These “rewind” columns are a chance to take a look back at hip-hop history, but they also allow me to point out events that were going on in the world that shaped the outlook of people living in that era of history. One positive sign in 1988 was directly attributable to the man with the unmistakable birthmark to your right. Mikhail Gorbachev was the eighth and last leader of what we knew at the time as the Soviet Union, which had been engaged in a “cold war” for decades with the United States, leading to a dangerous proliferation of nuclear weapons and a lot of war-by-proxy in places like Nicaragua we were afraid would become satellite Soviet states (which also caused the Iran-Contra Affair here).
Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader who decided that the cost of these wars in lives and resources (particularly a disastrous campaign in Afghanistan) was a mistake and that it was time for a “rethink” of state policy. He introduced a period of glasnost (translation: openness) with increased transparency of government activities and greater freedom of the press concurrent to relaxed surpression of political dissent. He directly engaged the United States in talks which led over the years to a reduction in stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, the dissolution of the Berlin Wall (and reunification of Germany) and perhaps most significantly the feeling of hope that perhaps a nuclear war was NOT inevitable. 1988 seemed at the time like a change was in the air, that suddenly anything was possible, and (sorry if this sounds like a hippie sentiment) people really COULD live together in harmony.
The “golden era” of hip-hop to me is exemplified by 1988 – a year in which local, national and international politics all seemed to converge in greater freedom of expression and the feeling of change for the better in the air. There’s little doubt that some of what rap turned an eye on was ugly – racism, police brutality, false history and corruption – but bringing the darkness to light only benefited everyone long-term. Even the non-political rap seemed to have more of a spark – there was a feeling that hip-hop was FUN and not trapped by the boring cliches of rock music. Here’s how rap videos reflected that freedom of expression and fun back in 1988.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Limiting this to JUST 20 songs was incredibly tough. If there’s a song/video you think I forgot about, feel free to say so to me, although odds are I’ll reply and say “It was on the list!” That’s why I had to expand to 20 and not limit it to just 10.
1.) N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”
2.) Jungle Brothers – “Because I Got It Like That”
3.) Boogie Down Productions – “My Philosophy”
4.) Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House”
5.) King Tee – “Bass”
6.) EPMD – “You Gots to Chill”
7.) Juice Crew (Marley Marl) – “The Symphony”
8.) Biz Markie – “Vapors”
9.) De La Soul – “Potholes in My Lawn”
10.) Public Enemy – “Don’t Believe the Hype”
“Rap prime minister – some say sinister.” Part two of twenty rap videos from 1988 – because there were just too many worthy inclusions to limit it to part one. “I’m different, so don’t compare to me another/cause they can’t hang – word to the mother.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Limiting this to JUST 20 songs was incredibly tough, so I threw on a few live performances as a bonus. If there’s a song/video you think I forgot about, feel free to say so to me, although odds are I’ll reply and say “It was on the list!” I even strongly considered whether or not BDP should be on the list twice, but I couldn’t deny how damn cool it was to me to see Damon Wayans and KRS-One in a movie/video together.
11.) Big Daddy Kane – “Ain’t No Half Stepping”
12.) Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – “It Takes Two”
13.) Boogie Down Productions – “Jack of Spades”
14.) Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Posse On Broadway”
15.) LL Cool J – “Going Back to Cali”
16.) MC Lyte – “Paper Thin”
17.) Run-D.M.C. – “Beats to the Rhyme”
18.) Doug E. Fresh – “Keep Risin’ to the Top”
19.) Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo – “Road to the Riches”
20.) Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud – “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked”
Bonus #1.) Queen Latifah – “Wrath of My Madness (Live)”
Bonus #2.) Eazy-E – “Eazy-er Said Than Dunn”
Bonus #3.) Ice-T – “Power”