Essential Old-School Hip-Hop
October 13, 2006 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Good Old School Hip-Hop

I'm looking for particularly good Hip-Hop from the early years (80s). I've been listening to Kurtis Blow and Afrika Bambaataa as well as the occasional Sppony G and Treacherous Three song. I like the speed rapping, as well as a sucker for a good sample, but there aren't great guides as to what ELSE to listen to. Thoughts? Essentials? Desert Island discs?
posted by Dantien to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Ultramagnetic MCs are excellent.
posted by dead_ at 8:31 AM on October 13, 2006

Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five
Sugar Hill Gang
Public Enemy
posted by caddis at 8:35 AM on October 13, 2006

Response by poster: Ack. It's Spoony G. I triple-checked that and still missed the error. My apologies.
posted by Dantien at 8:37 AM on October 13, 2006

posted by chrisamiller at 8:46 AM on October 13, 2006

Newcleus' jam on it is classic, especially the 8 minute version.

A little later, but you can't go wrong with Rakim.
posted by milarepa at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2006

The other day WFMU was apparently rebroadcasting an old show from WBLS in the hip hop heyday, probably a Mr. Magic Rap Attack show. A lot of their stuff is archived but I can not seem to find it on the FMU site. It would have been later afternoon or early evening sometime this week. It brought back memories. If you could find it I am sure it would key you into some of what you are looking for.
posted by caddis at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2006

UTFO's album with "roxanne, Roxanne" on it was good, and it spawned "Roxanne's Revenge" by Shante, which was brilliant. I wanted to get the name's right and stumbled across this site that has early rap history. It's a bit cursory, but might provide some good stuff.
posted by OmieWise at 8:50 AM on October 13, 2006

Best answer: There's a lot of disagreement about just what constitutes 'old school' (as in KRS's 'No one's from the old school 'cause rap on the whole/ isn't even twenty years old/ Fifty years down the line you can start this/ 'cause we'll be the old-school artists,' from "I'm Still #1"), and even with just two answers (as I write this), that's already apparent.

Hip-hop, like jazz, is a really collaborative genre, so it's easy to find somebody you like, then seek out other members of their crew, or artists who use the same producers or DJs, or people who make guest appearances on the tracks, or their proteges and weed carriers, or people who use the same samples, or people who were inspired by them, or people on the same label, or even people who they've beefed with.

I like this kind of approach, because it seems both logical and intuitive. If you enjoy the Treacherous Three, check out Kool Moe Dee's solo work. If you enjoy Moe Dee, you might also like early LL Cool J (after all, Moe Dee repeatedly accused L of biting his style). Kurtis Blow recorded 'I'm Chillin' with DC go-go band Trouble Funk, and Salt 'n' Pepa recorded "Shake Your Thang" with DC go-go band E.U. (who also recorded 'Da Butt'). That's not to say that 'Shake Your Thang' is old-school, or that you'd like it, but just to provide an example of the kind of serendipitous approach that I find most rewarding.

Or, if you just want a list of artists or singles or whatever, check out Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists.
posted by box at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2006

NWA - Straight Outta Compton is prototypical gangster rap, but perhaps not exactly what you're looking for (released in 1988).
posted by exogenous at 8:58 AM on October 13, 2006

I realize this is more of the late 80s-early 90s, but Eric B and Rakim and KRS-One are essential. I second Public Enemy, too.
posted by parilous at 9:05 AM on October 13, 2006

Found it: Aircheck on WFMU - listen to the two part rebroadcast of Mr. Magic for some awesome old school hip hop.
posted by caddis at 9:26 AM on October 13, 2006

My personal fave is IRT's (Interboro Rhythm Team) Watch the Closing Doors from 1983. Being long since out of print it's hard to find, but my mom made an mp3 of her 12" 45, so email me if you'd like to hear it.

(as in KRS's 'No one's from the old school 'cause rap on the whole/ isn't even twenty years old

Feh! 50 years down the line KRS will still be part of the 2nd wave, not the first.
posted by zarah at 9:40 AM on October 13, 2006

Best answer: OK, Old School is really Sugarhill Gang through the Spoonie G stuff. Old School is defined by using an instrumental track rather than new beats (like Rapper's Delight using Chic's "Good Times"). When Run-DMC came out, they proclaimed themselves as New School because of the prowess of their DJ and their reliance on drum machines.
For even more fun, LL Cool J was the advent of "hardcore" rap, again based on his beats.
Because of this, you could argue that Puffy's reliance on, say, Led Zep or Sting makes him more of an Old School rapper than Nas or Jay-Z.

For your Desert Island Discs question, well, first off, I like a lot of the old singles a lot more than I like the albums. And we'll assume that you don't want the consciousness/Native Tongues stuff. But if I had to pare down to LPs:

LL Cool J— Radio. His first album on Def Jam shows the versatility and strength of both LL and Cut Creator, especially on singles like the title track and Rock the Bells. His goof of an ending ("You a Liar") is awesome in its own right. You'll have to skip past some of the ballady and misogynistic shit though (Dear Evette).

