Hip-Hop History

1925:

Earl Tucker (aka Snake Hips), a performer at the Cotton Club invents a dance style similar to today’s hip-hop moves. He incorporates floats and slides into his dance style. Similar moves would later inspire an element of hip-hop culture known as breakdancing.

1940:

Tom the Great (a.k.a. Thomas Wong) uses a booming sound system to please his audience. Wong also utilizes hip American records to steal music-lovers from local bands.

1950:

The Soundclash contest between Coxsone Dodd’s “Downbeat” and Duke Reid’s “Trojan” gives birth to DJ Battling.

1956:

Clive Campbell is born in Kingston, Jamaica. Campbell would later become the father of hip-hop.

1959:

Parks Commissioner Robert Moses starts building an expressway in the Bronx. Consequently, middle class Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jewish, neighborhoods disappear in no time. Businesses relocate away from the borough only to be replaced by impoverished black and Hispanic families. Along with these poor people came addiction, crime, and unemployment.

1962:

James Brown records Live At The Apollo. Brown’s drummer Clayton Fillyau influences a sound that is now known as the break beat. The break beat would later inspire the b-boy movement, as breakers danced to these beats at block parties.

1965:

In a historic boxing bout, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) defeats Sonny Liston in the 6th round. Before the bout, however, Ali recited one of the earliest known rhymes:

Clay comes out to meet Liston,
And Liston starts to retreat,
If Liston goes back any further,
He'll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with a left,
Clay swings with a right,
Look at young Cassius,
Carry the fight.
Liston keeps backing,
But there's not enough room,

It's a matter of time...

1967:

Clive Campbell migrates to the United States at the age of 11. Because of his size, kids at Alfred E. Smith High School nickname him Hercules. He would later become a writer and change his name to Kool Herc.

1968:

A gang named Savage Seven would hit the streets of the East Bronx. Savage Seven later transforms into Black Spades, before eventually becoming an organization known as Zulu Nation.

1969:

James Brown records two songs that would further influence the drum programming in today’s rap – “Sex Machines” with John Starks playing the drums and “Funky Drummer” with Clyde Stubblefield on the drums.

1970:

DJ U-Roy invades Jamaican pop charts with three top ten songs using a style known as toasting. The Last Poets release their self-titled debut album on Douglas Records combining jazz instrumentations with heartfelt spoken word. (The Last Poets would later appear on Common’s 2005 rap anthem, “The Corner.")

1971:

Aretha Franklin records a well-known b-boy song “Rock Steady." The Rock Steady crew would go on to rule in the world of break-dancing, with members all across the globe.

1972:

The Black Messengers (a group that staged performances for The Black Panthers and rallies relating to black power movement) feature on The Gong Show.
However, they are only allowed to perform under the alias "Mechanical Devices," because of their controversial name.

1973:

DJ Kool Herc deejays his first block party (his sister's birthday) at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, NY. Herc would often buy two copies of a record and stretch the break parts by using two turntables and mixing in both records before the break ends. The Zulu Nation is officially formed by a student of Stevenson High school named Kevin Donovan. Donovan later changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim in honor of an ancient Zulu chief.

1974:

After seeing DJ Kool Herc perform at block parties, Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa start playing at parties all over the Bronx neighborhoods. Around this time, DJ/MC/Crowd Pleaser Lovebug Starski starts referring to this culture as "hip-hop."

1975: 
  • Herc is hired as a DJ at the Hevalo Club.
  • He later gets Coke La Rock to utter crowd-pleasing rhymes at parties (e.g."DJ Riz is in the house and he'll turn it out without a doubt"). Coke La Rock and Clark Kent form the first emcee team known as Kool Herc & The Herculoids.
  • DJ Grand Wizard Theodore accidentally invents 'the scratch.' While trying to hold a spinning record in place in order to listen to his mom, who was yelling at him, Grand Wizard accidentally caused the record to produce the “shigi-shigi” sound that is now known as the scratch. Scratch is the crux of modern deejaying.
1976:

DJ Afrika Bambaataa performs at the Bronx River Center. Bambaataa’s first battle against Disco King Mario sparks off the DJ battling that is now embedded in the culture.

