It all started with “I said a hip hop, / Hippie to the hippie, / The hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop,” as The Sugarhill Gang unveiled “Rappers Delight” to the world in 1980.
This wasn’t really a brand new genre, but more of an evolution of “black music” stylings; spirituals morphing into Gospel songs. Gives way to early R&B grooves from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and of course The Jackson 5.
Rap, as it is affectionately called, is a streamlined derivative of the many ways in which talented vocalists can deliver lyrics, and we here at Bearded Gentlemen Music are going to harken back to the days of the 80’s, in which we more organically enjoyed this intense delivery of words. We will divulge how it made us feel, and fondly revel in sweet nostalgia as we reminisce.
See also Dan Vesper’s recent list: The Best Rap and Soul Tracks of the 1980s (Part 1: 100-76)
Dear readers/hip hop fans, this month is all about hip hop songs released between 1985 and 1989! Let’s start with a banger…
LL Cool J – “Jingling Baby” Def Jam Recordings 1989
No, it’s not because of his flawless body, handsome face, overtly sexual persona or the fact that I would eat vanilla ice cream off his abs. LL Cool J is just a rad mother fucker who’s 80’s, early 90’s career contained some of the sharpest hooks in hip-hop. “Jingling Baby” is about as cheesy as you can get but every time it comes on, it immediately puts me in a good mood and brings me back to the days of pounding an endless amount of cheap beer without getting fat or a hangover; having lawless dance parties to 80’s music in my living room, and waking up under the coffee table covered in what I hope is my own sweat.
I look back on these days fondly; and like Pavlov’s Dogs, when I hear “Jingling Baby” or any other 80’s LL, I immediately start salivating and wish I was that peach in the “Doin It” video!
Public Enemy – “Bring the Noise” Def Jam Recordings 1987
You most likely know this song because Anthrax and Public Enemy decided to collaborate for the 1991 version/re-recording. However, the original song is much more minimal, but altogether just as powerful.
Chuck D blasted the lyrics in a full in-your-face delivery. Flavor Flav punched in his interjections with conviction and style, and what drew people/me in was seeing how much fun this group was having!
I caught onto that sometime in the early 90’s after hearing that Anthrax version, but I remember soon after hearing that more elusive original being blasted over the P.A. at a school party. It vocalized the attitude of the early 90’s teenager so perfectly, and transcended over in a way that every rocker and hippie was jamming to it!
I had an ear for rock, but an obsession with hip hop.
Straining to hear every lyric, becoming lost in the stories told through rap. For me, this song was one gateway into discovering the lines Eminem would shock the world with while Dr. Dre just sat back and collected (world demanding a new album!).
The explosion of Nelly’s southern flavored hip hop, and how DMX crossed so many lines between Jesus’ salvation and dark violence;I couldn’t help but be fascinated.
Public Enemy takes me back to the roots of my hip hop discovery. I still can vividly picture seeing a high schooler wearing a Public Enemy jersey, and as a young junior higher in my quest to hear more music of all types, it gives me some great nostalgic vibes to think back on this song and those days.
“Bass! How low can you go? Death row, what a brother knows / Once again, back is the incredible / The rhyme animal / The uncannable D, Public Enemy Number One” are lyrics that for me, do it every time!
ICE T – “I’m Your Pusher” Sire 1988
Growing up in a musical household, I was exposed to all sorts of genres. My Dad was a musician and he was always playing everything from The Beatles to Johnny Cash. My Mom was all about The Police and David Bowie’s 80s output. I remember being really young and hearing about Hip Hop as this rebellious music style that encouraged violence and general bad behavior.
It wasn’t something my parents listened to at all, but the genre was already finding it’s way into the mainstream at such a rate that it was only a matter of time before they checked it out.
The first time I heard “I’m Your Pusher” I was about 6 or 7 years old. I’m sure the song was probably a couple years old at the time. My Dad wanted to see what the whole Hip Hop thing was about and decided to listen to the Power cassette one of my cousins left in the family car. I’ll never forget Dad laughing at the intro and saying “Hey that’s Mayfield!” when the hook came around. I’m not sure if he was into it, but he didn’t shut it off instantly either.
Most importantly, listened.
Hip Hop was a new thing to the mainstream, but Dad was giving it a chance despite what some of the other parents were saying. I’d like to think that’s one of the most important music lessons I learned from him. Listen for yourself before forming an opinion.”I’m Your Pusher” is a song encouraging one to listen to music instead of doing drugs. This speaks volumes about prejudice in the music industry and culture. Ice T was an advocate for staying off drugs, but because he was part of a certain music style, the masses had their own preconceptions. He wasn’t the first mainstream rapper by any means but, there’s no denying his importance to the genre.
His music sparked enough controversy to be talked about by major politicians and his debut album was the first Hip Hop album to be slapped with a parental advisory label. Thanks to “I’m Your Pusher”, I learned at a very early age that it’s not cool to judge a book by it’s cover. This could’ve been my first introduction to the legendary Curtis Mayfield as well!
De La Soul – “Me, Myself And I” Def Jam 1989
Man this early De La Soul jam is just straight up musical sunshine. If you don’t get hype when you first hear “Me, Myself And I” and don’t feel that spark and get hype, than you are bogus or something.
This song is about not giving a shit what others think and do what you wanna do / dressing how you wanna dress / etc.
I love me some early era backpack Native Tongues (note the small Q-Tip cameo) type hip-hop and De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, And I” is one of the best jams of that era. Plus the video is dope.