1980 Video Links Below
Rap and hip-hop music as we know it today actually began thousands of years ago in Africa with the “griots”, who were village story tellers who played a simple handmade instrument while they told stories of family and village events. The griot was, and still is, a major form of communication in parts of Africa. This “talking” while music is playing is rap music in its most rudimentary form.
In addition to the griot tradition, rap is rooted in the pain of Black-American experience which began with slavery. While slaves were working in the fields, they would often sing. Part of the songs they sang were "call and answer" selections. One leader would call out part of the song and the rest of the slaves would answer with the next line.
When the slaves would attend religious services, this call and response trend continued and prevailed in churches even after slavery ended. Often, the minister would make the "call" and the congregation was responsible for the "response." This call and answer trend can be found in early rap music all the way up to current rap music. The DJ would call out "Can I get a Woo Woo?" and the response would of course come back as "Woo Woo" from the people listening.
Then in 1978, a year in which the American musical did not seem to be evolving in any direction, in New York City, two deejays, DJ Hollywood and DJ Kool Herc, had had enough with the aging disco scene. They began pulling records from their parents house and started spinning short sections of them on turntables at local parties. Soon, they began using two turntables at the same time. Historians have come to coin them as the “founding fathers of rap.” In the summer of 1979, rap broke out with “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. This was a fourteen minute rapping frenzy with “Good Times” sampled in the background. It marked the beginning of the rap music trend.
Another huge force in the early rap movement was Afrika Bambaataa and his Zulu Nation. Afrika was a deejay who would spin records at parks and parties. He incorporated an element of cultural awareness in his spinning that was new to the scene. Afrika was a former gang member who saw music as a way to bring ghetto youth together.
In 1982, Grandmaster Flash recorded “The Message,” which was the first rap song to paint a realistic, dismal and graphic picture of life in the slums of America. Up until now, most rap music contained upbeat, perky and fun messages. This was a landmark recording which paved the way for social and political commentary in rap music which still continues on today.
Rap music received another major boost in 1986 with the music video “Walk this Way” which brought Run DMC and the rock band Aerosmith together in a major musical crossover event. MTV was in it’s heyday and rap music was just getting started with more artists tapping into the video market. Rock music fans saw this video and started opening themselves up to rap music which tapped into a whole new market. MTV continued to help rap music’s recognition in 1988 with the new MTV show “Yo! MTV Raps!” This show received the highest ratings in the history of MTV and started it’s own spin off weekly show with Dr. Dre and Ed Lover. As rap music received more and more exposure through music videos, it’s popularity continued to skyrocket.
Through the years, the faces and messages of rap music continued to evolve. Gangsta rap was born out of the east coast, west coast rivalry, which also led to tragedy. Sampling was a trend used by many rappers in the nineties which also spurred some copyright controversy. Since it’s inception, rap music remains a highly influential, popular and sometimes controversial form of music entertainment.
When rap music first surfaced, a new art form known as "grafitti art" surfaced along with it. The New York subway trains were covered in this new spray can art form. New DJ's would paint their names or a symbol in order to get recognized. In the early eighties, an independent museum in New York actually had a grafitti art exhibit to honor this new trend. Rap music also played a part in what is now known as "Slamming." A poetry slam is the reading of original poetry that is read aloud with drums or a bass line playing in the background. The poetry often contains a political or sociological message and the style in which it is read actually closely resembles the style of the African griots. Rap music also uses it's own terminology to describe and refer to things. A perfect example of this is the current trend started by Snoop Dogg to add an "izzle" to the end of words. This trend has caught on in popular culture to the point where radio stations and media personality are trying to incorporate it into their language! Lastly, who can forget the fervor the Run DMC Adidas sneakers started? In the eighties after their videos hit the big time, it seemed as though everyone had to had Adidas sneakers with no laces. This was just the begining of the influences rap music has had on the fashion world. Many rap artists such as Puff Daddy, Russell Simmons and the Wu Tang Clan have actually started their own successful clothing lines. The more popular a rap artist is, the more likely their sense of style will be emulated by many.
Back to the 80s: Top 50 Best Old School Rap / Hip Hop Songs 1980-1989
Video Links Below:
It seems that many internet searchers end up at Kickin' it Old School expecting to find "Old School Rap," so it is long overdue for me to publish my top 10 rap/hip hop songs from the 80s. This is a pretty comprehensive list because rap was my music of choice in the mid-80s (before it really started to get too gangster and violent).
Just to clarify one thing before I start, this list will only include songs from the 80s. Some people consider some rap songs from the early 90s to be "old school," but for the purpose of this list those songs will not be included. So before you get concerned that I missed a particular song, please double-check to make sure it was from 1989 or earlier.
