It hit me that Hip Hop still isn’t as mainstream pop culture as I thought for some reason. While looking at reviews for the A Tribe Called Quest documentary Beat, Rhymes and Life The travels Of A Tribe Called Quest on non Hip Hop related sites I was shocked over half of the reviewers didn’t know of this legendary group. Really, A Tribe Called Quest, really, people have no idea who they are, really? Then I thought back to when Jive Records released the Anthology CD and included “Vibrant Thing”, that was even the sticker on the case to help sell it. So yeah, maybe A Tribe Called Quest isn’t as popular as I would love to believe.
That got me thinking about how many other somewhat mainstream pop relevant Hip Hop artists aren’t really known. Yeah we know the songs or some of their influences but not the artists at all. So of course I came up with ten artists that fit that category.
- Afrika Bambaataa
This name, this man should be known by any and everyone who claims they love Hip Hop or that they’re in this Hip Hop culture. That’s another conversation for another time, right now I’m talking about causal fans that know the classic song “Planet Rock”. I’m going to out on a limb here and say every skating rink acrossAmericaand say “Planet Rock” gets played and gets love. When the song comes on it’s energizing and just feels like it was made for skating rinks. The downside is everyone knows the song but not the man behind the song. You say Afirka Bambaataa and not many people even seem to be familiar with the name. Just off the strength that this song gets played every weekend it would be best to look up this founding farther of our culture.
2. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock
Like “Planet Rock” you can hear “It Takes Two” anywhere outside of the world of Hip Hop. I’ve heard this song even gets play at weddings. What was and still is a nice subtle classic in the Hip Hop world is a constant go to with the top 40 hits clubs. Not only does it come on, it gets people on the floor. Again ask the average person who the artist is and you get a blank stare. Rob Base is considered a one hit wonder, unlike many other one hit wonders his one hit will live on in pop culture. His name however has already become an afterthought.
It’s crazy besides Game no new West Coast MCs really shouts the late Eazy – E name out. People seem to just be kinda jumping on N.W.A and that’s because of the hunt for Dr. Dre’s old material, I’m sure people have “Turn Off The Lights” somewhere too. The first thing I’ve heard people say when they’re introduced to N.W.A is of course “Is that Ice Cube?’ Then they recognize Dre. It’s the other three dudes that are unfamiliar to the average person listening to Hip Hop these days. If Schoolly D, Ice –T and Kool G. Rap can be credited for giving birth to “gangsta rap” Eazy –E should get credit for raising and cultivating it. Dre and Cube will tell you N.W.A. was the brainchild of Eazy-E. Every MC that has taken to making gangsta rap or just saying fuck the police needs to know Eazy-E is the guy who started this gangsta shit and deserves to be acknowledged.
4. A Tribe Called Quest
Yeah the very group that made me come up with this list. I still find it hard that this group is not as popular as I would have bet all I have on saying otherwise. The classics are too long to list and even with the whole “A Milli” being a hit and the legal issue of the sample it seem no one even took the time to look up one of Hip Hop’s greatest group if not the greatest group of all time. These days the name doesn’t even ring a bell with people for some reason… That is such a sad thing to come away with.
5. Young MC
Like Afrika Bambaataa and Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock Young MC has a song that will live on far after the man is no longer here. That song is “Bust The Move”. To me it’s one of the corniest songs I’ve ever heard and I actually throw Young MC’s name out when I compare rappers to being ass on the mic. I always say they’re bad not Young MC bad. Truth is this song can and does work well in clubs and party environments. Like the other artists no one knows who the artists but for some reason knows all the words to the song. Really, I ran into a 19 year old female who knows the words to this song and only knows the name because she downloaded the song. She did admit she googled the title to get the name of the artist.