1977: 
  • The Rock Steady Crew (the most respected b-boy crew in history) is formed by the original four members: JoJo, Jimmy Dee, Easy Mike, and P-Body.
  • DJ Kool Herc is nearly stabbed to death at one of his parties. Although the assault placed a permanent dent on Herc's career, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Disco Wiz (the first Latino DJ), and Disco King Mario kept performing around town.
1978: 
  • Kurtis Blow, who was being managed by Russell Simmons, decides to hire Simmons’ brother, Run, as his DJ.  
  • Run was so-called because he could cut so fast between two turntables.  
  • Kurtis would later become the first rapper to be signed to a major record deal.  Music industry coins the term "rap music," and shifts its focus toward emcees.
  • Grandmaster Caz (aka Cassanova Fly) and Bambaataa engage in a battle at the Police Athletic League.
1979:
  • Grandmaster Flash forms one of the most influential rap groups ever, The Furious 5: Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Raheim (Guy Williams), and Mr. Ness (Eddie Morris).
  • Around the same time, another great rap crew – The Cold Crush Four – was formed, comprising of Charlie Chase, Tony Tone, Grand Master Caz, Easy Ad, JDL, and Almighty KG.
  • The first rap record by a non-rap group “King Tim III” is recorded by the Fatback Band.
  • Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight” would go on to become the first known rap hit, reaching #36 on Billboard.
  • Various obscure rap singles were also released: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5’s “Super-rappin” and Spoonie Gee’s “Spoonin’ Rap” both on Enjoy Records, Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin” on Mercury Records, and Jimmy Spicer’s 13-minute long storytelling track “Adventures of Super Rhymes” on Dazz Records.
  • Mr. Magic’s ‘Rap Attack’ becomes the first hip-hop radio show on WHBI.
1980:
  • Afrika Bambaata and the Zulu Nation release their first 12" called Zulu Nation Throwdown Pt. 1 on Paul Winley Records.
  • Kurtis Blow, the first rapper to appear on national television (Soul Train), releases "The Breaks" on Mercury Records. The record goes on to sell more than a million copies. Hip-hop gradually evolves into big business.
  • After meeting Fab 5 Freddy and others, Blonde releases "Rapture" featuring rap vocals by lead singer Debbie Harry.
1981:
  • Grandmaster Flash releases “The Adventures of Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel," the first record to ultimately capture the sounds of live DJ scratching on wax.
  • On February 14th, The Funky 4 plus One More perform their classic hit, “That's The Joint” on NBC's Saturday Night Live becoming the first hip hop group to appear on national television.
  • The Beastie Boys are formed. The group consists of Adam Horovitz (King Ad-Rock), Adam Yauch (MCA), Michael Diamon (Mike D).
1982:
  • Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force release the techno-heavy “Planet Rock” on Tommy Boy Records. The record samples portions of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express."
  • Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5 release “The Message” on Sugarhill Records.
  • Kool Moe Dee humiliates Busy Bee in a spontaneous rap battle. Since then, emcee battling has become an inseparable part of hip-hop.
  • Fab 5 Freddy and Charlie Ahearn co-produce Wild Style, a hip-hop film featuring Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizard Theodore, DJ AJ, Grandmixer D.S.T, graf writers Lee, Zephyr, Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, Dondi, and members of the Rock Steady Crew. Wild Style has since inspired several other hip-hop-themed movies.
1983:
  • Ice T helps pioneer gangsta rap in the west coast with his rapcore singles “Body Rock" and "Killers."
  • Grand Master Flash and Melle Mel (Furious 5) record the anti-cocaine single “White Lines (Don't Do It)," which becomes a rap hit.
  • Grandmaster Flash later sues Sugarhill Records for $5 million in royalties. The dispute causes the group to break up, signaling the looming danger of corporate control in hip-hop.
  • Run DMC releases “It's Like That" b/w "Sucker MC's."
1984:
  • Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin team up to launch one of the most important record labels ever, Def Jam Records. Def Jam releases its first record, “It’s Yours” by T La Rock, followed by LL Cool J’s “I Need A Beat."
  • Hip-hop discovers that touring is a great way to generate income, as the Fresh Fest concert featuring Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Fat Boys, and Run DMC, reels in $3.5 million for 27 dates.
  • Battle rap assumes the spotlight in hip-hop, as UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” diss song attracts over 100 responses.
  • The most popular response came from a 14-year old female named Roxanne Shante. Shante’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” allegedly recorded in Marley Marl’s living room sold more than 250,000 copies.
  • Dougie Fresh (aka The Entertainer) releases The Original Human Beat Box (Vindertainment Records).
  • Michael Jackson does 'the moonwalk' at the Grammys, borrowing b-boy dance elements from LA breakers.
