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A Short History of Hip-hop: The 1980s

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The Four Elements of HiphopHip-hop in the 1970s wasn’t a complex genre of music it grew to become in the 1980s. Hip-hop was a disco-inspired piece of music with samples and very little lyrics. The 1980s saw the introduction to more complex lyrical styles and brought forth a message rarely seen in the music of today.

1980s hip-hop began to start using more and more drum machines. One of the first programmable drum machines, the ROLAND 808, was not only used in hip-hop during this decade but it was used in many genres of music throughout the 80s. The 808 kickdrum sound is still widely used in hip-hop records today. Also, sampling became much easier to produce with new machines like AKAI 9000. The AKAI 9000 was used to create tape loops.


Despite the emergence of new technology in the genre of music, the development of metaphorical lyrics began to take shape. Artists like Melle Mel, Rakim, Chuck D, and KRS-One, among many others, revolutionized hip-hop to adopt more mature lyrical content. Even Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s single The Message is considered to be the first foray into the subgenre of conscious rap.


The of the independent studio also began taking shape in the early 1980s with Tommy Boy and Prism Records releasing new music to meet with the demand of the streets. Also beginning to take rise was b-boying. B-boying was a form of dance, like break dancing, that originated in New York. B-boying would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon, mainly influencing Japan.


Hip-hop began a new school era during 1983-84 with LL Cool J and Run DMC. This was around the time when hip-hop was mixing with rock for a unique sound. The two influential albums that used rock music were Run DMCs Kings of Rock and Beastie Boy’s Licensed to Ill. The late 1980s also saw the rise of the golden era in hip-hop. Afrocentrism was taking shape with groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Big Daddy Kane, and more.

The most notable subgenre of hip-hop, gangsta rap, was also born in the 80s, the late 80s to be exact. Ice T’s 6 in the Mornin’ is widely regarded as being the first gangsta rap song. Gangsta rap was a reflection of what life was like in the inner city areas. N.W.A. is regarding as being the founding members of gangsta rap. Their lyrics were more visceral and used the controversial ‘N’ word. Both of these artists were from the west coast.


With Ice T and N.W.A. leading the gangsta rap movement, hip-hop began a revolution beginning in the 1990s.

Jonathan Silva is a graduate and current student at Full Sail University going for his Master's Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing for film blogs like Get The Big Picture or listening to music, he's either watching movies or playing video games. His love for all things entertainment shine through in his writing.