Sample text for The Vibe history of hip hop / edited by Alan Light.
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Introduction by Alan Light
In October 1979, a new record label called Sugar Hill Records released a single titled "Rapper's Delight," credited to a trio known as the Sugarhill Gang. A few weeks later--on January 5, 1980, to be precise--the song entered Billboard's Top 40, where it remained for just two weeks, peaking at No. 36.
For the burgeoning culture that would come to be known as hip hop, this moment was a fulcrum. "Rapper's Delight" wasn't the first hip hop recording--as the early chapters in this book show, that distinction is as much a judgment call as the first rock 'n' roll song or the first jazz musician--but it marked the first time a national, even international audience stood up and took notice. The revolutionary new sound and style that was being developed by black and Latino kids in the 1970s in the parks, clubs, and parties around New York City had been captured on wax, commodified with visible commercial results. For some, "Rapper's Delight" was the end of hip hop's beginning; for others, it was the beginning of the end.
It is now a full twenty years later. (To put that in some context for any who still doubt hip hop's longevity, Woodstock happened only fifteen years after Elvis Presley's first recordings.) After years of denial, dismissal, and disapproval, hip hop has unquestionably become the dominant force in contemporary American youth culture. Lauryn Hill wins a shelf full of Grammy awards and ends up on the cover of Time magazine. Will Smith is one of Hollywood's top leading men. Q-Tip appears in national fashion advertising campaigns. Week in and week out, the top of the album sales chart is packed with rap records, and many of the hitmakers who are classified as pop or rock bands, from Korn to Hanson, reveal the unmistakable imprint of the genre. Across the country and around the globe, hip hop has changed the way songs are recorded and what they can say, how clothes are designed and marketed, which films get made and how they are distributed--and it has helped shape an entire generation's thoughts and attitudes about race.
Some would argue--as they do occasionally in these pages--that hip hop has never actually recovered from the success of "Rapper's Delight" (which, it must be pointed out, the Sugarhill Gang, a group initially put together in the studio just for that recording, did not even write). These noble purists believe that the true spirit of the music was traded in for record sales, and with that change came the loss of a genuine community and culture, complete with the eventual weakening of its visual expression (graffiti), physical representation (breakdancing), and musical backbone (DJ-ing).
And who that wasn't there in the beginning, who didn't experience the joyous creation of (to quote Sly Stone) a whole new thing, can say that this feeling is wrong? But in return, we have gained the most significant and most innovative cultural force since the emergence of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. Hip hop has quite simply changed the world, and after years of fighting off the stigma that it was surely nothing more than a passing fad, the time has come to take a look back, to examine everything that has brought the music to the extraordinary, hard-fought status it enjoys today. The time has come to recognize.
Foreword by Grandmaster Flash
Preface by Danyel Smith
Introduction by Alan Light
The Real Old School
Back in the Day: 1975-1979
DJ Kool Herc
Sugar Hill Records
Graffiti: Graphic Scenes, Spray Fiends, and Millionaires
The Second Wave: 1980-1983
Breaking It All Down: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the B-Boy Kingdom
Run-D.M.C. Sasha Frere-Jones
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record, Baby): Last Night a DJ Saved Hip Hop
Hip Hop Radio
L.L. Cool J
Microphone Fiends: Eric B. and Rakim/Slick Rick
The Juice Crew: Beyond the Boogie Down
Early Los Angeles Hip Hop
The Beastie Boys
Hip Hop Video
The Big Willies
Money, Power, Respect: Hip Hop Economics
DJs vs. Samplers
Native Tongues: A Family Affair
The Pinnacle: 1988
Hip Hop in the Movies
Rap and Rock
Hard Left: Hip Hop's Forgotten Visionaries
The Dirty South
2 Live Crew Trial
Great Aspirations: Hip Hop and Fashion Dress for Excess and Success
Gangsta Rap in the '90s
"Cop Killer" and Sister Souljah: Hip Hop Under Fire
Hip Hop Soul
Gangsta, Gangsta: The Sad, Violent Parable of Death Row Records
New York State of Mind: The Resurgence of East Coast Hip Hop
The Wu-Tang Clan
Mixed Cuts: How Remixes Compliment and Complicate The Blackspot Dancehall
Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National
Future Shock: Trip Hop and Beyond
Ill Na Nas, Goddesses, and Drama Mamas
15 Arguments in Favor of the Future of Hip Hop
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Rap (Music) History and criticism