80s Hip Hop – a top 10

Back in the 1980s, American Hip Hop really captured the imagination of Strand Records‘ Dave. In fact, as the photo below shows, he fancied himself as a bit of a B-Boy with his Kangol hat, Darryl ‘Run DMC‘ Mc Daniels’ glasses, Campri ski jacket, adidas trackie and sneakers.


For folks of Dave’s pedigree, there had been some limited exposure to American rap music very early in the 1980s, via records such as Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight (1979), Kurtis Blow – The Breaks (1980), Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (1982) , Afrika Bambaataa – Planet rock (1982), Melle Mel – White lines (1983), etc. Famously, there had also been Debbie Harry’s rap in Blondie’s Rapture from 1980.

But, it was from c.1986 that rap really started to hit home with many more music listeners in Britain. Dave’s top ten reflects this particular era of rap. The sound seemed to get a bit edgier and urgent somehow. Of course, any Hip Hop top 10 of that era could be made up of Public Enemy records alone but in the interest of variety . . .

  1. South Bronx – Boogie Down Productions (1987)
  2. Saturday night – Schoolly D (1986)
  3. Public Enemy no.1 – Public Enemy (1987)
  4. Follow the leader – Eric B. & Rakim (1988)
  5. My philosophy – KRS1 & Boogie Down Productions (1988)
  6. Jack the Ripper – LL Cool J (1988)
  7. Express yourself – N.W.A. (1989)
  8. Peter Piper – Run DMC (1986)
  9. Paul Revere – Beastie Boys (1986)
  10. Kool Keith housing things – Ultramagnetic MCs (1988)

So there we have it, all tracks from 1986-1989. By c.1990 onwards, American rap seemed to increasingly move into a rather formulaic ‘gangsta’ direction and some of the inventiveness of the mid-late 80s seemed to get lost, although artists such as Ice Cube continued to offer challenging beats for a while and clearly Dr Dre/Snoop caused quite a stir. For Dave, the glory days had past and he hung his Kangol hat up for good. It should be mentioned though that 1980s respect is also due to various tracks by Stetsasonic, Ice T, Spoonie Gee, The Jungle Brothers, EPMD, De la Soul, Mantronix, Big Daddy Kane, Original Concept, etc. Manchester’s Ruthless Rap Assassins also deserve a mention for hip hop this side of ‘the pond’.

Ticket hip hop





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