As usual, the candidates are very strong here, so I am actually going to provide you with my top 50 (with even more songs than that due to ties)!! Â As added value, there will be a link to a video for each of the 50 spots though in some case it is just the song playing over a still picture. I thought this was important to let you hear the songs especially if you have never heard them, can't remember them or just wanted to bring back the memories. So without further ado, here is OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 RAP SONGS FROM 1980-1989 (+Bonus 40):
Honorable Mentions. "Rapper's Delight" (1979) by The Sugar Hill Gang & "Walk This Way" (1986) by Run-DMC featuring Aerosmith - Because it was technically not in the 80's, I wanted to at least give honorable mention to "Rapper's Delight" which is commonly known as the first rap hit. I probably would have had to place it in the top 10 if I included it in this list. It definitely has a disco feel to it which you can see and hear with this link to the video. I also wanted to give an honorable mention to "Walk This Way" which was from the groundbreaking album Raising Hell. This song really served to officially let rap crossover into the mainstream since it was the first rap song ever to make it to the top 5 in the Billboard Hot 100. I am a huge fan of Run-DMC, so you will see them represented well on the list below. I feel that they really took the genre to the next level and this particular song was a big part of that. Here is a link to the video for "Walk This Way."
50. "Bust A Move" (1989) by Young M.C. from Stone Cold Rhymin' [link to video] - A little commercial, but still not that bad
49. "What People Do For Money" (1984) by Divine Sounds [link to video] - Almost forgot about this one
48. "8 Million Stories" & "Basketball" (1984) by Kurtis Blow from Ego Trip [link to video for "Basketball" mentions many of the great NBA players of the time] - Probably should recognize "The Breaks" from way back in 1980 because it was one of the early successes for the genre, but I really have never liked it that much though many might rank it highly on a list like this.
47. "Egypt, Egypt" & "And My Beat Goes Boom" (1984) by Egyptian Lover from On the Nile [link to song playing "Egypt, Egypt"]
46. "Boyz-n-the Hood" (1988) by Eazy-E from Eazy-Duz-It [link to video]
45. "Words I Manifest" (1989) by Gang Starr from No More Mr. Nice Guy [link to video]
44. "Jam On It" (1984) by Newcleus [link to song playing]
43.(tie) "Paper Thin" (1988) by MC Lyte from Lyte as a Rock [link to video] & "Ladies First" (1989) by Queen Latifah featuring Monie Love from All Hail the Queen [link to video] - Wanted to recognize some of the pioneering lady rappers
42. "Don't Fight The Feelin'" (1988) by Too $hort from Life Is...To Short [link to song playing]
41. "High Rollers" (1988) by Ice T from Power [link to video] - I remember seeing Ice T for the first time rapping during the breakdance battles in the 1984 movie Breakin'
40. "Hey Ladies" (1989) by Beastie Boys from Paul's Boutique [link to video]
39. "Nobody Beats the Biz!" (1988) by Biz Markie from Goin' Off [link to song playing] - More people know him for his clown around songs like "Just a Friend" but he really was a solid lyricist
38. "Cinderfella Dana Dane" (1987) by Dana Dane from Dana Dane With Fame [link to song playing]
37.(tie) "Roxanne's Revenge" (1984) by Roxanne Shante [link to video] & "The Real Roxanne" (1985) by The Real Roxanne with UTFO [link to song playing] - The first was a response to the UTFO song "Roxanne, Roxanne" and sparked what were known as the "Roxanne Battles" between Shante and the Real Roxanne
36. "Hit It Run" & "It's Tricky" (1986) by Run-DMC from Raising Hell [link to video for "It's Tricky" which also stars magicians Penn & Teller] - DJ Jam Master Jay does not get enough credit for the group's success and he is missed after being tragically murdered in 2002. R.I.P. JMJ.
