The Hip Hop culture began in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, among black and Latin people, in the early 1970s, and since then has spread across the globe. The four main elements of it are MCing (rapping), DJing, graffiti and breakdance. Some consider beatboxing the fifth element of hip hop. In media, hip-hop usually refers only to the music produced by the hip hop culture.
The hip-hop music, which can be recognized by its emphasis on rhythm, includes rap, resulted from the blend of Jamaican and American music blended by the immigrant DJ Kool Herc at its parties that began in 1970’s. Herc served to the public funk records, but invented the beat of hip-hop through the isolation of sites (the only song with drums) from the rest of the song. While this music has developed a whole culture, the music itself has experienced a golden age during the period of 1986 to 1993.
The most visible part of hip-hop culture today are the MC’s (Master Ceremony – Master of Ceremonies) who entertained the audience with rap (rhymes put on rhythm). With origins rooted in Jamaica, rap has developed dramatically since its introduction to the hip-hop culture by the so called Kool Herc in Hollywood in the 70s. The first MC, Coke La Rock, was genuine. Rap has evolved over time because of the many pioneers such as Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Schooly D, Run DMC, etc.
Although hip-hop did not invent the concept of DJ, it has expanded and diversified its techniques. The first hip hop DJ, Kool Herc, was the DJ who created the hip-hop break through the isolation of sites. In addition to improving his techniques Herc, Grandmaster Flash as a DJ, Grandmaster Theodore and Grandmaster Case made further innovations by introducing the scratch into the community.
In the early years of hip-hop the DJs were the stars, but the limelight was stolen from them by rappers in 1978, mainly thanks to Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash’s band, Furious Five. But some other DJs like Funkmaster Flex, DJ Clue, and DJ Dox etc. have gained fame in the recent years only. The underground movement of turntablism has surfaced, focusing also on DJ skills.
These being said, let’s focus on the present and make a list, as good as it could get, of the best Hip-Hop artists of all times as we know them:
6. Snoop Dog
Snoop Dogg, on his real name Calvin Broadus, was born on October 20, 1972. His mother used to call him `Snoopy` when he was a kid because his eyes looked the way they look. Therefore, when he began recording he took the stage name Snoop Doggy `Dog`. He changed his nickname in Snoop Doogie in 1996, when he left Death Row Records studio and signed with No Limit Records.
As a rapper, he is recognized as drawl, obscured. According to Soundscan, his music sold around 17.6 million albums in the US from 1991 until January 2006. As a major figure of the gangsta rap of the 90s, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s rap was in fact inspired from fiction. Introduced to the world of rap albums by Dr. Dre – “The Chronic”, Snoop Doggy Dogg has become a rapstar, especially after being arrested on charges of being an accomplice to murder.
Dr. Dre decided that he should make his first attempt in 1992, with the song for “Deep Cover”, Snoop singing in it with him. The first solo album by Dr. Dre – “The Chronic” was released at the end of 1992, in which Snoop sings almost as much as Dre.
“Doggystyle” was finally released on Death Row in November 1993 and became the first album by Snoop which climbed to No. 1 on the charts. As a rapper, Snoop become more controversial because of the arrests and texts that were considered too violent and sexist.
Snoop Doggy Dogg spent much of 1995 preparing for trial, which took place in the late ’95. In February 1996 he was cleared of all the charges and began working on the second album “Tha Doggfather”, this time without Dr. Dre as producer.
When the album was finally released in 1996, it was clear that there was a G-Funk album produced by Dr. Dre. The album was and the remixes initially sold well, but over time he didn’t manage to launch another hit like “What’s my name two?” and “Gin & Juice”. Recently he changed his style, changing not only the style but also the name, from Snoop Dog to Snoop Lion, recording a new album, “Reincarnated” which was quite a success.
Nas, Olu Dara Jones Osama Nasir on his real name, was born on 14 September 1973 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, USA. His father, Olu Dara was a jazz musician and blues from Mississippi, his mother, Fannie Ann Jones was a Postal Service worker, having only one brother, Jabari Fret. After his family and him moved in Queensbridge, their parents divorced and his father leaved them.
He quit school when he was only in the eighth grade. Nas and his best friend, Willy “Ill Will” Graham decide to focus their careers on Hip-Hop. Nas made his solo debut as the Nasty Nas with the single “Halftime”. Afterwards several singles followed, including “The World is Yours,” “Not hard to tell” and “One Love”.
