Hip-Hop Evolution: Episode Three

Updated: Feb 9, 2020


Netflix's latest original documentary, "Hip-Hop Evolution" has recently been released via the streaming service as a surprising new addition to its burgeoning hip-hop history selection. This is part three of a four-episode breakdown.

(Editor's Note: Episode three's recap was postponed in favor of my review and recap of Wrestle Kingdom 11.)

Hip-Hop Evolution's third episode explores hip-hop's golden age. The age is credited to beginning with Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rap". A commercial hit, this inspired Russell Simmons to team with Punk Rick Rubin to form Def Jam. Def Jam's label includes some of the biggest names in hip-hop history: LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run-DMC. The genius behind Def Jam is its willingness to mix. Rick Rubin was originally a punk rocker in New York's underground scene, who was able to crossover into hip-hop via his production. The Beastie Boys were originally a punk band that slightly changed their sound for 1986's boisterous "Licensed To Ill" under Rubin's direction. However, what changed hip-hop was the monumental feature made between Run-DMC and Aerosmith, revitalizing one career and launching another.

Run-DMC is regarded now as the Beatles of hip-hop, but they were rebels in their own right. Hip-Hop pre-1984 was flash and glam, Afrika Bambaataa and Melle Mel wearing disco style shirts and leather. After the release of "Sucker MCs", a harder, brasher style of rap came into focus. This style of hip-hop reflected the increasingly intense streets of 1980s New York. Their braggadocio and lyrics were harder than most of their contemporaries, and with this came the Adidas-centric look now regarded as iconic. The tracksuit, shell-toes and Kangols became the hip-hop uniform, and mogul-in-waiting Russell Simmons convinced his brother, Joseph "Run" Simmons to create what was essentially an audition for Adidas. "My Adidas" became a hit, and Run-DMC became the first non-athletic entity to have an endorsement with the athletic giant and by 1986, their feature with Aerosmith had turned them mainstream.

On the other end of the spectrum is labelmates Public Enemy, The Long Island group captured the political sentiments at the time. As the nation started to split along political lines, Public Enemy was there to narrate it. They were just as brash as Run-DMC, but rather than using their brashness for braggadocio, they were loud and proud of their blackness. When Chuck D's deep baritone rapped "Elvis was a hero to most but never meant s--t to me, racist the sucka was simple and plain", echoed by Flavor Flav "m--------k him and John Wayne", they attack white middle America's sensibilities with no regard for how they were taken. As America changed, PE would lead the charge in capturing the reality of urban life.

#Review #HipHop #Braven

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