FEATURE: Foundation, Top 10 Hip-Hop Discoveries

Today might be Columbus Day, but XXLMag.com is flipping the script on this often-overlooked holiday. Rather than commemorate European explorer Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America, we decided to compile the Top 10 Hip-Hop Discoveries. It’s your official list of people, places and things hip-hop heads created, popularized or just co-opted to make flyer. If it weren’t for these historic “discoveries,” hip-hop would never be the same again. —Anslem Samuel

10) BLING BLING

Technically, jewelry has been around since the caveman era and hip-hop heads have been rockin’ gold fronts, dookie rope chains and four-finger rings forever, but in 1999 New Orleans rapper B.G. and his Cash Money brothers christened the time of shine with two unique words and one undeniable hit, “Bling Bling.” The discovery of this term upped the ante on the hip-hop jewelry game as everyone became consumed with diamond-encrusted pendants, chains, bracelets and grills. By 2003, bling had become so popular that it was recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary as an official word (and became the bane of Yung Berg’s existence).

9) AUTO-TUNE

Developed in 1997, Auto-Tune was just another computer program singers occasionally used to tweak their vocal pitch until R&B singer T-Pain “discovered” it around 2005. Using the technology to distort his voice, the hip-hop hook man created a new sound that rocketed him to the top of the pop charts. It wasn’t long before rappers like Lil Wayne and Kanye West, whose all Auto-Tune album 808s & Heartbreak went platinum, caught on to the new trend. Although Jay-Z’s 2009 street single “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” would declare the program played out, it still plays a vital part in pop music today—for better or for worse.

8) VIDEO VIXENS

When rap videos started in the ’80s, they were lighthearted affairs where the female lead was usually a fully dressed cutie with big hair. By time the oversexed ’90s rolled in, hip-hop clips started featuring bikini-clad beauties with big booties. For the most part, these women were just pretty faces in the crowd until video vixens like Gloria Velez, Karrine “Super Head” Steffans, Melyssa Ford and Liris Crosse, were discovered and made the transition to being legitimate models, actresses, authors and businesswomen. Demand for these video vixens resulted in XXL’s popular Eye Candy section and changed the way hip-hop heads viewed videos and the women in the spotlight.

7) THE SUMMER JAM STAGE

When it comes to memorable hip-hop events, no stage is an infamous as the one at Hot 97’s Summer Jam. Held in New Jersey, the annual event is legendary for its powerful performances and off-the-hook surprises. In 2001 alone there were several key moments as headliner Jay-Z brought the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, on stage, put up an embarrassing picture of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy in a childhood dance pose, and debuted a portion of his scathing Nas dis, “Takeover.” Everyone from The Game to 50 Cent would use the event to get at rap rivals in subsequent years, making Summer Jam hip-hop’s biggest and most important stage.

6) THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.

Before becoming Sean “Puffy” Combs’ original Bad Boy, Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace was a young aspiring rapper in the streets of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn until DJ Mister Cee discovered him around 1992. Connected to the industry through his work with Big Daddy Kane, Cee shopped Big’s homemade demo around and got the upstart MC some of his first major press. Although Biggie’s talent is undeniable, had Cee not discovered him there might not have ever been a Bad Boy Records, Diddy or ’90s resurgence of East Coast hip-hop. The game just wouldn’t have been the same without one of the greatest rappers of all time.

5) THE INTERNET

There was a time when you couldn’t find a rapper on a computer, let alone online, but now being tech savvy is just as important to an MC’s arsenal as rhymes. While the roots of the Internet began years earlier, it wasn’t until the late ’80s that the technology began to catch on with the public and about another decade before hip-hop heads logged on. With the introduction of 2-way pagers and eventually Blackberries, email became the main mode of communication for the music industry. Now blogs, Twitter and free downloads are all part of the game. While social networking sites like MySpace provided artists with new ways to get their music out to the masses, it wasn’t long before people like 50 Cent started their own online destinations and rappers like Joe Budden made the Internet their second home. There was a time we couldn’t live without our radio, now most of us would say the same about the Internet.