1985:
  • Sugarhill Records goes into bankruptcy and is forced out of business.
  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa make their first appearance on Super Nature’s “The Show Stopper."
1986:
  • The Beastie Boys release Licensed To Ill on Def Jam (executive-produced by Rick Rubin).
  • James Smith, a native of Houston, Texas, assembles The Geto Boys. The original lineup consisted of MCs Raheim, Jukebox, DJ Ready Red, and Sir Rap-A-Lot.
  • The group also featured Little Billy, a dancing dwarf who later picked up the microphone as Bushwick Bill.
  • Following a short break-up in 1988, Smith invited local emcee Willie D and multi-instrumentalist Akshun (later known as Scarface) to complete the lineup.
  • The Geto Boys (now made up of Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill) was a driving force in the evolution of southern rap.
1987:
  • Following the release of Boogie Down Productions’ Criminal Minded LP, Scott LaRock is shot and killed in the South Bronx while attempting to settle a dispute.
  • Public Enemy stuns the world with their introductory album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, signaling the genesis of politically-charged hip-hop.
  • The original members of the group include Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour), Flavor Flav (William Drayton), Professor Griff (Richard Griffin), and DJ Terminator X (Norman Rogers).
1988:
  • After years of being neglected by the mainstream media, hip-hop gets its own show on MTV, "Yo! MTV Raps."
  • N.W.A pioneers the gangsta rap movement with their gold album, Straight Outta Compton.
  • Def Jam founders Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin part ways; Simmons opts for distribution through CBS/Columbia Records, while Rubin goes on to found Def American.
  • Landmark album releases: Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Breakdown, and Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane.
1989:
  • After a life-long battle with crack addiction, Cowboy, a member of Grandmaster Flash’s Furious 5 dies at the age of 28.
  • A group of high school friends join the Native Tongues as promoters of the Afrocentricity Movement to make African-Americans aware of their heritage.
  • These Manhattan-based friends would later form A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Phife Dawg, and Jarobi).
  • A Dallas-based protégé of Dr. Dre known as D.O.C releases No One Can Do It Better. While the album was making rounds on the charts, D.O.C. found himself in a severe car crash.
  • While D.O.C. survived the accident, his rap career didn't.
1990:
  • 2 Pac joins Digital Underground as a dancer and a roadie.
  • The "Stretch & Bobbito Show" is launched.
  • Both a Florida record store owner and Luther Campbell are arrested over 2 Live Crew’s controversial album, As Nasty as They Wanna Be.
1991:
  • N.W.A’s sophomore album N****z For Life sells over 954,000 copies in its first week of release, reaching #1 on the pop charts. The album paves way for many more hardcore rap albums that would follow.
  • Busta Rhymes appears on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” Cypress Hill (B-Real, DJ Muggs, and Sen Dog) release their self-titled debut, and initiate a campaign to legalize hemp.
  • The Notorious B.I.G. is featured in the “Unsigned Hype” column of The Source magazine.
1993:
  • A Tribe Called Quest release their third album, Midnight Marauders, featuring a who-is-who-in-hip-hop album cover.
  • Dr. Dre’s The Chronic attains multi-platinum status.
  • Wu-Tang Clan release 36 Chambers. The line-up consists of Prince Rakeem (The RZA), Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Genius (GZA), U-God, Master Killa and Inspectah Deck.
  • Mobb Deep (Prodigy and Havoc) release their debut LP, Juvenile Hell.
1994:
  • Nas’ first entry, Illmatic goes gold and is widely received as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever.
  • Common releases Resurrection and is lauded as an intelligent lyricist.
  • Warren G’s Regulate: The G-Funk Era is certified 4x platinum.
  • 2 Pac is robbed and shot 5 times in a New York recording studio. He recovers from the shooting. Pac is later sentenced to 8 months in prison.
1995:
  • Queen Latifah wins a Grammy award in the "Best Rap Solo Performance" category for her hit “Unity.”
  • 2 Pac signs a deal with Death Row Records after Suge Knight posts a $1.4 million bail.
  • Eric Wright (Eazy-E of N.W.A) dies of AIDS on March 20th at the age of 31.
1996:
  • The Score, a fusion of conscious lyrics with reggae-tinged soulsonics, becomes The Fugees' biggest album. The album debuts at No.1 and grabs two Grammys, thus, breathing a new life into socially aware hip-hop.
  • The Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards are launched in the U.K. The Fugees walk away with two trophies.
  • Jay-Z drops his highly-lauded debut, Reasonable Doubt. His "charismatic rapper" approach would later spawn throngs of emulators.
  • 24-year old Snoop Dogg and his bodyguard McKinley Lee are acquitted of the murder of Philip Woldemariam, a 20-year-old Ethiopian immigrant gunned down in August 1993.