Because Graham was shot in Queensbridge on May 23, 1992, their partnership ended, Nas after performing live the Main Source’s Live at the BBQ stage, in 1992, was approached by MC Serch who became his manager and granted him with a contract with Columbia Records the same year.
He recorded several albums with the company among which we can recall: “Illmatic”, in 1994, “It was written” in 1996, “Nastradamus” in 1999, “Stillmatic” in 2001, “Son of God” in 2002, “Street’s Disciple” in 2004, “Hip Hop Is Dead” in 2006 and “Untitled” in 2008.
Nas is also an actor and some of the films in which he made an appearance are:” In Too Deep” in 1999, “Ticker” in 2001, “John Q” in 2002, “Uptown Girls” in 2003 and “Vapors” in 2009.
In 1994, Nas and Carmen Bryan, his former fiancée, had a daughter called Destiny. It is said that Carmen had a sexual relationship with fellow rapper Jay-Z as well as with Allen Iverson soon after she and Nas were separated. In 2005, Nas got married to the singer Kelis in Atlanta after a two-year relationship, but on 30 April 2009, a spokesman confirmed that Kelis had filed for divorce, however Kelis gave birth to the first son in July 21, 2009.
Dr. Dre, with his real name Andre Young, was born on February 18, 1965 and is involved in the American hip-hop since the 80s, DJ-ing at parties and clubs in South Central Los Angeles, along with The World Class Wreckin ‘Cru; making a lot of records meanwhile.
In 1986, Dr. Dre met Ice Cube, and the two of them began to write songs for Ruthless Records, a label established by the former “junkie” Eazy-E. Eazy wanted to give one of the two songs, “Boyz N the Hood,” to a group that signed to Ruthless, HBO. When the group declined, Eazy took matters into his own hands and formed NWA –meaning Niggaz With Attitude – with Dre and Cube, taking out their first album in 1987.
One year later, NWA pulled “Straight Outta Compton”, a disc that became an underground hit with no support from the radio world, the press or MTV. NWA became famous for their “explicit” lyrics, especially with the song “Fuck tha’ Police,” which resulted in the receipt of a letter of warning from the FBI towards Ruthless and its parent company, Priority, suggesting that the group NWA should take care.
Dr. Dre made his first single solo, “Deep Cover,” in the spring of 1992. It was not just the sound track debut or G-Funk’s, but also the beginning of his collaboration with the rapper Snoop Dogg. Dr Dre discovered Snoop through his half brother Warren G, and immediately began working with him. Snoop appeared on Dre’s debut album “The Chronic” in 1992, as much as Dre himself.
Due to the singles “’Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang, “,” Dre Day” and ” Let Me Ride” album, “The Chronic” reached to be an multi-platinum album, smashing everything in the Top 10, and changing the world of the hip-hop community. Over the next four years it was virtually impossible to hear a hip-hop that has not been “affected”, one way or another, by Dr Dre’s sound or the innovative G-Funk.
Not only that Dre produced the debut album of Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle” in 1993, but he orchestrated several soundtracks, including “Above the Rim” and “Murder Was the Case”, both in 1994, which were function samplers for his new artists and his technical production; he ruled with hits with Warren G,”Regulate”, and Blackstreet, among others; including a hit with Ice Cube, “Natural Born Killaz“. In all this time, Dre brought out new albums, but did not need to do it, because everyone in the record “Death Row” were under his control (the record being his, while most of the “new artists” imitated his technique.
“Hip-hop saved my life,” he says. And he has rescued many. “Lose Yourself”, a hit that made history in the industry, brought him in 2002 gave the artist an Oscar for Best Song in the movie 8 Mile. Eminem led street music to another level: the stereotyped and mocked quiet young man, an outsider traumatized by a dysfunctional family that finds peace only trough brutally honest lyrics.
“Success is my only option, failure’s not” – and he kept his own words, so he came to be called by the Rolling Stone the King of Hip-hop. Eminem was the first artist to win three Grammy Awards for three consecutive albums. Even his latest album, the eighth of his career, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, launched in 2013, became the sixth No. 1 album on the charts, also brought two, letting him now with 15 such trophies. But the rapper, producer, actor and songwriter is still not used to fame at the age of 43 years: ”I wish I could go out and eat a fucking sandwich!”
It does not matter if you’re a fan or not: Eminem’s story became a great lesson about success without any chances: he was born after a 73 hours labor, close to his mother dead on 17 October 1972, as Marshall Bruce Mathers the III, the only child of Bruce (63) and Debbie (60).