6. Run DMC
Here is a name that should have been higher on my list, much higher. Run DMC is Hip Hop’s first pop stars, you didn’t have to really be a fan of Hip Hop at all to know Run DMC in the past. Run DMC also was the introduction to the Hip Hop culture for lots of people around the world back in the day. Run DMC should be like Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis and The Beach Boys. A name that automatically is reorganized once it’s spoken or seen. As time has passed the grand treatment has dwindled for the group. I never thought I’d say Run DMC and no one would know who I’m talking about, but that is the case nowadays.
7. Flava Flav
Yes, everyone knows Flava as some wild dude who rocks a Vikings helmet but he wasn’t always that dude. Flava Flav was the hype man to Chuck D. anda member of the controversial Hip Hop group Public Enemy. The one song anyone knows of him is the somewhat successful “911 Is A Joke”. Flava wasn’t always some joke, ok he was comic relief within a very serious rap group, but he wasn’t considered a joke back then. Now he is just this dude running around with a Vikings helmet on. Within the world of Hip Hop he is still Flava Flav member of Pubic Enemy and will always get respect for that.
8. The Fresh Prince
Pass “Summertime” which comes on less and less during the summertime there isn’t many Dj Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince songs circulating around anymore. Yeah that fucking “Getting Jiggy With It” still gets play sometimes in a club here and there but that’s under Will Smith not The Fresh Prince. The world has forgotten about the contributions The Fresh Prince has given us. Even “Parents Just Don’t Understand” gets no love these days. It’s cool to be old enough to be aware of the transition Will has made from the days as the round the way roadie of legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff to making a name for himself in Hip Hop as a MC to a star on a successful sitcom to being one of the highest paid actors in the game now. Hell even the sitcom years are starting to become a blur these days.
9. Lil Wayne
This and my number ten are truly for those Hip Hop heads of this generation of listeners, the ones who don’t feel compelled to go back pass 2000 when they do their history. Lil Wayne isn’t a favorite of mine at all but I give him respect for keeping his name out there during the not as hot days about ten years ago. I remember Weezy when him and Turk were a bit of a tag team for The Hot Boyz… Remember them, Juvie, BG, Manie Fresh, Baby, Turk and Weezy? You don’t? It’s ok not many people do, even “Back That Ass Up” doesn’t ring a bell to many people and that was a major radio hit and somewhat posse cut featuring Manny and Lil Wayne. There’s a lot of longevity hate within Hip Hop over the last six or so years. Well Weezy has been doing his thing since 97 record release wise on Juvie first album Soulja Rags, a year after Jay-Z debut album and two years before the world was introduced to 50 Cent on the In Too Deep soundtrack with the classic “How To Rob”. When you look at it from this angle all three men have been doing their thing just as long but only one is not considered a true Hip Hop vet… Again if you’re a fan know that artists history.
10. Biggie and Pac
I do this because I saw a teen with a Pac shirt and was like you listen to 2Pac, I was more shocked than anything. Then the kid said yeah but he never heard his music, WTF? Biggie and Pac are now like The Beatles, Jimi, Elvis, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara and Bob Marley… Faces on shirts and walls of young people who know nothing about them pass the iconic figure status pop culture has placed on them. I know older people who wear Biggie shirts and don’t know one fucking song, they don’t know “Big Poppa” or “One More Chance”. Then there are those who know of the industry rape postmortem album releases of both artists filled with hot at time people, most who had never met either men. I honestly don’t own any of those albums even when I wanted the one Pac album Em produced I pulled back because word had it Em cropped a Pac quote to make it sound like he was talking to Eminem. So called new fans need to get the original songs and albums of the two men when they were alive. Yes Biggie catalog isn’t anywhere close to what Pac has but it’s better than those fake ass albums and way better then rocking those artists’ likenesses because you think it’s the shit to do. Who knows you may listen to their albums and not even like their music. I know people who aren’t fans of either or and in some cases both men. These are legends in our culture for a reason, not because they died over some so-called “East Coast West Coast beef” but because they made good Hip Hop.