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The Best Hip Hop Songs of All Time – A Chronological History of the Top Rap Songs, 1979 – 1981 (Volume 1)

Posted by Bill Wilson on June 28, 2010

When my daughter Isabella was born I decided to put together a chronological history of Hip-Hop for her as she got old enough to appreciate and understand the gifts of the birth of Rap music.  What follows is not necessarily the best of hip-hop but rather songs I purchased on 12″ singles  (and later albums) that I viewed as most important for Isabella to be aware of and enjoy as she embraces the love of music and of course Hip Hop.  {There are clearly many influential and classic hip-hip tracks not included in these Volumes I put together for Isabella but these songs represent a sampling of my favorites — and to this day as we spin them every Friday night}

Here is Volume 1 that I put together for Isabella back in 2002 when she was born:

Hip-Hop from Front to Back: Volume 1, 1979 – 1981

  1. “King Tim III”              Fatback
  2. “Rappers Delight”         Sugarhill Gang
  3. “Love Rap”                    Spoonie Gee
  4. “Freedom”                   Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5
  5. “The Breaks”                Kurtis Blow
  6. “8th Wonder”               Sugarhill Gang
  7. “That’s The Joint”         Funky 4 + 1
  8. “Birthday Party”           Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5
  9. “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”     Grandmaster Flash
  10. “Let’s Dance”                 West Street Mob
  11. “Feel The Heartbeat”  The Treacherous Three

1) Fatback “King Tim III” July 1979

Considered by many (including myself) to be the first single of rap music

2) Sugarhill Gang “Rappers Delight” September 1979

The first break-out mainstream rap hit, which went on to become a Top 40 hit, which samples “Good Times” by Chic as its base to rap over.  The group came from my neighboring Englewood, New Jersey and were put together by founder of Sugar Hill Records Sylvia Robinson.

3) Spoonie Gee   “Love Rap” Fall 1979

Spoonie Gee’s first recording came about after Peter Brown (Top 10 song of all time for me is Brown’s 1977 classic “do you wanna get funky with me” visited Bobby Robinson’s record store (who was Spoonie’s uncle) and mentioned that he was looking to make a rap record; the result was Spoonie’s first record “Spoonin Rap”.  Love Rap was his second single (his first for Enjoy Records) with The Treacherous Three (see below as I loved Treacherous Three back in the day) on the B-Side with “The New Rap Language”.

4) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 “Freedom” August 1980

South Bronx super-group formed in 1978comprised of GrandMaster Flash (the DJ) and five rappers (Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Cowboy, Scorpio, and Rahiem) became the first hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (in 2007)  After “Freedom”, the group went on to record many classics including one of the best ever, “The Message”

Freedom

5) Kurtis Blow         “The Breaks” November 1980

First rap artist signed to a major record label (Mercury) based on this hit song which became the first ever “Gold” rap single.  Run of Run DMC began his career billed as ‘The Son of Kurtis Blow”.  Kurtis Blow was the first artist to release a Hip-Hop album as well as the first Hip-Hop artist to appear on national television (Soul Train in the Fall of 1980).

6) Sugarhill Gang     “8th Wonder” November 1980

7) Funky 4 + 1      “That’s The joint” January 1981

Formed in 1976, the group was the first hip hop group to have a female rapper, Sha Rock.  This amazing track samples A Taste of Honey’s “Rescure Me”  They were the first rap artist ever to appear on   Their most significant hit was the nine-minute “That’s the Joint,” which was sampled by the Beastie Boys on the song “Shake Your Rump.” “That’s the Joint” was sampled from A Taste of Honey’s “Rescue Me”.  They were the first rap act to appear on national television appearing on Saturday Night Live with Deborah Harry as the host.

8) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5   “Birthday Party” May 1981

9) Grandmaster Flash       “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” May 1981

A magnificent live studio recording of Flash scratching and mixing records from various groups using three turntables mixing and blending numerous songs including Chic’s “Good Times”, Blondie’s “Rapture”, Queens’ “Another One Bites the Dust” as well as Sugarhill Gang and The Furious 5

10) West Street Mob        “Let’s Dance (Make Your Body Move)” May 1981

One of my first 12″ singles when I was 13 (first 7″ single was Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” roughly a year earlier) which I still spin to this day.  Sampled by Public Enemy in their classic “Fight The Power”

11) The Treacherous Three  “Feel The Heartbeat” Summer 1981

Still to this day one of my all-time favorites.  (The Treacherous Three was originally DJ Easy Lee, Kool Moe Dee, LA Sunshine and Spoonie Gee (who left in the late 1970s to be replaced by Special K who appears on this classic track)

I hope you enjoyed Volume 1’s track listing…Volume 2 is on its way with Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde, Afrika Bambaata, Herbie Hancock, Run DMC, Davy DMX, Fat Boys, etc. covering hip-Hop and Rap Music from 1981 – 1983

It is definitely worth mentioning, although not an officially recognized hip-hop song, Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band’s song “Apache” from 1973 is considered by many to be the first official Hip-Hop Anthem because of its long percussion break in the middle of the song which went on in future years to be sampled in hundreds of hip-hops songs.

Also, although not on my list many would include Blondie’s January 1981 hit song “Rapture” on a list of old-school hip hop songs given it went to #1 in the U.S. but I always viewed it as more of a pop song then a hip-hop song.  I do love the video though with cameos by Fab Five Freddy and graffiti artist Lee Quinones and Jean-Michael Basquiat (while dancer William Barnes is the man in the white suit).

Bill Wilson

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