The Top Rappers of the 1980s: Shaping the Future of Hip Hop

As a fan of hip hop music, I often find myself reflecting on the 1980s as a pivotal era in the development and shaping of the genre.

It was during this time that rap music began to gain mainstream popularity and set the foundation for what would become a global cultural phenomenon.

The 80s gave birth to some of the most influential and groundbreaking acts in hip hop history, artists who pushed the boundaries of the genre and left an indelible mark on future generations.

In this article, we will delve into the top rappers of the 1980s and explore their impact and contributions to hip hop music.

EPMD: Innovators in Production Style

EPMD, consisting of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith, are often credited with revolutionizing the production style of hip hop. With their heavy use of samples and intricate drum patterns, EPMD created a sound that would greatly influence producers in the future. Their debut album, “Strictly Business,” released in 1988, is widely regarded as a classic in the genre.

Biz Markie: The Clown Prince of Rap

Known for his unique sense of humor and originality, Biz Markie stood out in the crowded rap scene of the 1980s. His standout track, “Just a Friend,” released in 1989, showcased his ability to tell captivating stories through his music. Biz Markie’s stage presence and charisma made him a beloved figure within the hip hop community.

The Fresh Prince: From Rapping to Acting Stardom

Before he became the beloved actor and Hollywood heavyweight, Will Smith was known as The Fresh Prince, one half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Their catchy and lighthearted tracks, such as “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” resonated with audiences across the globe. The Fresh Prince’s successful transition from music to acting cemented his status as a cultural icon.

Salt-N-Pepa: Breaking Barriers for Female Rappers

Salt-N-Pepa, composed of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton, emerged as pioneers in a male-dominated industry. With their empowering lyrics and unapologetic attitude, they smashed through gender stereotypes and blazed a trail for future generations of female rappers. Hits such as “Push It” and “Shake Your Thang” remain timeless anthems to this day.

The D.O.C.: A West Coast Legend

While the East Coast dominated the rap scene in the 1980s, The D.O.C. represented the West Coast with his distinctive style and lyrical prowess. As a member of the legendary group N.W.A., The D.O.C. contributed to the rise of gangsta rap with his powerful and poignant verses. His solo album, “No One Can Do It Better,” released in 1989, is regarded as a classic in West Coast rap.

Roxanne Shante: The Battle Queen

Roxanne Shante burst onto the scene in the mid-1980s with her fierce battle rhymes and quick-witted wordplay. Her response to UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” became an instant hit, propelling her into stardom. Roxanne Shante proved that women could hold their own in the male-dominated rap industry and inspired a new generation of female MCs.

Kurtis Blow: The First Rap Superstar

Kurtis Blow, often credited as the first commercially successful rapper, played a vital role in popularizing hip hop music. With tracks like “The Breaks” and “Christmas Rappin’,” Kurtis Blow brought rap to the mainstream and laid the foundation for future rap superstars. His impact and influence cannot be overstated.

MC Shan: The Bridge Master

MC Shan, from Queensbridge, New York, was a central figure in the emergence of the Queensbridge hip hop scene. His classic track, “The Bridge,” is widely regarded as an anthem and a testament to his lyrical skill. MC Shan’s contributions to the genre paved the way for future Queensbridge rap legends, such as Nas.

Kool Keith: Eccentricity and Unpredictability

Kool Keith, also known as Dr. Octagon and Black Elvis, is known for his eccentric and boundary-pushing style. His unorthodox flow and abstract lyrics set him apart from his peers, earning him a reputation as one of the most unique rappers of the 1980s. Kool Keith’s influence can be heard in the work of countless artists who came after him.

Kool G Rap: A Master of Storytelling

Kool G Rap, known for his gritty and vivid storytelling, established himself as a dominant force in the rap game of the 1980s. With his distinctive delivery and intense lyricism, Kool G Rap painted vivid pictures of street life and the harsh realities faced by many. His influence on future generations of rappers cannot be overstated.

The Golden Age Lives On

The 1980s was truly a golden age for hip hop music, a time when a new art form was being molded and refined. The top rappers of this era played a crucial role in shaping the future of the genre, pushing boundaries, and leaving an indelible mark on the culture.

From the innovative production style of EPMD to the empowering lyrics of Salt-N-Pepa, and the trailblazing storytelling of Slick Rick, each artist on this list brought their own unique contribution to the world of hip hop.

The impact and influence of these artists are still felt today, as their music continues to resonate with listeners old and new.

I am grateful for the artists of the 1980s who paved the way for future generations and whose music continues to be celebrated and revered.

The legacy of the golden age of hip hop lives on!

Check out our selection of the best rappers of the 1990s.

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