4) THE SCRATCH

It might seem like a simple technique today, but before Grand Wizard Theodore discovered the scratch in the summer of 1975 records were merely played. Sure, there were subtle blends and transitions, but the turntables (and the party) didn’t really get rockin’ until the introduction of this innovative record skip. Now an integral part of a DJ’s repertoire, scratchin’ is as much hip-hop as the culture’s four elements.

3) THE MIXTAPE

In hip-hop’s formative years, the culture existed only in the moment—the streets, the parks, the clubs, etc. If you weren’t there to witness it live, you had to rely on word of mouth to find out what songs were played and what the MC on the mic said. In the early ’80s, DJs started recording their sets and distributing them to fans as mixtapes. With no radio play for rap music at the time, these tapes made legends out of mix masters like Brucie B, Doo Wop, and Ron G, among others. As the culture evolved, mixtapes went from party sets to blends to exclusive freestyles to being a vital promotional tool for budding and established artists to show and prove.

2) JAMES BROWN

Sampling is an integral part of hip-hop and one man that’ll probably go down as the most sampled artist of all time is the incomparable James Brown. Dating as far back as 1986, the Godfather of Soul’s music has been at the root of some of the culture’s biggest hits. From Boogie Down Productions’ (“South Bronx”) and Big Daddy Kane (“Raw”) to Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (“It Takes Two”) and Brand Nubian (“All For One”) to Notorious B.I.G. (“Dreams”) and Jay-Z (“U Don’t Know”), Brown’s musical influence on the culture is unmatched. He made it funky more than one time.

1) HIP-HOP

Hip-hop’s greatest discovery is actually the art form itself. In 1973, Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc pioneered the use of break beats at parties and is credited as the Father of Hip-Hop. Those body rockin’ jams in the Bronx, spawned a culture comprised of millions of B-boys, DJs, graf writers, beat boxers and rappers the world over and provided the youth with their own style, lingo, art form and soundtrack. Over the past three decades, hip-hop has grown into a worldwide phenomenon and billion-dollar industry that influences almost every facet of pop culture today. If not for the discovery of hip-hop most of us wouldn’t even be here and life as we know it would cease to exist.

  • General

    What the hell??? This may be one of the worst lists this site has ever compiled. Its like whoever made this list felt bad for the heat MTV has been getting on their lists and decided to up the ante on shitty lists…

    I think BIG is one of the best lyricsts, but how do you have the only rapper on the list is one who only ever released 2 albums…

    And Bling and Auto-Tune??? Is this a list trashing hip hop discoveries?

    • zayzkidd

      I agree, I think that has to do with 2Pac’s success after his death. Biggie’s name has been kept alive because of that lil bald-headed dude.

  • http://www.allthatsfresh.com Cannon

    Jay-Z’s “U Don’t Know” doesn’t sample James Brown. That was Bobby Byrd.

    • Ans the Writer

      Actually what I meant with that reference is the fact that James Brown PRODUCED that record not that the sample was “his” song as a performer.

  • Worley

    I don’t even want to imagine a world without hip-hop. Before that, I was listening to the same sh*t my parents listened to. Not that that’s a bad thing — JB contributed heavily to this rap thing — but I needed my own thingamajig. Hip-hop is it.

  • http://hiphopisread.blogspot.com/ Ivan

    Ditto@Cannon.

    James Brown sampled on “U Don’t Know”? Uh…. apparently “U Don’t Know” what the f*ck you’re talking about!

  • Dub Sac

    Not to mention that saying that hip-hop’s most important discovery was hip-hop itself is retarded. Hip-hop developed over times and has morphed into something completely different than what it started as. It wasn’t “discovered.” Breakbeats were a discovery, and hip-hop evolved from the party culture into what it now is.

    And I can only hope the statement, “If not for the discovery of hip-hop most of us wouldn’t even be here and life as we know it would cease to exist,” is tongue-in-cheek.

  • El Tico Loco

    I think (and hope) he’s playing on the fact that Christopher Columbus didn’t really discover America, yet he gets the credit. But the James Brown “you don’t know” part, if YOU don’t know shut the eff up and don’t post anything that you’re not well informed on, which would make that the whole article.

