By Elesha Nicholls
The 80’s were a time of innovation, as hip-hop artists developed not only their sound but the culture as well. Within hip-hop there have always been elements that come together to make up the genre as a whole. Back in the 80’s the four main elements of hip-hop were MC’ing, Dj’ing, break dancing, and graffiti. In this article, we touch base on the secondary elements such as fashion, geography, and music sharing of this decade.
Hip-Hop was created at a Bronx recreation room inside of a building on August 11, 1973. During this time, the widely popular funk and disco still heavily influenced the infant genre. Fast forward to the early 80’s and you will notice that artists were curating their own sound, but also sampling from the past. Sampling was, and will always be one of the biggest elements to hip-hop and the secret ingredient to many of our favourite songs today.
Before downloading your favourite songs and albums from music platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, there were physical mixtapes. Hip-Hop artists were big on performing live during the 80’s and because of this, started recording their sets and distributing it amongst fans. A mixtape was comprised of live sets, or pre-recorded songs from either one artist or multiple artists. The origins of the mixtape are said to have come from New York.
Style is - and will always be a huge element of hip-hop. In the 80’s street style was huge with chunky gold jewelry, athletic wear and footwear, and an array of colourful jackets and sweaters. You can also almost immediately identify this era by hairdos. With the men rocking towering box cuts and the women sporting asymmetrical bobs and haircuts. Black conscious artists also started wearing cultural clothing like kufis and dashikis to portray their Black pride.
With New York being the birthplace of hip-hop, there is no surprise that they dominated the genre for most of the decade. However, the west coast slowly but surely started to catch on to the culture and brought a fresh new perspective to it as well. Acts like NWA, Ice T, and Too Short were making a name for themselves and trailblazing for the next set of west coast rappers that became popular in the 90’s. Geographically speaking, New York had hip-hop on lock with plentiful acts and household names such as Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, and L.L Cool J. Suffice to say, the list is extensive.
Radio was around way before the 80’s, but during this time an artist could gain traction and become even more popular if their song made it to the air. Everyone listened to the radio in cars, on their way to work, at home; and though physically big, many people carried radios around with them. Record labels at the time sought out talent through on-air plays, giving artists their big break.
The 80’s were the golden age of hip-hop. It set the blueprint for the artists of the next decade and beyond. Hip-Hop in the next decade would see more artists coming from different parts of states and would see sub-genres develop and conflict arise.
Stay tuned for PART II.