Kool G Rap— Road to Riches. Another one that I like, I have to admit, more for the skills of DJ Polo than for the MC. Cars, the title track and Rhymes I Express are the highlights.

EPMD— Strictly Business. This really is an essential, though you could make an argument for Business Never Personal. The tight rhymes of Eric Sermon are well matched, though it's another one those where you'll have to skip past occasional tracks (I think I'm the only one who likes Do The Steve Martin).

Eric B. and Rakim— Paid In Full. Aside from the title track, this one also has Eric B Is President and I Know You Got Soul, and while Rakim is a groundbreaking MC, I prefer the songs that feature Eric B. In a big way, these guys were some of the groundbreakers on both sides of the decks: Rakim is credited (though I think it's a hard thing to prove) with bringing internal rhyme schemes to rap, and Eric B. had some of the first "instrumental" tracks to become hits on their own.

BDP— Blueprint. Remember when KRS-1 wasn't just didacticism for white liberals and uncritical "conscious" rappers? Yeah, BDP is what put him on the map, and Blueprint has some of his best work ever. This and/or Criminal Minded should be in every collection.

Kool Mo Dee— How Ya Like Me Now. Yeah, yeah, I've always been a sucker for boastin', and that's what Kool Moe Dee does. You'll recognize the hits (the title track and Wild Wild West), and you might find it a little monotonous, but this is some of the catchiest boast rapping ever.

None of these albums are Old School, really, but everyone should own:
3rd Base— Cactus
Del tha funkee Homosapien— I Wish my Brother George was Here
De La Soul— Buhloon Mindstate
Nas— Illmatic
Jay-Z— the Blueprint
Notorious BIG— Ready To Die
NWA— Straight out of Compton
The Pharcyde— Labcabincalifornia
Dr. Dre— The Chronic
Wu-Tang— Enter the 36 Chambers
GZA— Liquid Swords
Black Star— s/t
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on October 13, 2006 [3 favorites]

(some of these are early 90s)

De La Soul, Three Feet High and Rising.
Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.
Das EFX, Dead Serious.
A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory.
The Coup, Kill My Landlord (DEFINITELY this one).
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury.
posted by nasreddin at 10:16 AM on October 13, 2006

You know, I forgot to mention Doug E Fresh, who you're already listening to beatboxing behind Spoonie Gee and Treacherous Three, but whose solo single Ladi Dadi b/w The Show was excellent and pretty early.
posted by OmieWise at 10:33 AM on October 13, 2006

Rahmelzee vs. K Rob - Beat Bop
posted by hydrophonic at 10:35 AM on October 13, 2006

The Pharcyde— Labcabincalifornia

Was this supposed to be Bizzarre Ride II The Pharcyde instead?
posted by Succa at 10:51 AM on October 13, 2006

Slick Rick
posted by bobobox at 10:52 AM on October 13, 2006

Check out Jimmy Spicer's "Adventures of Super Rhymes"
posted by SBMike at 11:04 AM on October 13, 2006

Double Dee & Steinski’s Lessons.
posted by hilker at 11:29 AM on October 13, 2006

FWIW, isohunt has torrents of the entire collection of Ego Trip singles that Box mentions above. They're organized by year, include album art and other such stuff, and cover 1979 to 1999. I downloaded those and all my old school hip hop needs were met.
posted by autojack at 11:43 AM on October 13, 2006

Getting real old school: the Cold Crush Brothers, Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Five, and Funky Four Plus One (who had a female member and were the first rap group to appear on SNL, in 1981).

Also Gang Starr (and thanks autojack - great link!).
posted by goo at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2006

Cocaineblunts is a pretty good music blog on the subject (though admittedly its focus is late 80's- early 90's). If you like Afrika Bambaataa's more electro-leaning material I'd reccomend Mantronix.

I second that Gang Starr reccomendation. Check out "Daily Operation"
posted by tokyo drifter at 11:56 AM on October 13, 2006

I heartily second illmatic. Hip hop doesn't get much better than that.
posted by milarepa at 12:24 PM on October 13, 2006

Nice & Smooth. Try 'Ain't a Damn Thing Changed'. They also hooked up with Gang Starr and produced the song 'DWYCK'.
posted by beatnik808 at 3:58 PM on October 13, 2006

if you want the answers up to this point capsulated into a 3 minute track, check out EDAN's "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme". (lyrics)
posted by carsonb at 10:04 AM on October 14, 2006

you should check out Pandora

it's a great site, I just found, that helps identify artists or song similar [based on an extensive set of criteria] to an artist or song that you enjoy.

just type in the name of the song or the artist and the site creates an entire channel of music related to it. a great way to discover new artists you may have never heard of.

apparently Last FM is supposed to be similar (finding suggestions of artists you might like based on the music you listen to on your iTunes or certain other media players), but I haven't had as much luck with using it.
posted by mprove at 12:53 PM on June 14, 2007

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