    • Ans the Writer

      see the quotations around “discovery” in post? That signifies exactly what you’re saying. Dude can’t “find” something that already had people living their.

      Cat above you got the tongue in check nature of post, but over the head of most of the rest.

      And see my comment to Cannon. James Brown PRODUCED the Byrd record.

  • fireforreal

    Fuck everybody! this site has been falling off over the past year.

  • Anonymous

    Stupid, rofl.

  • Chris S

    i would say dr. dre would have to be one of the most improtant discoveries. lets look at all the atrists who came under him:

    Eazy E
    Ice Cube
    2pac
    Snoop
    Eminem (and his group)
    50 Cent (and his group)
    The Game

    • Ans the Writer

      A lot of ish crossed my mind compiling, perhaps a remix post focused solely on artist is deserved or just would have worked better than mashing everything in one list.

      Thing with Dre though, is was he “discovered” or was he the one doing the actual discoveries?

      • General

        “Thing with Dre though, is was he “discovered” ”

        We all know the story that yes he was “discovered” by Eazy while Dre was a DJ for the World Class Wreckin Crew and Eazy made him the producer for Ruthless Records…

        I agree that the “discovery” of Dre was much more important to hip hop than BIG (no disrespect)due to all that Dre would bring to Hip Hop and he’s been doin it for damn near 25 years now and people still waitin on his next CD to revolutionize the game again

    • sean

      @chris s
      you have mix up Eazy discovered
      dre
      ice cube
      ren
      dj yellow
      also
      bone thugs and black eye peas

      dre did not discover eazy e
      check your facts

  • Technique

    Hey Ans the writer, I think you compiled a good list homie. Fuck auto tune, Bling Bling, and “video vixens.” But hate it or love it, that shit is a part of the culture.

  • zayzkidd

    I think that James Brown was sampled mostly by East Coast artists, niggaz out the South and West never messed with James Brown that much–as far as sampling his music goes.

  • $ykotic/Don McCaine

    Yo Ans!

    What about “Urban Clothing” or “Urban Division”?

    Hip Hop “discovered” those, right?

    • Chilly Willy

      Yo Ans !

      If you wanna throw the Autotune out there, how could you forget the SP-1200 ? Is there any piece of hardware more significant than this ?

      Btw, welcome back Jamal

      @ $yk,

      that’s willcapone homie

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    TO TEN LIST

    10# Auto-Tune
    9# Video Vixens
    8# Bling
    7# Dr Dre (peep his catalogue)
    6# Famous Sneakers & Clothing Brands
    5# Jesus Piece Jewelery
    4# The Scratch
    3# Sampling/Mixtapes
    2# Internet
    1# Hip-Hop

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    TOP TEN LIST

    10# Auto-Tune
    9# Video Vixens
    8# Bling
    7# Dr Dre (peep his catalogue)
    6# Famous Sneakers & Clothing Brands
    5# Jesus Piece Jewelery
    4# The Scratch
    3# Sampling/Mixtapes
    2# Internet
    1# Hip-Hop

  • Joe

    1. Its never a good sign if you, as the JOURNALIST, have to correct something you wrote only 3 comments in. It does NOT mean it ‘went over our heads’ (SMH at that cop out). It means you fialed at doing exactly wut you are paid to do. Convey a point/message.

    2. You should exclude rappers from the list, b/c if u add Biggie b/c he brought the ‘resurgance of NY hip hop’, than naturally, the people who put it on the map in the 1st place would go before him (KRS, Rakim, etc.) Common sense.

    3. Autotune was not invented in 1997 SMH Even if u are being technical and wut Zapp used to use was called something else, its a piss-poor job of journalism not to mention Zapp and the vocoder as the origin of TPain

    4. James Brown? Important. Yes. Vital. No. Sampling in itself could be on the list, but if there wasnt James Brown, there’s Bobby Womack, Temptations, etc. Ask Kanye West and Just Blaze, there are THOUSANDS of soul legends to jack for beats.

