Top Ten: Golden Age Of Hip Hop

With Run DMC, Public Enemy, LL Cool J
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Let a man reminisce on a Friday afternoon won't you? Today's Top Ten list attempts to share some of the highlights from the golden age of Hip Hop, generally accepted to run from 1986 to 1992.

Thankfully the time period when I listened to nothing else lest the Hip Hop police would arrive in the night, place a black bag over my head and whisk me away never to be seen again for being a sell out to the cause.

What the cause was I'm a little hazy on now but here I am, the UK's longest running rap fugitive ready to revisit an Adrian Mole-esque period of his life with one of the greatest soundtracks you could hope for...

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Run DMC - Walk This Way



The track that started the love affair for me as hip hop entered the mainstream thanks to the Aerosmith sampling classic. Of course at the time I thought the two wrinkly guys in the video were actors performing as cliched rockstars. Turns out they needed no instruction. Taken from their masterpiece 'Raising Hell' album, there was plenty to fuel a new love affair and guarantee a loyalty to the cuddly teddy bears of hip hop (as I call them) as their output inevitably declined. Still, R.I.P. Jam Master Jay.

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LL Cool J - I'm Bad



The man who made you want to steal your granny's hat in emulation, it's 'Ladies Love Cool James' and an early highlight from his 'Bigger And Deffer' album. One of early Hip Hop's braggers, resplendent in leather trousers and with a tendency to take his top off he must've had some gay following on the quiet. Recently popping up on a Kasabian track Uncle L otherwise busies himself as an 'actor'. Retired footballers buy a pub, retired rappers get a role on late night CSI spin-offs.

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Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full



Another late 80s act that delivered a faultless debut album, Eric B and Rakim even managed a hit in the UK thanks to Coldcut's 'Seven Minutes of Madness' remix that pitched their cut and paste patchwork creation against one of Rakim's finest moments even dropping in a 17th Century Hebrew poem (Ofra Haza'a 'Im Nin'alu').

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Boogie Down Productions- My Philosophy



BDP a.k.a. KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone). How's them acronyms for ya! The self styled teacher of rap KRS-One could bring to mind a dull Thursday in the back of History with his worthiness at times but, for the most part, was an engaging, pivotal character in Hip Hop's golden age with material like 'My Philosophy' and the 'By All Means Necessary' albums with its Malcolm X aping cover pose. His stage invasion during a PM Dawn gig is a less auspicious episode in his career.

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Public Enemy - Rebel Without A Cause



Such is the quality of Public Enemy's output during this period that just narrowing down a single track to appear here was a challenge in itself. Chuck D's observation that rap music is the CNN for black people is a great, and accurate, quote but did they consider the effects it'd have on a white teenage on a Scottish housing estate? Now, I've never had to draw on my knowledge of the Nation of Islam or Minister Farrakhan acquired by my devotion to Public Enemy but I'm sure it'll come in useful one day.

Oh and by the way, they were one of the greatest musical acts of the Twentieth Century of that there is no doubt.

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De La Soul - Me, Myself And I



Hip Hop took a diversion in 89 with the arrival of De La Soul and their Daisy Age schtick. Forgoing the usual bragging and boasting (no offence L) the trio favoured a humorous, bullshit free approach on '3 Feet High And Rising', a minor revolution in a genre that almost burnt LL Cool J at the stake for his 'I Need Love' rap ballad. Turning hip hop on its head with its production, De La Soul created a classic album with producer Prince Paul, its just a shame they got all uptight on its follow up 'De La Soul Is Dead'.
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A Tribe Called Quest - I Left My Wallet In El Segundo



More light-hearted antics came from De La Soul associated A Tribe called Quest, part of the Native Tongues collective with De La, Jungle Brothers and a host of others, and a first spotting of future superstar Q-Tip. Known for their breakout 'Can I Kick It' hit the whole album it came from, 'People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm', is an essential listen though the group really found it's voice on subsequent albums 'The Low End Theory' and 'Midnight Mauraders'.

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The Pharcyde - Passin' Me By



More laidback, ego free (at least on record) rap this time from the West Coast and The Pharcyde. Sadly also following the De La Soul model of an underwhelming second album, 'Labcabincalifornia', the South Central crew really pushed the boundaries, braving ridicule for tales of accidentally hooking up with a transvestite, falling for the advances of a bandmate's mother or just having a wank, nothing was off limits (though 'Officer Please' kept an eye on the serious as they recount being pulled over for the crime of being young black men in a car).

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N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton



Another major movement, Gangsta Rap (though not birthed by this crew), found a ready audience with angry teens looking to annoy their guardians around the globe thankfully backed up (at least in this case) by crazy quality. Boasting production by Dr Dre and Ice Cube on the mic, alongside Easy E, MC Ren and Yella, this was proper exciting, write it on your schoolbag, stuff that really did live out the 'rap as punk' tag that'd been bandied about since Public Enemy.

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Cypress Hill - How I Could Just Kill A Man



Another twist in Hip Hop's rocky road came in the ascendance of stoner rap trio Cypress Hill, teaming B-Real's nasal whine with DJ Muggs inventive fucked-funk creations. Suddenly Hip Hop was enveloped in a fug of weed smoke and seemed to take on a Grateful Dead vibe for a while albeit with added gang affiliations and drive-bys.

Words by Nick Annan

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