11 pioneering hip hop acts whose contributions to the culture demand respect

In honor of hip hop’s birthday, let’s look at 11 hip hop acts who laid the blueprint for rap music today. They deserve all the respect, now and forever.

  /  08.11.2019

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

As hip hop continues to dominate pop culture and be a driving force, it’s easy to forget how young the culture is given its influence. Less than 50 years have passed since its birth and hip hop has grown so much, making its current place in society even more impressive. And akin to wine, hip hop has only gotten finer with time, and looks to evolve and reach higher heights with each passing year.

On August 11, 1973, Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, threw a back-to-school party for his sister Cindy in the recreation room of their apartment building in The Bronx. Herc was at the forefront of the break-beat craze going on at the time, and the party was where many had witnessed the technique for the first time. This building has since been regarded as the culture’s birthplace, as the date signifies the moment hip hop was brought to life.

With 46 years having passed since that initial jam, hip hop is bigger and better than ever, and has no signs of slowing down. And as its birth-date looms close, it’s allowed us to reflect on just how far it’s come, as well as the many participants who have helped shape it in to what we know it as today.

In honor of hip hop’s birthday, REVOLT highlights 11 of rap’s pioneers and celebrate their invaluable contributions to the culture.

Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick

Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick made a big splash during the mid ’80s, as the Get Fresh Crew members unveiled their classic singles “The Show” and “La-Di-Da-Di,” both of which would establish the two as the hottest duo in the game. With Slick Rick handling the bulk of the penmanship, Doug E. Fresh backed his partner by beat-boxing, a wrinkle that set the pair a part from the pack and helped add another dimension to the genre.

MC Lyte

Initially dominated by men, rap would quickly make room for the ladies to join the party. Acts like The Sequence, Roxanne Shante, Sparky D and others representing for the women. However, the first female solo rapper to release a full-length album was MC Lyte, who unleashed her classic Lyte as a Rock in September 1988.

Boogie Down Productions

Spearheaded by DJ Scott La Rock and KRS-One, Boogie Down Productions is regarded as one of the greatest collectives in rap history. Following the death of Scott La Rock in 1987, KRS-One and company were at the forefront of the “Stop The Violence” movement, which shed light on violence in the inner-city and was a precursor to various other social initiatives in hip hop.

Grandmaster Flash

During hip hop’s formative years, the DJ was of the utmost importance and no one’s name loomed more than Grandmaster Flash’s. He rocked local park jams and parties in The Bronx prior to joining the Furious Five, and is largely credited for inventing the scratching technique on the turntable. Flash was the first DJ to turn the wheels of steel into an instrument of its own, thus influencing generations of disc jockeys who would come after him.

Run D.M.C.

Prior to businesses cashing in on the influence of hip hop, Run D.M.C. became the first rap group to earn an endorsement, as they parlayed their hit “My Adidas” into a partnership with the actual brand. This would help open the door for other artists and brands to join forces, thus taking the genre and culture to unprecedented heights.

Kurtis Blow

In 1979, Kurtis Blow made history by becoming the first rap artist to sign a major label record deal after partnering with Mercury Records. Soon after, he released his debut single “Christmas Rappin’,” as well as its follow-up, “The Breaks.” The latter selling more than 500,000 copies; the track became the first rap record to achieve gold certification — a major milestone for a genre that was still fighting to be respected.

Public Enemy

The growth of hip hop coincided with the Reaganomics era of the ’80s; which led to poverty, drug abuse and police brutality becoming hot button topics within the black community. One of the first acts to take the powers that be to task was Public Enemy, with frontman Chuck D calling out Ronald Reagan and other politicians with questionable political policies. Fighting the power with their words, Public Enemy helped inspire other rap artists to use their platform for activism and to spread awareness.

