XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this feature.
When it comes to hip-hop, there’s something to be said about a genre that has withstood the test of time. The 1970s marked the rise of rap, birthing a cultural movement that embraces a way of living in the truest sense. As music worked itself into an experimental era, nothing reflected the Black experience quite like hip-hop—the good, the bad and the ugly.
By most accounts, DJ Kool Herc’s storied back-to-school party in the Bronx is what allowed hip-hop to take form. The genre went on to become increasingly popular, gaining traction among the urban youth that gathered at local block parties in New York City, which of course, led to the creation of new sounds. Further down the line, groups like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and The Sugarhill Gang started making their mark in the space as well. The latter is credited for introducing the first commercially successful rap song, “Rapper’s Delight.”
This was a golden era in music, a time where MCs rocked the mic to give records a new meaning. Though there are disputes as to who hip-hop’s true originator might be, its position as a powerful medium in the music world is something that’s universally agreed upon. In other words, the genre was celebrated across the board, turning an underground movement into a growing phenomenon. But that’s not to say things were only taking place on the East Coast.
Around the same time, new ways of spinning records and dancing started to emerge from out West, too. There were a number of DJs, b-boys and MCs who were keeping the party alive. Most notably, duos like Disco Daddy & Captain Rapp laid the foundation for West Coast hip-hop with their 1981 single “The Gigolo Rap.” While the fellas were busy peppering extended loops with chorus-free rhymes, the first ladies of hip-hop played their part in creating history as well. For example, The Mercedes Ladies broke the mold as the first all-female rap group. But it doesn’t stop there.
As hip-hop prepares to turn 50 this year, XXL takes a look at some of the first rap groups to push play on progress. Check out the list below.—Derrius Edwards