1984: A Great Year for Hip-Hop


We’ve just passed the half-way point of 2014 and, and if you’ve followed the hip-hop newswire with even a passing curiosity, you’re probably already up to your medulla oblongata in “20th Anniversary” retrospectives. That’s not to say 1994 wasn’t an incredible year, but the high praise it’s been getting has somewhat overshadowed another important milestone a mere 10 years prior. We’re correcting this error right here and now with Hip-Hop’s 30th Anniversaries that deserve recognition.

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Run-DMC Release Hip-Hop’s First Album.
Run-DMC’s self-titled release is widely considered the first hip-hop album. While there were collections of singles by notable rap artists, at the time Run-DMC was regarded as being the first to truly sound like a cohesive album. While that might be a grey area up to some debate, it’s a fact that this release was the very first rap album to go gold. That year, Rolling Stone named “Sucker MCs” the most important rap single since “The Message.”

“Graffiti Rock” – Hip-Hop’s First Television Pilot
Run-DMC were also a big part of the first real full-fledged attempt at nationwide rap-based programming. While Ralph McDaniels’ “Video Music Box” was already in effect and The Funky 4 +1 had ushered in rap’s television debut years prior, the “Graffiti Rock” pilot was the first rap-centric episodic program ever made. Featuring all four elements of hip-hop, it’s also notable for a cameo from a young Vincent Gallo as “Prince Vince.” Side note, the other white breakdancer is Loose Bruce who, years later, had a hit with A.R.C. Moe Rock with “She’s a Brickhouse.”

The “Roxanne” Feud: Rap’s First Epic War on Wax
While there had been rap battles in person going back to Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, the first landmark recorded rap feud was The Roxanne Wars of 1984. Started innocently enough with UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” a song the group claims to this day was entirely fictional, a young Roxanne Shante was selected by DJ Marley Marl to take up the moniker of “THE Roxanne” and respond. By the end of the year, record store shelves were flooded with “Roxanne” response records, with some estimates putting the number of releases somewhere around 40.

Def Jam’s first single: LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat” / T La Rock & Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours”
1984 was the magical year that Russell Simmons was introduced to Rick Rubin and they opened Def Jam Records out of the Weinstein Dorms at NYU. The question of “what was Def Jam’s first single” will give you one of two answers. If we’re going by the first single to have the words “Def Jam” on it, that honor goes to T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours.” However, the first single officially released under this Simmons-Rubin partnership, which most recognize as the event horizon of the official Def Jam catalog, is LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat.”

Whodini Running the World
In all of the ’80s rap retrospectives our nostalgia-driven society gets on a regular basis, it’s unfortunate how seldom Whodini’s legacy is mentioned alongside their contemporaries. The group release Escape in 1984, the earliest rap album to go Platinum. Containing such gigantic crossover hits as “Freaks Come Out at Night,” “Friends,” “Five Minutes of Funk” and “Big Mouth,” allowing the group to tour worldwide, it’s among the most influential rap releases of its era.

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