Queen Latifah

In a genre that’s often been taken to task for less than flattering portrayals and depictions of women, Queen Latifah began to attack those sentiments with her arrival on the rap scene in 1989. Releasing her debut album, All Hail the Queen, that year, Latifah became one of the first female rappers to call out misogyny in the male-dominated industry by pushing feminism and female empowerment through songs like “Ladies First.”

Wu-Tang Clan

From Staten Island, New York City; the Wu-Tang Clan stamped themselves as one of rap’s groundbreaking acts with their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, in 1993. However, it was their historic partnership with Loud Records, which allowed each group member to sign solo record deals with competing record labels, that truly established the crew as pioneers and vanguards.

Big Daddy Kane

Hailing from the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn, Big Daddy Kane has always been associated with having style and flair inside and outside of the booth. His attractive looks and suave demeanor helped turn him into one of the biggest stars in rap. But, it was his supreme rhyme skills that helped push the art of being an emcee forward. Throwing down the gauntlet with his 1987 single “Raw,” which captured Kane rhyming at a feverish pitch, his performance led to other rappers following suit and coming up with more intricate flows and rhyme schemes, many of which remain popular today.

Sugar Hill Gang

While hip hop had been alive and well years before the emergence of the Sugar Hill Gang, it wasn’t until the group out of New Jersey released their single “Rapper’s Delight” that its earning potential was truly realized. Released in 1979, the song became the first rap track to reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Be sure to watch REVOLT TV’s “Happy Birthday, Hip Hop” special programming all day on Sunday, Aug. 11. From playing music videos by hip hop greatest emcees to premiering Ice T’s documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, we got the celebration on lock. Check out where you can watch the REVOLT TV channel here.

More by Preezy Brown:



View More



View More


Walmart has the home essentials for everyone on your holiday shopping list

Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.

  /  11.24.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicks off at Central State University

On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.

  /  11.14.2023

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour visited Mississippi Valley State University

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.

  /  11.22.2023

Walmart continues HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour during lively Virginia State University stop

After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.

  /  11.14.2023

Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University

On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

  /  11.15.2023

5 things you need to know about the 2023 Billboard Music Awards

“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.

  /  11.20.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicked off at Central State University

In October, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University. The HBCU located in Wilberforce, OH was the first stop on Walmart’s Black and Unlimited HBCU Tour.

  /  11.28.2023

Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'

Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.

  /  11.15.2023

Pheelz talks expressing himself through music & his biggest inspirations | 'On In 5'

On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!

  /  07.11.2023

Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'

On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!

  /  07.10.2023

Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'

On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.

  /  07.12.2023

BNXN talks leaving IT for music, linking with Wizkid, going viral & new album | 'On In 5'

For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!

  /  08.08.2023

From city lots to lush gardens: The power of urban farming with Karen Washington

This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.

  /  11.17.2023

Investing in stocks in a recession | 'Maconomics'

Host Ross Mac provides useful advice for preparing your personal finances in the event of a recession. He emphasizes the importance of budgeting properly, building an emergency fund, and maintaining discipline when investing.

  /  11.21.2023

Best chef's kiss | 'Bet on Black'

“Bet on Black” is back with an all-new season! Watch as judges Pinky Cole, Bun B, Van Lathan, and Target’s Melanie Gatewood-Hall meet new contestants and hear pitches from entrepreneurs Saucy D and Chef Diva Dawg.

  /  10.24.2023

Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money

At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money. 

  /  10.26.2023

Good taste test | 'Bet on Black'

With the help of host Dustin Ross and correspondent Danielle Young, entrepreneurs Diva Dawg, Brooklyn Tea, and The Sable Collective pitch their ideas to the judges. Watch the all-new episode of “Bet on Black” now!

  /  10.31.2023

Madam DA Fani Willis proclaims, “A lie has been told on African American men”

“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.

  /  10.11.2023

Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling

“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.

  /  11.03.2023

Machel Montano opens up about life as a child star, new music, and exciting business moves

In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.

  /  11.03.2023
View More
Revolt - New Episodes