Nowadays, hip hop has become a mainstream musical genre, being heard all around the world and having several rappers to pick and choose from. However, it wasn't always this way. Here's a look at the time period which fully shaped hip hop into what we all know today and the artists that paved the way for today's rappers to be able to succeed.
Golden age hip hop is the name given to hip hop music from 1985-1995. It was the most important period in the history of hip hop, since it completely reinvented and popularized the genre. According to Rolling Stone, "it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre", as it was essential as a rapper to find what made you different from the rest. Not only that, but it was also just a period of pure experimentation and innovation, with songs that had quality and artists that had influence. Sampling was also extremely popular at the time, as that is how hip hop first came to be: with DJs remixing songs and later on people starting to put lyrics over them. However, during the golden age, artists' creativity was on another level, sampling from popular songs of any genre to movies.
Some rappers from this iconic period of time that contributed greatly to the name people gave it are: Run D.M.C., LL Cool J, Rakim, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, etc. These were shortly followed by gangsta rappers, such as N.W.A and Ice-T, towards the 1990s. At the end of the golden age of hip hop, there were rappers such as Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, 2pac, The Notorious B.I.G, Common, and Snoop Dogg.
Ultramagnetic MCs, NYC, 1989
It was also really important to add meaning to songs and write powerful lyrics that would make people feel something, using the genre as a social protest. Urban poverty was a topic frequently used in songs as many people could relate to the struggles of poverty and tried to cope with alcohol, drugs, crime, and gangs in their communities. Other themes covered in songs were religion, culture, and the American economy.
Even though this period was one of hip hop's greatest eras that will most likely not be repeated ever again, it is surprising how today's rap and hip hop music lacks the authenticity it once had. Mainstream rappers have much fewer differences from each other than what rappers used to have back then, and even though the music is still good, it feels like something is missing.
Overall, what made golden age hip hop so special is the fact that it was flourishing extremely fast and so many styles of rap and beats were all appearing at once. It was a spark of hope for people that were wanting to express themselves, and it is when society finally started paying more attention to the genre. It truly shows that hip hop isn't simply people talking over music and that there are so many possibilities of what people can create when they are willing to try.