East Coast Old School
The East Coast region is arguably the birthplace of hip-hop culture. Hip-hop's origins date to the mid-'70s, but its recorded history began in 1979 with several protean 12-inches, including The Sugarhill Gang's Top 40 hit "Rapper's Delight" and the Fatback Band's "King Tim III (Personality Jock)." The Sugarhill Gang's success led to a deluge of now-forgotten artists, but a few innovators emerged amid the confusion. Afrika Bambaataa created electro-hop with "Planet Rock"; Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five introduced social consciousness with "The Message"; and Run-D.M.C. hit the pop mainstream with a hardcore street image and hard rock appeal. By the mid-'80s, rap's sound was evolving dramatically from the choppy electro-funk of Kurtis Mantronik and Larry Smith to the sampling techniques of Rick Rubin, Marley Marl and Prince Paul. The emcee's role grew from party-rocker to complex lyricist, thanks to the storied Juice Crew, LL Cool J, Slick Rick and Rakim. Public Enemy's 1988 masterpiece, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, proved hip-hop was not just a passing fad, but a new and significant American art form. This era is considered the "golden age" of hip-hop.