A History Lesson In Hip-Hop

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A History Lesson In Hip-Hop

Words by Tom M Ford

1 September 2016

Hip-hop is not a genre or idea that immediately comes to mind when you take a first glance at English band Glass Animals – who look about as polite and unassuming as you would expect of a young quartet who met in Oxford. But Mr Dave Bayley – the lead singer who grew up in Texas (where he would listen to gangsta rap rather than country music) – is a bit of an expert when it comes to the genre. It heavily influences their latest album How To Be A Human Being – released last week (listen here) – and has been a feature in their beat-heavy indie rock since they released their debut album Zaba in June 2014. It has even resulted in a collaboration with the Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ – on a track released last year called “Lose Control”.

With the events surrounding the foundation of hip-hop so well documented in the recent, ground-breaking Netflix series The Get Down – we thought we would ask Mr Bayley for the key tracks that best represent the history of the genre, from its birth to the present day. Read Mr Bayley’s commentary, below – which features the most notable hip-hop producers and artists of all time.

Listen to the full hip-hop track list on Spotify here

1973

“Bongo Rock ’73” – The Incredible Bongo Band

“DJ Kool Herc was the first to sample drum breaks from songs and pull them together into seamless instrumental beats. This was his favourite break, supposedly.”

1979

“Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang

“This is possibly the first official hip-hop track. It was definitely the first mainstream hit for hip-hop, helping to bring an underground style from the Bronx to the masses.”

1986

“Peter Piper” – Run-DMC

“These guys made the first hip-hop record that was nominated for a Grammy, and were the first to get gold, platinum, and multi-platinum records. They showed us all the potential hip-hop had to take over the world.”

1987

“Bring The Noise” – Public Enemy

“You may know them as the group with the hype man who had a big clock around his neck. But Public Enemy should be better known for social and political commentary in their music.”

1988

“Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A.

“These dudes pretty much invented gangster rap. They’re responsible for all of the parental advisory stickers we see on records today and were banned from mainstream radio. The group also spawned the likes of Ice Cube, Dr Dre, MC Ren, and Eazy-E. I wasn't alive when they were most active, but they were pretty cool.”

“Me, Myself And I” – De La Soul

“These guys are responsible for the ‘hip-hop skit’. Every record that now has any kind of skit has De La Soul and their producer Prince Paul to thank.”

1991

“Buggin’ Out” – A Tribe Called Quest

“A Tribe Called Quest are regarded as one of the most important hip-hop groups ever – for pioneering artistic and intelligent rap. Produced by Q-Tip, their sound is one of the most distinctive of all. There’s a great documentary about them, named Beats, Rhymes, & Life, after their album.”

1992

“Passin’ Me By” – The Pharcyde

“This is just one of my favourite jams. It always gets played on the Glass Animals tour bus.”

1994

“Gimme The Loot” – The Notorious B.I.G.

“The coolest flow in the game. Watch some of his freestyles on YouTube. It'll blow your mind.”

1996

“Killing Me Softly” – The Fugees

“Lauryn Hill changed it all by singing and rapping on this track. Her solo record The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is a must listen.”

1998

“SpottieOttieDopaliscious” – Outkast

“Big Boi and André 3000 – what a killer combination. You’ll probably know all of their hits, but this one, which samples Genesis, is very experimental.”

1999

“Still D.R.E.” – Dr Dre

“Is Dr Dre is one of the best hip-hop producers of all time? He has worked with everyone from Kendrick Lamar and Eminem to Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Tupac. Kanye West says his track ‘Xxplosive’ is where he got his entire sound.”

2000

“Hip Hop” – Dead Prez

“This one is just really fun. Turn the bass up.”

“Gravel Pit” – Wu-Tang Clan

“Are Wu-Tang the greatest rap collective of all time? The line-up reads like a who’s who of modern rap geniuses. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is considered one of the greatest hip-hop records ever made.”

2001

“Get Ur Freak On” – Missy Elliott

“Missy has won a ridiculous amount of Grammies and sold so many records. She took over hip-hop with Timbaland and her album Supa Dupa Fly is the record I use to test sound systems with.”

2003

“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” – Jay Z

“Drug dealer turned rapper turned businessman – it would be wrong to create a hip-hop playlist without Jay Z in it. Watch the video on YouTube of him and Timbaland in the studio coming up with this track. It’s genius.”

2004

“Drop It Like Its Hot” – Snoop Dogg

“A great track which Pharrell produced. You can see how similar it is to his hit ‘Happy’ when you listen to how sparse the instrumentation is. Typical Pharrell.”

2009

“Auditorium” – Mos Def

“Mos Def [now known as Yasiin Bey] started life as an actor. He’s been a strong political activist. His first record, Black On Both Sides is a masterpiece. This track is produced my Madlib – who is another contender for best hip-hop producer of all time. Madlib has made beats for pretty much everyone in the game and worked closely with J Dilla – another seminal beatmaker who passed away far too young.”

2010

“Monster” – Kanye West

“Kanye started as a protégé of Jay Z’s. He made all of his beats, before finding his own skills as an MC. Sometimes we forget how much he’s pushed the genre of hip-hop forwards. The verse from Nicki Minaj in this is one of my favourite of all time.”

2012

“Money Trees” – Kendrick Lamar

“Simply awesome. This track uses a Beach House sample in reverse as the main hook in its beat. DJ Dahi is on the production here – a producer to watch out for for sure.”

2013

“Hilary $wank” – Joey Bada$$

“This dude is sick. I’m very happy that we had the opportunity to work with him.”

2015

 “Lemme Know” ­– Vince Staples

“There are many people who could sculpt the future of hip-hop in years to come, and we reckon Vince Staples will be one of them. His album Summertime ’06 is just an exciting taste of what is to come.”