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Monday, 11 October, 2004, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
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Timeline: 25 years of rap records
New musical style arrives with first major rap record
Rap had been a growing force on the streets of The Bronx New York for several years with funk soul and disco coinciding with new technology and social upheaval. But it had been confined to parties in parks schools and nightclubs until one entrepreneur put together The Sugarhill Gang. They put a song Rapper's Delight onto vinyl and it became the first rap tune to hit the charts and airwaves taking the new musical style to a wide audience for the first time.
Pioneers get in on the act in rap record rush
Rap began to reach a wider audience as the scene's pioneers shifted focus from performing live to making records. Kurtis Blow was the first rapper to be signed to a major label and his track The Breaks was the first rap single to go gold while Blondie singer Debbie Harry introduced the concept to a new crowd by rapping on their single Rapture. In 1981 The Funky 4 Plus One became the first rap act to perform on a US network TV show Saturday Night Live.
Rap expansion gathers pace and reaches big screen
More groundbreaking records were released led by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Fives stark The Message which moved the scene on from party lyrics to rapping about economic and social problems. Afrika Bambaataa fused hiphop with electro in his landmark album Planet Rock. The first hiphop film Wild Style featured some early stars and showcased the whole scene including break dancing and graffiti inspiring a new generation of artists.
RunDMC keep it real with fresh street sounds
RunDMC appeared in 1983 ushering in a new era of hardcore blunt and stark beats and lyrics incorporating heavy guitars as well as hiphop beats. Their uncompromising stance extended to their visual image staying true to the style of the streets with gold chains and sportswear and shunning the costumes and stage routines of their predecessors. The first gangsta rap comes out of the west coast while Herbie Hancock has a hit with jazz fusion single Rockit.
Powerhouse record label Def Jam is born
RunDMC vocalist Joseph Run Simmons brother Russell formed the Def Jam record label with student Rick Rubin and a 16yearold LL Cool J as their first artist. They went on to sign future stars including RunDMC The Beastie Boys Public Enemy and Ja Rule and became the most powerful and influential label in rap.
Rap reaches new heights with Beastie Boys and RunDMC
RunDMCs third album Raising Hell and single Walk This Way made them the first rap act to fully cross over into the mainstream appealing to rock and hiphop fans alike and becoming the first rap act embraced by MTV. White expunks The Beastie Boys similarly mixed rap and rock on their debut album Licensed to Ill the first rap album to hit number one and the bestselling rap album of the 1980s but were dismissed as phoney and unauthentic by some purists.
Attitude reigns with Public Enemy and NWA
Two landmark albums pushed rap in an aggressive and controversial direction. Public Enemy's political and powerful It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us A Back was a manifesto for revolution in both rap and the wider world. And NWA epitomised gangsta rap with a celebration of the violence crime and misogyny of the Los Angeles ghetto in Straight Outta Compton. It shocked middle class America and caused an FBI investigation. MTV's first regular rap show started.
De La Souls Daisy Age brings good vibes
The late 1980s hiphop scene was not all combative as was proved by a positive psychedelic and jazzy movement led by De La Soul whose classic debut 3 Feet High and Rising came out in 1989. They proclaimed the dawning of the Daisy Age and led a loose collective of artists called the Native Tongues Posse which also included A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah. The Grammys also handed out their first ever rap award to DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince.
Rap becomes chartfriendly with pop crossovers
Rap moved into pop territory more than ever before with two huge hits MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This and Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby. Both artists were sneered at by some rap fans for being too watered down and commercial but the pair were the most successful rap acts yet. MC Hammer's second LP sold more than 10 million copies and remains the biggestselling rap album of all time.
West coast takes over as gangsta rap rules
The Los Angeles scene with its violence and glamour became the dominant force in rap attracting acclaim and notoriety in equal measure. Former NWA producer Dr Dre founded the Death Row record label with Marion "Suge" Knight and released his seminal funkinspired album The Chronic influencing musicians for years to come. Ice T scandalised the US with his song Cop Killer while other artists demanding attention included Tupac Shakur and Cypress Hill.
Troubled rap superstars emerge
Rap was no longer underground with uncompromising tunes reaching the pop charts and a new breed of artists shooting straight from the streets to superstardom. It was obvious many knew about the crime and violence of their lyrics. Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle was the first debut album to enter the US chart at number one but he was arrested for involvement in a driveby shooting and later cleared. Nas the Wu Tang Clan and Notorious BIG also appeared around this time.
East versus west coast feud erupts into bloody battle
The violence of rap lyrics became all too real when Los Angelesbased superstar Tupac Shakur was shot dead followed six months later by the murder of New York artist Notorious BIG. Shakur was the first US artist to have a number one album while in prison but rivalry between rappers and labels on the east and west coasts hit new depths when he was killed in 1996. BIG was implicated and his death seemed to be proof to many of a gang war but both murders remain unsolved.
The producer is king Puff Daddy rules the airwaves
Violence did not diminish the public's appetite for rap and the sound was dominated by producer and mogul Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy. He was head of the Bad Boy label and lent his production skills to other acts including Aretha Franklin Mariah Carey and TLC. His songs topped the US rap chart for 36 consecutive weeks. Other hiphop producers such as Timbaland and The Neptunes also broke through giving a hiphop edge to pop and rap acts alike.
Raps great white superstar Eminem bursts onto scene
Eminem emerged to become the first rapper to eclipse rock and pop idols as the nation's biggest music star. His incisive and insightful lyrics were compared to Shakespeare and his background helped him connect with middle America like no rapper before. He had his share of controversy but that only propelled his fame and his second album sold 1.8 million copies in its first week in 2000 helping him rule a rap scene above other big names like JayZ DMX and Ja Rule.
The assimilation rap is the mainstream
Still relatively young fresh and exciting rap's sound image and culture are now at the heart of the mainstream. Rap's collisions with other urban styles like RampB have produced further innovations and urban music now accounts for a quarter of all CDs sold in the US the same as rock. Pop stars from Beyonce Knowles to Sir Elton John have had highprofile collaborations with rappers and new stars including 50 Cent and OutKast regularly dominate charts and awards.
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Silver jubilee for first rap hit
14 Oct 04 | Entertainment
Rap's maturity 20 years on
15 Jun 01 | Entertainment
Black artists take over US top 10
06 Oct 03 | Entertainment
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