  • reefChief

    This list is unbelievably bad. What are you thinking XXL? “Autotune” “Bling” “the Internet” and “Hip Hop”? Are you kidding?? What about the turntable or MPC? or the guest feature? This is such trash.

  • TheRefriedMexican

    MAKES YOU WONDER IF THE EDITOR’S OF XXL MAG THINK IT OVER BEFORE WRITING THEIR COLUMNS. “BLING BLING” “VIDEO VIXENS” “AUTO TUNE” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, YOU IDIOTS AT AT XXL MAG? YOU FORGOT THE 2 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES! 1) THE EARLY HIP HOP MAGS. THE SAUCE, RAPSHEET, RAP PAGES, URB MAGAZINE ETC. IN THOSE DAYS IT WAS THE ONLY WAY TO GET INSIGHT INTO OUR FAVORITE RAP ARTIST 2) THE RAP VIDEO SHOWS “YO MTV RAPS!”, “THE BOX”, ETC. I STILL REMEMBER RUNNING HOME FROM SCHOOL TO CATCH THE LATEST ICE CUBE, TOO $HORT, NICE AND SMOOTH, HEAVY D VIDEO ON “YO MTV RAPS!”

    • TheRefriedMexican

      IM GONNA CO-SIGN MY OWN POST IT WAS SO ON POINT! “VIDEO VIXENS” AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY IN HIP HOP? PFFF PLEASE!!!
      +++++++++++++++++
      +++++++++++++++
      ++++++++++++++
      ++++++++++++
      +++++++++++
      +++++++++
      +++++++
      ++++++
      ++++
      ++
      +

  • Quan

    .. The AKAI MPC maybe? .

  • Q! the Magnificent!

    uuummmm …. lame list! Bling? Video Vixens? BIG? James Brown? c’mon now seriously??? who the f–k came up with this?

    How about sampling! or Run DMC for being the first successful cross-over artists! or Eric B, Rakim & Jody Watley for the first successful R&B song with a hip-hop featuring!
    or Yo! MTV Raps!

  • GIFT

    Auto tune should not have fucking made this list. this is almost as bad as mtv’s top mcs list. Biggie (god rest his soul) is not the only influential mc who made hiphop what it is. Rakim was the first mc to really use large vocab and 5 percent references in his rhymes. Video shows also put us right in the middle of hiphops biggest events, not to mention the Freestyle battle, b-boy battles. XXL is straight slippin on this one.

  • xxxx

    actually, I think singer Sher was the first to have a massive hit with auto tuned vocals in it… so this is a miss… and the list is lame anyway, I totally agree with GIFT

  • http://xxlmag.com SBEE(LOGIC)

    I agree that auto-tunes,video vixens should not have been mentioned,but hell T-pain is the reason the artist and fans of TODAY know that Zapp existed(EVERYBODY HEARD “COMPUTER LOVE” BY NOW)so its all gravy….Dr.Dre was and is extremely important to hip-hop no question…but he only discovered snoop and eminem with scrutiny on the snoop issue(warren-g?)….There would be no Bad Boy without Biggie…Period…Flavor in ya ear actually came first,but we all know Craig Mack(No disrespect)wouldnt have made Bad Boy what B.I.G made it…bottom line: List should have Dre on it just based off his 20+ years of hot shit…I would have to add “Female Rappers”to this list too…Theres no Nikki Minaj if theres no Trina,no Trina without Lil Kim and no Lil Kim and Foxy Brown without:Boss,Yo-Yo,Trouble,Monie Love,Mc Lyte,Queen Latifah,Salt n Pepa, yall know what I mean…Other tha that,the list is straight…..

  • Beau

    What’s up with you guys forgetting Roger Troutman???????????????

  • tisa5409

    Don’t forget the 50 Cent and G Unit are the ones who changed the mixtape game. They started making mixtapes with themselves as the only group on it. Mixtapes used to be a mixture of artists. They also toured just off of mixtape material. Not to mention that they also didn’t mention the fact that Russel Simmons did alot for hip hop too. But Dre is very relevant also.