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How Hip Hop Conquered the World – Part 2
- Run DMC
Hip-hop got its start from DJ Kool Herc who came up with an innovative way to play disco records at block parties in the south Bronx. With the help of other deejays such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa, hip-hop’s popularity spread like wildfire in urban communities but it wasn’t until the 1979 release of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” that proved there was a market for hip-hop music. After taking baby steps in the 70s, hip-hop was ready for its first foray into mainstream.
In the early 80s, hip-hop continued to slowly prosper. Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” sold more than one million copies in 1980. That same year, Kurtis Blow appeared on Soul Train, marking the first time a rapper had ever been on the show. One year later the Funky Four Plus One More became the first hip-hop group on national television after their appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s hit song “The Message” was the driving force in legitimizing conscious rap. Over on the west coast, Ice-T helped to pioneer gangster rap. Hip-hop was certainly growing but it wasn’t until one group out of Queens, New York formed to really put the music genre on the map and on the business world’s radar.
Hip-hop was quickly becoming a very lucrative business and no one took advantage of those opportunities more than Run DMC. The groundbreaking rap group, who became the face of hip-hop in the 80s, blazed a trail and set the blueprint most hip-hop artists and groups aspired to follow even to this day. Originally hired to be Kurtis Blow’s DJ, Joseph “Run” Simmons formed Run DMC with his fellow classmates Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell. In 1983, the budding superstars released their first single “It’s Like That” with “Sucker MC’s” on the b-side. (1983 also marked the year Grandmaster Flash sues its record label Sugarhill Records for withholding royalties, which signaled the growing dangers of corporate greed in hip-hop.)
Run DMC took the world by storm with their stripped down beats, in your face lyrics, brass attitudes and street attire to match and stacked up one milestone after another one. They were the first rappers to have a gold record (Run-DMC in 1984) and the first rappers nominated for a Grammy award. Their 1985 King of Rock album was the first rap album to go platinum and their follow-up Raising Hell, was the first rap album to earn multi-platinum status. Run DMC were also the first rappers to have videos aired on MTV, grace the stages of American Bandstand and cover Rolling Stone. Hip-hop truly had arrived but Run DMC’s firsts didn’t stop there and this next ‘first’ changed the course of hip-hop.
Run DMC released their classic Raising Hell album in 1986 and that album was the catalyst that kicked hip-hop’s growth into third gear. Two very important singles were on that album: “Walk This Way” featuring Aerosmith and “My Adidas.” Def Jam exec Rick Rubin came up with the notion to merge hip-hop and rock elements into one song by having Run DMC cover Aerosmith’s 1977 “Walk This Way” featuring the rock group on the song. As a result, an entire new audience embraced Run DMC and hip-hop.
In August of that same year, Run DMC performed in their home state at the legendary Madison Square Garden but this was no ordinary concert. In attendance backstage, an executive from Adidas who was so blown away by how much the audience, mainly made up of Blacks and Latinos, embraced their hit song “My Adidas” that he signed the Queens trio to a $1.6 million endorsement deal, making it the first time in history non-athletes were signed to a sports brand. This marked the beginning of the lucrative business of marketing to the hip-hop audience.
The 80s was a great decade for hip-hop. In addition to its rapid growth and popularity as well as its ever-growing marketing power, the golden era of hip-hop began in the mid 80s. During this period, hip-hop was at its most creative stage. The greats were also at their greatest during this time, reaching their lyrical peak as Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, and LL Cool J helped to spark a new level of lyricism, taking their skills up a notch with complex wordplay. Some of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time were released during this time period.
By the time the 80s came to a close, hip-hop saw unprecedented growth in both its popularity and creativity. Hip-hop’s mass marketing power was expanding just as fast. Hip-hop had its own time slot on MTV with Yo! MTV Raps. Conscious rap was becoming popular and the golden era was in full swing. But it was just the beginning.
How Hip Hop Conquered the World – Part 1
- Ode To Jam Master Jay (cafehiphop.wordpress.com)
- Jam Master Jay’s Legacy and Death, 10 Years Later (spin.com)
- Hip-Hop’s Top 10 (+3) Artists/Groups that have Influenced Pop Culture the Most (1978-1989) (daabrams.wordpress.com)
- Being Gay In Hip Hop: Dangerous Or A Wake Up Call (straightdrop32.wordpress.com)
- Run-DMC: The Essential Run-DMC (Review) (popmatters.com)