Rap music technically had its roots in the 1970s, with an underground music scene that slowly gained momentum in New York City. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that HipHop and Rap music really caught the attention of music company executives, and was finally pushed out to the masses. Parents everywhere had a new form of music to complain about, transplanting their ire from rock and roll to rap, claiming the corruption of their previously innocent children. Perhaps they would have been justified in their criticisms if the so-called Gangsta rap that was so popular in the early 90s had been more prevalent in the early days of the genre, but as it was, most of the songs at the time were fairly innocuous. Here is my list of the top ten best songs from the “Golden Age” of rap.
10 – LL Cool J – Goin’ Back to Cali
Barely hanging on to the 80s, this smooth LL classic showed up in 1989. From his third album, Walking with a Panther, Goin’ Back to Cali, along with Jingling Baby and I’m That Type of Guy finally pushed LL into the mainstream. He has shown surprising career longevity in the field of rap music.
9 – Boogie Down Productions – My Philosophy
BDP, street rappers from the South Bronx, initially started out with a harder edge to their music, but after violence ended band member, Scott LaRock’s life they turned their attention to more politically conscious work. My Philosophy was something of a bridge for KRS-One between the two styles of music.
8 – Public Enemy – Don’t Believe the Hype
While BDP eventually changed their tune to be more socially conscious Public Enemy’s music was socially and politically motivated since day one, and the 1998 hit single, Don’t Believe the Hype can be said to be their anthem.
7 – Tone Loc – Wild Thing
Although rap purists might grumble at Tone Loc’s inclusion on this list the truth was in 1989 he owned the airwaves with his huge hit, Wild Thing, driving his album, Loc’ed After Dark to number one on the billboard charts, a first for an African American rap artist.
6 – Ice-T – Colors
Though some might remember with more fondness, Ice-T’s classic, L.G.B.N.A.F. from the 80s, we’ll keep this list a family show, and focus on his hit song, Colors from the movie of the same name. After the death of his parents, Ice-T lived with relatives in south central Los Angeles, and the experience added street-cred to his rap.
5 – Kool Moe Dee – I Go to Work
Though he more or less disappeared from the rap scene in the early 1990s, during the 80s Kool Moe Dee was one of the most prolific rappers in the game. His ongoing feud with fellow rapper, LL Cool J provided a continual stream of lyrical ideas for KMD, and his music from that era is riddled with potshots at LL. I Go To Work was the crowning achievement of his career, and his lightning quick delivery of the complicated lyrics made him a hard act to follow back in the day.
4 – Beastie Boys – Fight for your Right to Party
I’ve been a huge B-Boys fan ever since the 80s, so choosing one song to focus on was tough for me. Still, I wanted this top ten list to have some variety, so I decided to go with the song that really kicked off their career. Fight for your Right to Party gained momentum with regular video play on MTV, and album, Licensed to Ill sold over five million copies. The group never looked back after that, and though I haven’t got the figures in front of me, I have to assume they are the most successful Jewish rap group of all time
3 – Blondie – Rapture
Inspired by the 1979 rap classic, Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, Rapture by Blondie was one of the earliest hit singles by a mainstream band to feature rapping in it. This success paved the way for others in the genre.
2 – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – The Message
I’ve never laughed so hard in my life as I did when I saw the video for The Message. If you get a chance, check it out. It is pure retro gold. GMFATFF was definitely one of the pioneers of the rap genre and this is 1982 classic is their defining work. Don’t push them, cause they are definitely close to the edge.
1 – Run D.M.C. – King of Rock
The title should really be Kings of Rap because that is what this rap “Supergroup” is. I could have filled this entire top ten 80s rap songs list with their hits, and readers would have had a hard time debating my stance. It’s Tricky to pick their best song, and you wouldn’t want to be in My Adidas, and have to make the choice. This is the band that launched rap music into the mainstream, and they are a no-brainer to take the number one spot on this list. I like King of Rock, but feel free to slot in your Run D.M.C. song of choice in its place. You can’t go wrong.