His parents met when she was 14 and him 17. Too young to give a future to the superstar or a quiet childhood. His mother gave birth at 17, but his father, a musician, soon left, forcing Debbie to take the child and move from one city to another to survive until they settled in Michigan when Marshall Jr. was 11.
“A jovial kid, “said his family, but” a loner “, often taunted by peers, to the point that, in 1982, Debbie filed a lawsuit against De’Angelo Bailey, who hit her son in the head seriously. It was a painful start for a teenager who could not find its place in the Eight Mile, a district of lower class African Americans angry at any other social category. “I was beaten in the bathrooms, halls and closed the game on,” admits Eminem. The only weapon he had at hand was the word, wanting to become a comic artist before discovering the hip hop.
“Hip-hop saved my life, the only thing I understood. I can not do anything else. “When not working to help his mother, the terrible kid of Detroit sneaked into rhymes competitions with a friend by the name of M & M, hence the future name “Eminem”. At 15, however, his life changed radically when his mother brought in their home a minor, Kimberly Ann Scott, a runaway. Kim would become a recurrent subject for the rapper’s songs, the mother of his child, Hailie Jade.
2. The Notorious B.I.G.
Christopher George Wallace Latorica born on May 21, 1972, known by his stage name The Notorious BIG Biggie Biggie Smalls or after a gangster from the 1975 film “Let’s Do It Again“, was one of the best American rappers.
Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Wallace grew up in the 80s, the peak period for selling drugs on the streets, something he practiced from an early age. When he released his debut album “Ready to Die” in 1994 he was a central figure in the hip hop scene of the East Coast and increased the visibility of New York at a time when rap was dominated by artists from the US West Coast. The following year, Wallace, with several childhood friends formed a band. While recording the second album, Biggie was involved in the conflict between East Coast and West Coast dominating the media scene.
Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead at age 24 in Los Angeles in the early hours of the morning on March 9, 1997. The rapper was sitting in a sports car, next to the driver, in the passenger seat, when he was killed. His autopsy report obtained by Reuters, indicates that the Notorious BIG was shot in the arms, back, groin and abdomen. According to the same report, the shootings that have been fatal were the ones in the abdomen, which had perforated his colon, liver, and then, the heart and lungs.
The file of this murder remains unsolved, and police representatives in Los Angeles declined to comment about it. Representatives of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Los Angeles said that the autopsy report was kept secret for security reasons all these years, but this particular regime was eventually canceled by the US police. Although the report contains little new information to those that were already known, it brings back many theories about a possible conspiracy that hovered around this crime.
One such theory says that there was a strong dispute between the hip-hop community on the eastern coast of the US and the hip-hop community on the west coast and that the murder of Notorious BIG was actually a reaction to the murder of the rapper Tupac Shakur in Los Angeles in 1996, which represents another case of murder which remains unsolved to this day. The Notorious BIG, who was from New York, was renowned for his cunning and spiritual lyrics, but also for his corpulent body. The musician had a height of 186 centimeters, weighing 179 kilograms at death.
1. Tupac Shakur
Known as 2Pac, Makaveli or simply Pac, Tupac Shakur was an American artist famous for his rap style and his music, his acting career, poetry and social activity. Included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the rapper with the most album sales worldwide, with revenues of over $120 million, with $65 million in America alone.
Most of Tupac’s songs are about the hard life in the ghettos, racism, problems of the society, and sometimes insults towards other rappers. Tupac is known for supporting equality of race and economic equality, but he was also known for his violence, drug abuse and conflict with the law. Many consider him as the greatest rapper of all time.
He began his career as a rapper in 1990 when he recorded his first song with the vocal group “Digital Underground”. Later on he released his first album, “2Pacalypse Now“, which earned him many critics because of the aggressive language in it.
In 1993, Tupac formed the group Thug Life with a few friends of his: Big Syke, Macadoshis, his half-brother Mopreme Shakur and Rated R. The group released their first and last album Thug Life Vol. 1 on September 26, 1994 The concept of, Thug life “in Tupac’s vision was a philosophy of life. He defined the word, thug “not as a criminal but as a man who is stable, which knows its strength, who makes his life and is proud of his achievements.
Because of rivalries between bands, the artists was shot and died 6 days after, in a hospital, because of pulmonary problems.
“He looked at me and took a breath to find the words, then he opened his mouth. Then, words were spoken: “Fuck You!”, “he told Chris Carroll, a former sergeant in the Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas, now retired.
The death of the musician is, even today, an unsolved murder case.