Talib Kweli, MC Lyte & More On Hip-Hop’s Pivotal Moments

This week’s NME celebrates 40 years of hip-hop, tracing rap from its Bronx block party beginnings to the seismic cultural force it is today. But what are the most pivotal moments in its history? We asked some of the game’s biggest players for their opinions…

DJ Shadow
“I think Run DMC were probably the most important game-changers, and the release of their debut album really did change everything. The way they carried themselves, the things they talked about – they were so different from everyone else at the time. They put a put a very urgent, very New York frame-of-mind into their raps and beats. They also incorporated their DJ – Jam Master Jay – better than any other group had up until that point.”

Talib Kweli
“I think the biggest game-changer has been the internet, and the resulting destruction of the music business. I mean, there’ve been plenty of upsides to the arrival of the internet – and the upsides outweight the negatives – one of the upsides being that artists can now package and control their music themselves. And it means that Billboard top-20 artists are not necessarily the pulse of what’s going on within the hip-hop community.”

Mark Ronson
“Biggie getting shot. Obviously, that changed things for the worse. Such a loss – he was a true East Coast giant. It was left to Jay-Z and Nas, I guess, to carry that load on their own. I’ve no doubt that Biggie would still be making great music today.”

Roots Manuva
“When the laws on sampling got tighter, and then the publishers got hip to how lucrative it could be. That changed everything. Hip-hop needs these elements.”

Bubba Sparxxx
“It seems to me that hip-hop went worldwide when [Death Row Records boss] Suge Knight got Tupac out of jail, and all the hype that followed that – Tupac’s record coming out on Death Row and so on. Hip hop went crazy then – blew up huge and just became this international phenomenon.”

Cookie Pryce (Cookie Crew)
“When Cookie Crew did Top of the Pops…live – how about that? We were the only ones that wanted to do it live and there was a massive fuss at the BBC. Back then the cameramen were old boys from the ‘60s, so doing it live for broadcast was probably a hard, technical thing to set up. We ended up killing it, though, and after that a lot of people started performing live on that show.”

Buckshot (Black Moon)
“When KRS-One hit the market. Or for pure rhymes – Rakim, ‘Follow the Leader’. Nobody can rhyme better than that one record right there. The way he flows to the beats and takes you into space. That’s where I bow down to Rakim him. That’s when I say, ‘Yo! You got it’. And I’m that nigga that never say that anybody better than me.”

MC Lyte
“The rise of Public Enemy allowed us to be proud of who we are and push the need for equality within our music. “

Sporting Life
”More so than one moment, a series of moments, when the lyricism started degrading, that’s really what changed hip-hop, as rap dumbed down a bit and got successful and how that influenced people coming up rapping.”

”When Outkast got that award and they were like ‘yo, the South got something to say’ when everyone was booing them and shit. That’s not one moment that did it, but it signified it. Outkast were like ‘oh yeah, this is from Atlanta’, but down the line the South took over Hip-Hop, you know what saying? I’m saying they kind of like predicted that.”

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