Hip Hop Music of the 80’s and 90’s

rap music 80s and 90s

Public Enemy and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony helped bring hip hop from its earlier days into its golden era, acting as voices for communities that mainstream America strove to forget or oppress.

Their albums such as 3 Feet High and Rising gave them access to mainstream audiences. By pioneering this fusion of rap and rock music, they helped define its future direction.


Run-DMC first emerged with their 1983 single, “It’s Like That/Sucker MC’s,” revolutionising both hip hop music and street fashion by pioneering baggy black attire and Adidas sneakers without shoelaces – as well as revolutionising black music itself at that time with light funk/disco beats being dominant, they revolutionised it without compromising musical integrity or losing musical integrity in doing so.

Childhood friends Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels began rhyming together at unofficial DJ jam sessions in their neighborhood of Hollis, Queens. Soon thereafter they formed the Full Force Band along with Jason Mizell (who rapped under Jam Master Jay). Signing a record deal with Profile Records allowed them to test out different aspects of hip hop on their self-titled debut album released in 1984.

This groundbreaking record, with its sparse drum machine minimalism and aggressive style of rapping, set the groundwork for what would become known as the New School movement in hip hop. This style featured heavy use of rock-inspired samples combined with taunting lyrics that often made political statements or provided social commentary; no wonder its been considered one of rap history’s finest albums!

Subsequent albums were not as critically-acclaimed, yet Tougher Than Leather is widely considered their masterpiece. This album featured heavier sampling of rock and blues-influenced styles for a rawer sound than previous releases; nevertheless it remained an incredible sonic tour de force that marked Run-DMC as musicians rather than fame or money seekers.

Producer Rick Rubin had already proven his mastery of mixing genres by sampling AC/DC’s “Back in Black” for the Beastie Boys’ iconic 1986 debut “Raising Hell.” But on this album he went one step further by pairing the group with various rock icons to prove hip hop had crossover appeal – creating a classic that has since inspired everything from post-grunge music of the 1990s to 21st century rappers such as Kendrick Lamar.

Biz Markie

Biz Markie stood as a beacon in an otherwise dark world of hip-hop dominated by self-promoters and self-styled messiah figures, providing much-needed comic relief and creative musical stylistry in an otherwise monotonous genre. One of its funniest performers, with character driven narrative and iconic dance moves still beloved today; Biz was also among its most innovative stylists, adept at fusing elements from funk, disco and R&B into his music to great effect.

The 1980s marked an exciting period in hip-hop’s development. What began as a small movement in New York had become a global phenomenon on its way towards golden age – and Biz was there, from nightclub beatboxing as Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, 2 Live Crew’s Spoonie G and their like to becoming part of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew and its smooth operations like Big Daddy Kane and Verbal Assassins such as Kool G Rap; then joining Marley Marl’s Juice Crew alongside smooth operators such as Kane while joining Marley Marl’s Juice Crew alongside Marley Marl himself alongside smooth operators like Big Daddy Kane while verbal assassin Kool G Rap and 2 Live Crew’s Spoonie G, among many others!

As the ’80s came to a close and the ’90s began, Biz was part of a scene that would revolutionize not only rap music, but countless other genres as well. We are celebrating Biz this week by hosting our ’80s and ’90s Mashup Bash featuring Run DMC, all-female group The Sequence, Angie Stone (pioneer R&B singer) and multifaceted producer/DJ Fab 5 Freddy (producer/DJ/producer/DJ/producer/DJ).

Biz and his fellow Juice Crew members brought about an era of tightly edited samples with their contributions to Juice Crew music in the 1980s. While early rappers would often alter recognizable lifts or use obscure samples to avoid detection, sampling became more structured with this movement and drastically altered how artforms were produced and received.

Biz expanded his repertoire in later years to other forms of entertainment as well, appearing on kids’ TV, reality shows and the Beastie Boys record “Check Your Head.” However, his true calling lay on stage with other veterans from rap’s golden age; we will miss him greatly for both his comedy and music.

Digital Underground

Decades before Public Enemy or N.W.A’s political or gangsta rap took over hip hop, the Oakland-based band Digital Underground came along with their unique take on Parliament-Funkadelic called Sex Packets and brought some unexpected funky vibes. Gregory Jacobs, commonly referred to as Shock G, personified the band’s sense of humor and style by donning fake nose, glasses, fur hat and stuttering delivery as Humpty Hump. Chris Rock made light of it as part of a joke, celebrating the day when welfare checks arrive for recipients. Shock G’s playful alter egos would become part of his signature style, showing that hip hop could progress beyond hardbeat beats and street talk.

Livin’ Proof was not as successful a follow up as its debut, but nevertheless introduced an era of rappers who would make sample-based music their own. One such artist was Chicago MC Erule who used loops and funk samples to create his signature style that set him apart from others in his field – featuring future spitter Tupac Shakur on one track called Midnight in a Perfect World which quickly became an instant classic!

Shock G was among the many MCs competing in the 1990s with their own version of hardcore hip hop, as evidenced by 1990’s “Gin N Juice.” However, his smooth g-funk signature can be heard through 1990’s “Gin N Juice.” This song serves as an anthem of West Coast cool and celebrates their lifestyle – something many West Coast rappers were known for during this era.

Mobb Deep’s breakout album 400 Degreez features this menacing, infectious classic from East and West Coast styles blended together, coupled with an eerie synth sounding like afterparty noises to produce something menacing and highly infectious that transcends any rivalries, or West Coast-East Coast feuds or boom-bap/g-funk disputes; additionally it introduced Lauryn Hill into mainstream hip-hop in 2007 who would go on to record Miseducation album later that same year.

Warren G & Nate Dogg

Warren G grew up in Long Beach, California listening to his parents’ collection of jazz and funk records and developing an interest in music. At age 17, he founded 213, named for the area code in his hometown. Later signed by Death Row Records despite label and legal issues; his debut album “G-Funk Classics Volume 1 & 2” reached top 20 hip-hop and R&B charts; later also producing songs for celebrities like Jay-Z and Ice Cube.

The 1980s and ’90s were an exceptional era for rap music. Rappers took inspiration from their surroundings to address issues related to identity, ambition, and struggle through song. Public Enemy coexisted with Big Daddy Kane’s social commentary while Jam-On Productions early releases contrasted nicely with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s smooth flows. Beatboxing quickly became an integral component of rap – so much so that its first proponent, Doug E. Fresh earned the moniker The Human Beatbox.

Rappers continually pushed themselves creatively and strived to elevate their craft; the albums they created became not just musical pieces but cultural artifacts that captured an era and continue to resonate through subsequent generations.

A Tribe Called Quest were among the most influential artists, known for fusing Afrocentric rhythm with hip-hop’s political and social concerns in their groundbreaking debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, an album widely remixed since.

Native Tongues is an East Coast collective made up of groups and solo artists that took their music in an offbeat Afrocentric direction during the late ’80s and ’90s. Members appeared on each others albums, but it wasn’t until De La Soul’s 1989 3 Feet High and Rising album released an infectious remix featuring all members as the final crowning moment of Native Tongues collective music.

This Sugar Hill Records single by The Sequence featuring Nate Dogg is an amusing tale of life as a criminal in the hood. Two criminals come across a woman they like but she already has a boyfriend who plans on attacking them; fortunately for The Sequence though, that boyfriend is armed and decides it would best protect his partner by dispersing any would-be thieves with shots from his sidearm.