East Coast Hip-Hop Essentials
In the ’70s, the black youth of New York’s five boroughs needed a new way to express their disaffection—and hip-hop was born. Built from the four elements—DJing, graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping—the earliest iterations of the genre were held together by sparse breakbeats and playful freestyles. While rap initially found commercial success through the novelty jams of The Sugar Hill Gang (who essentially rapped about rapping), Grandmaster Flash’s 1982 epochal single “The Message” showcased its capacity for authentic inner-city narratives told by the people who were living them. In the years to come, producers like DJ Premier sliced up samples and laid the sonic groundwork for Queens MC Nas and Boston rapper Guru to showcase their lyrical mastery. Meanwhile, over in Philly, the ‘80s street raps of Schoolly D gave way to the soulful instrumentation of The Roots in the ‘90s, and the rugged, hardcore stylings of Beanie Sigel in the 2000s.