35. "Road to the Riches" (1989) by Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo from Road to the Riches [link to video]
34. "6 In the Morning" (1987) by Ice T from Rhyme Pays [link to song playing]
33. "Roxanne, Roxanne" (1984) by UTFO from Roxanne, Roxanne [link to video]
32. "You Gots to Chill" (1988) by EPMD from Strictly Business [link to video]
31. "Fat Boys" & "Stick 'em" (1984) by The Fat Boys from Fat Boys [link to video for "Fat Boys"]
30. "Freaks Come Out At Night" (1984) by Whodini from Escape [link to video] - Could have also included "Friends" and "Five Minutes of Funk" both from that same album
29. "Push It" (1987) by Salt-n-Pepa from Hot, Cool & Vicious [link to video]
28. "Children's Story" (1988) by Slick Rick from The Great Adventures of Slick Rick [link to video] - Slick Rick's best moments were as the rapper with Doug E. Fresh's Get Fresh Crew
27. "How Ya Like Me Now" & "Wild Wild West" (1987) by Kool Moe Dee from How Ya Like Me Now [link to song playing "How Ya Like Me Now"] - Kool Moe Dee was one of the members of the Treacherous Three during the early 80's and had an ongoing feud with LL Cool J
26. "Let's Get It Started" & "Turn This Mutha Out" (1988) by MC Hammer from Let's Get It Started [link to video for "Let's Get It Started"] - Most people think of the 90's Hammer and "You Can't Touch This" but he is underrated for his rapping talent which he showed when he burst on the scene
25. "Rock Box" & "Hard Times" (1984) by Run-DMC from Run-DMC [link to video for "Rock Box"]
24. "Gittin' Funky" & "Rollin' With Kid n' Play" (1988) by Kid n' Play from 2 Hype [link to video for "Rollin' With Kid n' Play"] - Became better known for the House Party movies, but were favorite rappers of mine before that
23. "I'm Not Going Out Like That" & "Run's House" (1988) by Run-DMC from Tougher Than Leather [link to video for "Run's House"] - I wish I could have found a video for "I'm Not Going Out Like That" because I feel that is one of the group's best and more underrated songs
22. "Criminal Minded" (1987) by Boogie Down Productions from Criminal Minded [link to song playing] - The rapping genius behind BDP is the great KRS-One
21. "Brand New Funk" & "Time To Chill" (1988) by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince from He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper [link to video for "Brand New Funk"] - They are probably better know for "Parents Just Don't Understand" but Will Smith is an underrated rapper as I discussed in this past issue of Kickin' it
20. "We Got Our Own Thang" & "Big Tyme" (1989) by Heavy D. & The Boyz from Big Tyme [link to video for "We Got Our Own Thang"]
19. "Straight Outta Compton" (1988) by N.W.A. from Straight Outta Compton - Though I am not a fan of gangster rap, this super group took the genre by storm and rap would never be the same
18. "Paid In Full" (1987) by Eric B. & Rakim from Paid In Full [link to video] - Rakim might be the best pure rapper ever
16. "King of Rock" (1985) by Run-DMC from King of Rock [link to video]
15. "Me, Myself and I" (1989) by De La Soul from 3 Feet High and Rising [link to video]
14. "It Takes Two" (1988) by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock from It Takes Two [link to video] - Like many of the songs on this list, I can still recite this song from start to finish
13. "Self Destruction" (1989) by Stop the Violence Movement [link to video] - Collaboration between several East Coast rappers including Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Heavy D., Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte and Kool Moe Dee created a great song with a greater message. Similar song by the West Coast Rap All-Stars called "We're All in the Same Gang" might have made this list, but was released in 1990.
12. "Rock the Bells" & "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (1985) by LL Cool J from Radio [link to song playing "Rock the Bells"] - I remember seeing LL for the first time in an impressive scene from the 1985 movie Krush Groove and here is a link to watch it for yourself
11. "Top Billin'" (1988) by Audio Two from What More Can I Say? [link to videoÂ need to turn volume up a little on this one to hear]
10. "Ain't No Half Steppin'" (1988) by Big Daddy Kane from Long Live the Kane [link to video] - Kane is one of my all time favorites and I also could have included "Raw" from that same album
9. "Paul Revere" (1986) by Beastie Boys from License to Ill [link to song playing] - I could have included this entire album ("Brass Monkey," "Girls," "The New Style" and more) though "Fight For Your Right" received the most mainstream attention
8. "My Philosophy" (1988) by Boogie Down Productions from By All Means Necessary [link to video]
7. "The Symphony" (1988) by Marley Marl's Juice Crew from In Control Volume 1 [link to video] - Impressive collaboration by rappers Craig G., Master Ace, Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane which has always been one of my favorites
6. "Rebel Without A Pause" & "Don't Believe the Hype" (1987) by Public Enemy from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back [link to video for "Don't Believe the Hype"]
5. "Follow the Leader" (1988) by Eric B. & Rakim from Follow the Leader [link to videoÂ turn up the volume a little for this one]
4. "Planet Rock" (1982) by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force [link to video] - Bambaataa was an originator and innovator with other greats like "Looking For the Perfect Beat" which were perfect for break dancing
3. "Sucker M.C.'s" (1984) by Run-DMC from Run-DMC [link to song playing]
2. "The Show" & "La Di Da Di" (1985) by Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew [link to song playing "The Show"] and [link to song playing "La Di Da Di"] - I had the 12" single that had both of these songs on it and I played that thing to death
1. "The Message" (1982) by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five [link to video] - Out of respect, there should be no argument that this is number one and "Don't push me because I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head. It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under."
There's my list which includes a literal who's who on the rap scene during the mid to late 80's. Let me know if there are any songs or artists you feel should be included. Hope you enjoy all of those great links. Those are still many of my favorite rap songs even when you add in the last 18 years. Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane and if you are too young to have heard these the first time around, then I encourage you to give them a listen.