On August 11, 2013, hip-hop music celebrated the 40th anniversary of the day Kool Herc dragged his turntables and records to a Bronx recreation area and spun discs in an entirely different way than most had ever heard. In addition, when his homeboy Coke La Rock started talking trash into a microphone left on the table, the beautiful dynamic between DJ and MC blossomed to the beat. Although a definitive list of the best hip-hop tracks from that first golden decade would be long as hell, this is our top ten. Let the disagreements and arguing begin… —Michael A. Gonzales (@gonzomike)
1. “Apache” (1973)/The Incredible Bongo Band
This Wild Wild West sounding song was one of the many tracks that pre-record-making DJs spun to get the party started. In 1981, the Sugar Hill Gang sampled it for their popular track “Apache (Jump On It).”
2. “Trans-Europe Express” (1977)/Kraftwerk
Like music constructed in a computer factory, the electro-brilliance of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” sounded both futuristic and funky when it was released in 1977. Launching a few aural revolutions and rocking more than a few block parties, this track was the launching pad for the electro hip-hop movement that jumped off in the early ’80s. If not for this song, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force never would have made “Planet Rock.”
3. “Good Times” (1979)/Chic
Before the Sugar Hill Gang jacked this Studio 54 disco classic for their own hit “Rapper’s Delight,” b-boys were already spinning it in crammed parties and rapping over Bernard Edwards’ hypnotic bassline. Composed with his partner in Chic, guitarist Nile Rodgers (yes, the same dude riffing on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”), this classic track has a timeless quality.
4. “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)/The Sugar Hill Gang
Believe it or not, back in the day many DJs and rappers could care less about making records. For them it was all about performing on the small stages of firetrap clubs and partying in the park, their equipment plugged into the nearest lamppost. While Fatback’s “King Tim III” was the actual first rap track, the Chic-sponsored “Rapper’s Delight” is the one radio jocks actually played.
5. “The Adventures of Super Rhymes” (1979)/Jimmy Spicer
When hip-hop first began, it was the DJ that ran things at the jams. Most folks just wanted to dance, and listening to somebody going on and on till the break of dawn lyrically was the last thing on their minds. Yet, while “Rapper’s Delight” changed the game as well as the creative dynamic of hip-hop duos, making the MC the top dog, Jimmy Spicer’s verbose “The Adventures of Super Rhymes” was another word bomb dropped on the DJ side. Going on for over fourteen minutes, Spicer makes his point and then some.