  • On September 7th, Tupac Shakur is fatally wounded after sustaining multiple gunshots as he rode in a car driven by Death Row Records CEO Marion "Suge" Knight near the Las Vegas strip. Tupac died 5 days later. His death rekindled the debate on whether rap promotes violence or just reflects the ugly side of the streets.
1997:
  • The Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher Wallace), is shot and killed March 9, after a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Like Pac's murder, Biggie's death is still an unsolved mystery.
  • Missy Misdemeanor Elliott redefines hip-hop and R & B with her first album, Supa Dupa Fly. Having broken barriers as a successful female producer, Missy would go on to become the highest selling female rapper of all time.
  • Parent company Interscope Records sells its interest in Death Row Records and severes ties with the label.
  • Chicago MC Juice defeats Eminem on his way to winning the year's Scribble Jam competition. (Scribble Jam is the largest showcase of underground hip-hop in the United States.)
  • Roc-A-Fella sells a 50 percent stake to Island Def Jam for $1.5 million.
1998:
  • Dr. Dre inks Eminem to his Aftermath imprint.
  • Lauryn Hill's solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, scores her 11 Grammy nominations and 5 wins, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
  • "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" marks the beginning of Jay-Z's mainstream breakthrough and helps move 5 million units of Vol 2: Hardknock Life. The chorus is sampled from the Broadway play "Annie."
  • Shyne (born Jamal Barrow) signs a lucrative record deal with Diddy's Bad Boy Entertainment. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses starts building an expressway in the Bronx. Consequently, middle class Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jewish, neighborhoods disappear in no time. Businesses relocate away from the borough only to be replaced by impoverished black and Hispanic families. Along with these poor people came addiction, crime, and unemployment.
1999: 
  • Backed by producer Dr. Dre, Eminem zooms past racial hurdles and sells 4 million copies of his debut, The Slim Shady LP.
  • Production duo The Neptunes (Chad Hugo & Pharrell Williams) dominate the airwave with a string of radio hits, including Kelis' "Caught Out There," ODB's "Got Your Money," Noreaga's "Oh No," and Mase's "One Big Fiesta." Their infectious, bling-tinged sound would later become an unofficial requisite on hip-hop albums.
  • Dr. Dre puts the west coast back on the spotlight with his comeback LP 2001.
2000:
  • Dr. Dre files a lawsuit against MP3-swapping firm Napster.
  • Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney holds the first Hip-Hop Powershop summit to address the various political, economic, and social issues affecting the youth.
  • DJ Craze wins the Technics DMC World DJ Championship 3 consecutive times.
  • Eminem, through the release of his well received second album Marshall Mathers LP, solidifies his place as rap's future great. The title sells 1.76 million copies in its first week and later scores two Grammys for the rapper.
2001:
  • Puff Daddy reveals in an MTV interview that he will now be known as P. Diddy.
  • Eminem pleads guilty to one of two felony charges from an incident in 2000 when he pistol-whipped a man caught kissing wife Kim Mathers.
  • Prosecutors drop the felony assault charge in exchange for Eminem's guilty plea on carrying a concealed weapon.
  • On the heels of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, two of the city's most revered rappers Jay-Z and Nas are in a different New York state of mind. After years of subliminal sniping, they finally take the gloves off and engage in a highly controversial lyrical face-off.
  • After Nas dropped "Ether," an earth-shattering response to Jay's equally venemous "Takeover," Jay re-emerges with "Super Ugly," (rhymed over Nas' "Got Yourself a Gun") in which Hov spilled his sexual relationship with Nas' baby-mama to disgusting effect. New York's Hot 97 FM asks call-in voters to decide a winner.
  • As votes are being tallied, Jay rushes to Hot 97 and offers an apology for the kiss-and-tell lyrics. His apology fails to deny Nas an outstanding victory. Regardless, fans would forever debate the battle.
2002:
  • DJ Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC is shot and killed in a Queens studio on October 30. No one has been convicted of his murder.
  • Hip-hop feuds: Nelly vs. KRS-One, Eminem vs. The Source magazine, Jermaine Dupri vs. Dr. Dre, etc. 
  • The rapping member of TLC, Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes, dies in a car crash while traveling with seven other people.
  • Malik B is booted from The Roots following a drug use problem.
2003:
  • Eminem becomes the new focus of a debate on hip-hop and racism after some unidentified friends of the rapper submitted a tape of him using the N-word and making several derogatory remarks about the African-American community.
