expressions. In 1978 DJ Grand Wizard Theodore introduced the technique of scratching to produce
During the mid-1980s, rap
moved from the fringes of hip-hop culture to the mainstream of the American music industry as white musicians began to embrace
the new style. In 1986 rap reached the top ten on the Billboard pop charts with "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)"
by the Beastie Boys and "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC and Aerosmith. Known for incorporating rock music into its raps, Run-DMC
became one of the first rap groups to be featured regularly on MTV (Music Television).
Also during the mid-1980s, the first female rap group of consequence, Salt-N-Pepa, released the singles "The Show Stoppa"
(1985) and "Push It" (1987); "Push It" reached the top 20 on Billboard's pop charts.
In the late 1980s a large segment of rap became highly politicized, resulting in the most overt social agenda in popular
music since the urban folk movement of the 1960s. The groups Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions epitomized this
political style of rap. Public Enemy came to prominence with their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
(1988), and the theme song "Fight the Power" from the motion picture Do the Right Thing (1989), by American filmmaker Spike
Lee. Proclaiming the importance of rap in black American culture, Public Enemy's lead singer, Chuck D., referred to it as the
African American CNN (Cable News Network).
Alongside the rise of political rap came the introduction of gangsta rap, which attempts to depict an outlaw lifestyle of
sex, drugs, and violence in inner-city America. In 1988 the first major album of gangsta rap was released: Straight Outta
Compton by the rap group NWA (Niggaz With Attitude). Songs from the album generated an extraordinary amount of controversy for
their violent attitudes and inspired protests from a number of organizations, including the FBI (Federal Bureau of
However, attempts to censor gangsta rap only served to publicize the music and make it more attractive to both black and
white youths. NWA became a platform for launching the solo careers of some of the most influential rappers and rap producers
in the gangsta style, including Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E.
In the 1990s rap became
increasingly eclectic, demonstrating a seemingly limitless capacity to draw samples from any and all musical forms. A number
of rap artists have borrowed from jazz, using samples as well as live music. Some of the most influential jazz-rap recordings
include Jazzamatazz CD (1993), an album by Boston rapper Guru, and "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" (1993), a single by the British
group US3. In the United Kingdom, jazz-rap evolved into a genre known as trip-hop, the most prominent artists and groups being
Tricky and Massive Attack.
As hip-hop/rap became increasingly part of the American mainstream in the 1990s, political rap became less prominent while
gangsta rap, as epitomized by the Geto Boys, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Tupac Shakur, grew in popularity.
Since the mid-1980s rap music has greatly influenced both black and white culture in North America. Much of the slang of
hip-hop culture, including such terms as dis, fly, def, chill, and wack, have become standard parts of the vocabulary of a
significant number of young people of various ethnic origins. Many rap enthusiasts assert that rap functions as a voice for a
community without access to the mainstream media. According to advocates, rap serves to engender self-pride, self-help, and
self-improvement, communicating a positive and fulfilling sense of black history that is largely absent from other American
institutions. People who loves hip-hop culture and rap argue that no matter who is listening to the music, the raps are
justified because they accurately portray life in inner-city America.
Top40 Charts asked over 200 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys and radio programme producers to vote for the 100 greatest
hip-hop/rap songs. Here are the results, in this awesome collection of the best and most influential hip-hop/rap songs of all
Songs are arranged by their ranking:
Top 100 Greatest Hip-hop/Rap Singles of all