Golden Age Hip-Hop

Hip-hop’s “golden age” is a name given to a period in mainstream hip-hop, usually cited as being a period varying in time frames during the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence. There were various types of subject matter, while the music was experimental and the sampling eclectic. The artists most often associated with the phrase are Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, and more.


 

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The golden age is noted for its innovation – a time “when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre” according to Rolling Stone. Referring to “hip-hop in its golden age,” Spin’s editor-in-chief Sia Michel says, “there were so many important, groundbreaking albums coming out right about that time,” and MTV’s Sway Calloway adds: “The thing that made that era so great is that nothing was contrived. Everything was still being discovered and everything was still innovative and new.” Writer William Jelani Cobb says, “what made the era they inaugurated worthy of the term golden was the sheer number of stylistic innovations that came into existence…in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were literally creating themselves and their art form at the same time.”

One of the definitive characteristics of the golden age of hip-hop is the proliferation of sample-heavy music. These samples were derived from a number of genres, ranging from jazz to rock & roll. Much of the sample-laden albums that were released during this time would not be able to receive legal clearance in today’s day and age.

It also provided some of the greats advances in rapping technique – Kool G Rap, referring to the golden age in the book How to Rap says, “that era bred rappers like a Big Daddy Kane, a KRS-One, a Rakim, a Chuck D…their rapping capability and ability – these dudes were phenomenal.”

Many of hip-hop’s biggest artists were also at their creative peak – Allmusic says the golden age, “witnessed the best recordings form some of the biggest rappers in the genre’s history…overwhelmingly based in New York City, golden age rap is characterized by skeletal beats, samples cribbed from hard rock or soul tracks, and tough dis raps…rhymers like PE’s Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Rakim, and LL Cool J basically invented the complex wordplay and lyrical kung-fu of later hip-hop.”

There were also often an emphasis on black nationalism – hip hop scholar Michael Eric Dyson states, “during the golden age of hip-hop, from 1987 to 1993, Afrocentric and black nationalist rap were prominent,” and critic Scott Thill says, “the golden age of hip-hop, the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when the form most capably fused the militancy of its Black Panther and Watts Prophets forebears with the wide-open cultural experimentalism of De La Soul and others.”

Stylistic variety was also prominent – MSNBC says in the golden age, “rappers had an individual soul that was dictated by their region and their communities, not by a marketing strategist.

Along with focusing on black nationalism, hip-hop artists often talked about urban poverty. This brought a great deal of listeners to the genre who were struggling with poverty and were coping with the scourge of alcohol, drugs, and gangs in their communities. Public Enemy’s most influential song came out at the time of urban poverty called “Fight the Power.” The song speaks up to the government proclaiming that people in the ghetto have the freedom of speech and rights like every other American.

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References
“Slick Rick: Behind Bars”.
Cheo H. Coker, “Slick Rick: Behind Bars”, Rolling Stone, March 9, 1995.[dead link]
The ’80s were golden age of hip-hop – Entertainment – Music – TODAY.com
Green, Tony, in Wang, Oliver (ed.) Classic Material, Toronto: ECW Press, 2003. (p. 132)
Jon Caramanica, “Hip-Hop’s Raiders of the Lost Archives”, New York Times, June 26, 2005.
Cheo H. Coker, “Slick Rick: Behind Bars”, Rolling Stone, March 9, 1995.
Lonnae O’Neal Parker, “U-Md. Senior Aaron McGruder’s Edgy Hip-Hop Comic Gets Raves, but No Takers”, Washington Post, Aug 20 1997.
Jake Coyle of Associated Press, “Spin magazine picks Radiohead CD as best”, published in USA Today, June 19, 2005.
Cheo H. Coker, “Slick Rick: Behind Bars”, Rolling Stone, March 9, 1995.
Andrew Drever, “Jungle Brothers still untamed”, The Age [Australia], October 24, 2003.
Roni Sariq, “Crazy Wisdom Masters”, City Pages, April 16, 1997.
Scott Thill, “Whiteness Visible” AlterNet, May 6, 2005.
Will Hodgkinson, “Adventures on the wheels of steel”, The Guardian, September 19, 2003.
Per Coker, Hodgkinson, Drever, Thill, O’Neal Parker and Sariq above. Additionally:
Cheo H. Coker, “KRS-One: Krs-One”, Rolling Stone, November 16, 1995.
Andrew Pettie, “‘Where rap went wrong'”, Daily Telegraph, August 11, 2005.
Mosi Reeves, “Easy-Chair Rap”, Village Voice, January 29th 2002.
Greg Kot, “Hip-Hop Below the Mainstream”, Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2001.
Cheo Hodari Coker, “‘It’s a Beautiful Feeling'”, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1996.
Scott Mervis, “From Kool Herc to 50 Cent, the story of rap — so far”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 15, 2004.
Bakari Kitwana,”The Cotton Club”, Village Voice, June 21, 2005.
Jake Coyle of Associated Press, “Spin magazine picks Radiohead CD as best”, published in USA Today, June 19, 2005.
Scott Mervis, “From Kool Herc to 50 Cent, the story of rap – so far”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 15, 2004.
Cobb, Jelani William, 2007, To the Break of Dawn, NYU Press, p. 47.
McLeod, Kembrew & Kuenzli, Rudolf E. “Crashing the Spectacle: A Forgotten History of Digital Sampling, Infringement, Copyright Liberation and the End of Recorded Music.” Culture Machine.
Edwards, Paul, 2009, How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Dave Shewring, Chicago Review Press, p. vii.
Rap Radar :: How To Rap: Kool G Rap
Dyson, Michael Eric, 2007, Know What I Mean?, Westview Press, p. 64.
Scott Thill, “Whiteness Visible” AlterNet, May 6, 2005.
Mosi Reeves, “Easy-Chair Rap”, Village Voice, January 29th 2002.
Public Enemy, [1] Lyricsdepot, May 25, 2008.
Jon Caramanica, “Hip-Hop’s Raiders of the Lost Archives”, New York Times, June 26, 2005.
Will Hodgkinson, “Adventures on the wheels of steel”, The Guardian, September 19, 2003.
Steinberg, Shirley R., 2006, Contemporary Youth Culture, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 361.
DiCola, Peter & Mcleod, Kembrew. “Creative License: The Law & Culture of Digital Sampling.” Duke University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0822348757
Passman, Donald. “Everything you need to know about the music business 8th Edition.” Free Press. 2012. ISBN 978-1451682465
DiCola, Peter & Mcleod, Kembrew. “Creative License: The Law & Culture of Digital Sampling p. 132” Duke University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0822348757
Cheo H. Coker, “KRS-One: Krs-One”, Rolling Stone, November 16, 1995.
Andrew Drever, “Jungle Brothers still untamed”, The Age [Australia], October 24, 2003.

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