80s Rap: The Age of the New School

by: Kayla Roddey, Jala Stubbs

The decade of the 1980s completely changed hip hop as we know it. The 80s developed and comprised a “New School movement. Run D.M.C. ( Run Simmons) and LL Cool J are best known for initiating this movement with their unprecedented production styles. Their records were filled with an abundance of confidence and self-assurance and had many lyric focuses that included bragging (money, women, etc.) and political commentary. These artists brought about the b-boy image. 

Late 80s

In the late 1980’s hip hop began to show up on the mainstream music scene. This era was experimental in sound, and drew from political and afrocentric concepts. Public enemy continued to be leading voices in hip hop for songs like their 1989 hit “Fight the power”. Some influential artist who rose to prominence in this time were Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions and more.

This was also the beginning of what is considered to be the Golden age of hip hop (1986-1997). This time period was characterized by its diversity, maturity and creativity. Hip Hop was no longer being confined to its place of origin for creators or listeners. It became much more known and appreciated around the country. Rollingstone recognized this as a time period “when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre”..

A New Sound & Recording It

As aforementioned, 80s style hip hop pioneered a new sound. The emergence of “gangsta” rap and personas would completely change the music scene as we know it. Not only were lyrics aggressive and explicit, but they were also politically charged. The only base left to cover would be the influential recording studios and labels that would produce classic hip hop hits. The 80s brought forth the cassette tape, which allowed for consumers to have convenient, quick access to the music, rather than having to attend a performance or await radio play. With rap artists being at their creative peak, the genre was characterized by its complex style of sampling and clever wordplay. 

Greene St. Record Studios

Greene St. was founded in the 1970s starting as Big Apple Recording. Gaining its origins in Soho, New York, New York it is one of the early birthplaces of hip hop during the 1980s and 90s. Artists include Run DMC., Public Enemy, LL Cool JJ, Ice Cube, and Afrika Bambaataa.  Greene St. recorded hits like “It’s Like That” by Run DMC, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “My Mic Sounds Nice” by Salt N Pepa, and “Hey Young World” by Slick Rick. While Greene St. dominated most of the mid-80s, it did not go unrivaled. 

Chung King Studios

Chung King Recording Studio had its humble beginnings in 1979 as Secret Society Records.  The studio would then relocate to an old Chinatown restaurant and be renamed Chung King Metal House of Metal. Chung King Recording studio would begin operating under that name from 1986 to 2015. Similar to Greene St., Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys produced songs in Chung Kings one room studio. Popular tracks include “Raising Hell” by Run DMC, “D.E.F” by Doug E Fresh, and “I Need Love” by LL Cool J. 

Cold Chillin’ 

Cold Chillin was a New York hip hop record label that was responsible for releasing many of the classic records from the 80s and 90s. The label was founded in 1986, finding its home on Broadway, New York, New York. Some of its most influential artists are Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and Roxanne Shante, to name a few. These very artists recorded fan favorites like “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie, “Ain’t No Half Steppin” by Big Daddy Kane, “Have A Nice Day” by Roxanne Shante, and “Road to Riches” by Kool G Rap. 

Thesis/Argument: The 1980s was the peak of originality within the genre. We came to this conclusion because in the 80s hip hop begins an entire new sound. In the 70s a lot of rap music was based on a sample or DJs were mixing already produced records. While rap music has continued to use sampling the 1980s brought about completely new music through the use of new technology. A lot of 80s rap has a basic hard drum cadence and elements of rock music that you can hear. The 80s was also when rap music was beginning to become mainstream with Run DMC becoming the 1st rap group to have a gold record.

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