About Hip-Hop
OverviewTimelineGlossary
Explore the decade below.
A black man wearing a gold and black King Tut-esque helmet and a gold patterned eye mask - 1970s - The early yearsThree young black men on a street, two holding a large boom box. One is wearing a red shirt, gold chain, and red hat; the second is wearing white pants and a striped shirt and has a large Afro; the third is wearing black pants and a black hat.  - 1980s - The Rise to RadioAn image of a man standing on a pier with a young child, a looming moon behind him - 1990s From Conscious Rap to Gangsta RapA black man wrapped in furs sitting against a backdrop of white feathers - 2000s - Bestsellers and Bling
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1980

A headshot of Kurtis BlowKurtis Blow releases his best-selling album The Breaks and is the first rapper to appear on national TV, performing on Soul Train.

An album cover of Blondie’s “Rapture” Hip-hop meets art pop as the New York scene extends downtown and rappers and b-boys mingle with the white club scene. After meeting hip-hop scenester Fab 5 Freddy, the new wave act Blondie records “Rapture,” featuring singer Debbie Harry rapping and continuing hip-hop’s journey into the mainstream.
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1981

Captain Rapp and Disco Daddy release “Gigolo Rap,” the first West Coast rap record.

The Rock Steady Crew and Dynamic Rockers battle—at Lincoln Center.

20/20 airs the first TV news feature story on “the rap phenomenon.”

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1982

An album cover for Grandmaster Flash and Furious FiveGrandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release their turntable masterpiece The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, which contains the popular and socially conscious track “The Message.”

A graffiti image reading Wild StyleDirected by artist Charlie Ahearn and created by Fab 5 Freddy, Wild Style marks the first Hollywood exploration of hip-hop style and culture. The film showcases the work of legendary hip-hop and graffiti artists such as Lady Pink, Daze, Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew.


The first international hip-hop concert tour, featuring Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy and the Double Dutch Girls, goes to Europe, marking the start of hip-hop’s worldwide reach.
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1983

An album cover for Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” “Rockit,” the first jazz and hip-hop track, is released by Herbie Hancock and Grandmixer D. ST.

Ice-T releases some of the first West Coast gangsta raps, “Cold Winter Madness” and “Body Rock/Killers.”

Queens group Run-D.M.C. release their first single, “Sucker MCs/It’s Like That,” which gets major airplay on MTV and Top 40 radio. The song signals a new trend in hip-hop: harder rhymes over spare beats with a rock influence.

A poster for Style Wars with images of subway interiorsStyle Wars, the first PBS documentary on subway graffiti and hip-hop culture, airs.
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1984

KDAY Los Angeles becomes the nation’s first rap-only radio station.

An image reading Def Jam RecordingsRussell Simmons and Rick Rubin establish Def Jam records, operating the label out of Rubin’s NYU dorm room.



U.T.F.O.’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” triggers a slew of answer recordings, including “The Real Roxanne” and 14-year-old Roxanne Shante’s classic “Roxanne’s Revenge.”
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1985

Beatboxer Doug E. Fresh releases The Show with Slick Rick and the Get Fresh Crew.

KRS-One poses with his hands in the airAn aspiring rapper named Kris Parker, later to be known as KRS-One, forms Boogie Down Productions with social worker and DJ Scott Sterling, a.k.a. Scott La Rock.
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1986

An album cover for Run-D.M.C.Run-D.M.C.’s hip-hop rendition of the Aerosmith classic “Walk This Way” cements hip-hop’s reach into mainstream media and MTV. Nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Run-D.M.C. becomes the first rap group to be tapped for a Grammy.



Eric B. and Rakim release Eric B. is President. Rakim’s skillful wordplay and articulate rhymes usher in a new era for hip-hop.

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1987

An album cover for Public EnemyLong Island group Public Enemy releases its debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. DJ Cameron Paul’s remix of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” reaches 19 on the pop charts and receives a Grammy nomination.

Hip-hop receives national attention when violence ensues following a Run-D.M.C. concert in L.A. The group is forced to defend itself at a public press conference as conservative pundits and politicians accuse hip-hop of being morally corrupt.
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1988 Yo! MTV Raps goes on the air, further ushering hip-hop to a national television audience.

An album cover for N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” L.A. group N.W.A. releases its first album, Straight Outta Compton. Telling stories about life on the mean streets of South Central, it popularizes West Coast gangsta rap. The controversial track “Fuck tha Police” earns the group an F.B.I. warning.

MC Lyte releases her debut, Lyte as a Rock. She is one of the first female rappers to sign with a major record label.

DJ Scott La Rock of Boogie Down Productions is shot and killed. His partner KRS-One vows to continue creating more socially conscious music.

An album cover for Ice-T’s “Power”Power, Ice-T’s second album, is the first rap record to be slapped with a Parental Advisory warning label.

Afrika Bambaataa forms the Native Tongues Posse, part of a new movement towards positive, Afrocentric lyrics and “alternative” rap. Artists include Queen Latifah, a young New Jersey MC and the Jungle Brothers.

Public Enemy’s second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is released to critical acclaim and consumer success.

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1989

Public Enemy releases its third album, Fear of a Black Planet. A media frenzy ensues over member Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic remarks, thrusting hip-hop into the political spotlight.

An album cover for De La Soul’s “Three Feet High and Rising” Native Tongues Posse members A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul release albums acclaimed for their intelligent lyrics.

An album cover for M.C. HammerFeaturing the hit single “U Can’t Touch This,” MC Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em is scorned by critics but sells more than ten million copies and becomes an MTV staple. Despite backlash among hip-hop purists, MC Hammer goes on to reap massive commercial success.

Rap receives its own Grammy category, but the presentation is not aired on television. Many popular artists, including award winners DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, instead attend an MTV boycott of the Grammys party.

White rap trio the Beastie Boys release Paul’s Boutique, their long-awaited second album.

New York City’s Transit Authority retires all subway cars with graffiti.
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  1990s: From Conscious Rap to Gangsta Rap »
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