  • Sample lyrics from the Eminem tape: "Black girls are b****es/ That's why I'ma tell ya you better pull up your britches/'Cause all that cash is making your a** drag. On another song, he rhymes: "Black girls and white girls just don't mix/Because Black girls are dumb and white girls are good chicks."
  • The Source uses the tape to renew their anti-Eminem campaign, even releasing a CD version of the "racist tape." In response, Eminem apologizes publicly and claims the rap was done out of teen angst following a break-up with a black girlfriend.  "I did and said a lot of stupid s**t when I was a kid, but that's part of growing up," said Eminem in a statement. "The tape of me rapping 15 years ago as a teenager that was recently put out by The Source in no way represents who I was then or who I am today."
  • Federal investigators raid the New York offices of Murder Inc., the record label home of Ja Rule and Ashanti, as part of an ongoing investigation into label head Irv Gotti. Authorities were looking into allegations of money laundering and an alleged financial link between Gotti and a New York drug gang called the "Supreme Team."
  • ODB, fresh out of jail, signs to Roc-A-Fella Records and changes his name to Dirt McGirt. 
2004:
  • In the middle of the 2004 Vibe Awards ceremony, a man named Jimmy James Johnson approaches rap legend Dr. Dre, who was preparing to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and punches him in the face. A full-on brawl ensues during which Johnson gets stabbed.
  • After reviewing tape of the melee, authorities identify the stabber as G-Unit rapper Young Buck, a member of Dr. Dre's entourage. Suge Knight, who also crashed the event, later denies allegations that he had promised Johnson $5000 to assault Dr. Dre.
  • P.Diddy's "Citizen Change" campaign adopts the slogan 'Vote or Die' in a bid to convince young people to vote in November's U.S. Presidential elections.
  • Wu-Tang member ODB dies inside a recording studio two days before his 36th birthday.
2005:
  • The "Miss Jones Morning Show" crew on Hot 97 FM sparks outrage by playing the "Tsunami Song," a racist parody of "We Are the World" that ridicules victims of the South Asian tidal wave that killed almost 300,000 people. The "Miss Jones" is temporarily yanked off the air.
  • Jay-Z and Nas end their long-running feud at the former's Power 105.1 concert in New York.
  • A 24-year-old Compton, CA native identified as Kevin Reed is hospitalized after a shooting outside the Hot 97 offices, as 50 Cent was making an appearance at the radio station to announce that The Game had been booted from G-Unit. The Game, who had appeared on Hot 97 earlier that evening, reportedly returned to the station with an undisclosed number of men and was denied entrance into the building.
  • Jay-Z Dame Dash, and Kareem "Biggs" Burke sell off the remaining 50% stake of Roc-A-Fella Records to Universal's Island Def Jam for less than $10 million and go their separate ways.
2006:
  • Nas inks a joint-label deal with Def Jam and Columbia.
  • Detroit producer/MC Jay Dee (James Yancey) dies of complications from lupus (the autoimmune disease) on February 10, 2006.
  • D-12's Proof (Deshaun Holton) is shot and killed at CCC Club on East 8 Mile Road on April 10.
  • Jay-Z ends his three-year break from active recording and bounces back with Kingdom Come. The album includes a diss track to Cam'ron and Jim Jones.
  • Nas' Def Jam debut, Hip-Hop Is Dead, dusts up controversy and debate over its title.
2007:
  • Inspired by the movie 'American Gangster,' Jay-Z records a concept album by the same name. American Gangster
  • On November 12, Donda West, mother of Kanye West, dies from the complications of surgery.
  • KRS-One and Marley Marl put two decades of rivalry behind them and collaborate on an album titled Hip-Hop Lives
  • Dipset/Byrd Gang rapper Stack Bundles (born Rayquon Elliott) is shot and killed outside his home in Queens, New York.
2008:
  • In the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election, Democratic nominee Barack Obama galvanizes hip-hop artists into action, leading to a slew of Obama rap tributes.
  • Jay-Z becomes the first rapper to headline Glastonbury, the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world.
  • Brooklyn MC Jamal "Gravy" Woolard is recruited to play the Biggie Smalls in the biopic Notorious.
2009:
  • Eminem ends his four-year sabbatical with the release of Relapse. The album debuts at No. 1 and scores a Grammy win for Best Rap Album.
  • T.I. is sentenced to 12 months in federal prison for illegal weapons possession.
  • DJ AM is found dead in his New York apartment, following a series of ominous tweets.
  • Four revered MCs Detroit's Royce da 5'9", California's Crooked I, New Jersey's Joe Budden, and Brooklyn's Joel Ortiz join forces to form a supergroup named Slaughterhouse. Their self-titled debut re-energizes the lyricism movement in hip-hop.
2010:
  • Gang Starr co-founder and hip-hop icon Guru dies on April 19 after a grueling battle with cancer.
  • Bun B's third solo album, Trill OG, becomes the first album in five years to receive The Source magazine's 5-mic award.
  • Wyclef Jean declares for presidency of his native country Haiti. Jean's candidacy is eventually rejected by the electoral council.