November: the month known for fireworks (in the UK), Thanksgiving (in the US), the slow beginnings of all things Christmas (everywhere), and now – Hip Hop. The U.S. Congress has just passed a bill declaring November as the official Hip Hop History Month, beginning this year. Introduced towards the end of July, this recognition of November as Hip Hop History Month aims to recognise the influence of hip-hop on art, culture, music, fashion and more.
In addition to the month of November being dedicated to celebrating the genre, 11 August has been designated as Hip Hop Celebration Day. The holiday honours one of the first hip-hop DJ parties that took place back in 1973. US Congressman Jamaal Bowman said that “Hip Hop is my life. Hip Hop saved my life. Hip Hop gave me knowledge of self. Hip Hop is who I am,” in a statement marking the new plans. “The celebration of Hip Hop history and the study of it is essential to our democracy, our innovation, our voice and who we are as human beings.”
With this news, we wanted to look back to some iconic Hip Hop tracks and influential moments in time, so have curated a selection of CULTED Hip Hop based articles for you to dive into this November.
CRYSTAL MILLZ IS TAKING OVER UK HIP-HOP
A rising star in UK Hip Hop is Crystal Millz, who we caught up with earlier this year. The UK hip-hop industry is on the brink of a revolutionary era, as interest in British artistry continues to expand across the US. This British invasion part 2 can largely be explained by the impact made by MC’s like Stefflon Don, Giggs, Headie One, Skepta and a handful of others, that built the first bridges across the pond to collaborate and tour with US hip-hop juggernauts.
Crystal Millz is ready and waiting in the wings to claim her rightful time in the spotlight. She is quickly becoming one of the most talked-about young MC’s on the circuit today after dropping the effortlessly cold ‘Next Up Freestyle’ and receiving the coveted stamp of approval from Charlie Sloth. This quick-witted wordsmith from Manchester is a welcome disruption to the often repetitive inertia of doppelgänger artists we typically see receiving such early adulation. Her style and sound are not like anything the UK has seen before due to the raspy bass in her voice and deep delivery that comes across like some sort of Pop Smoke/Giggs hybrid.
Check out her interview here.
LAURYN HILL – DOO WOP / THAT THING
Ms. Lauryn Hill is an indisputable legend, with her first studio album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, released in August 1998, coming up on 23 years ago. Lead single ‘Doo Wop / That Thing’ was the first example of a woman hitting #1 on the charts with a track they’d produced, mastered and written individually for years. The video was created in New York, with Lauryn at a block party in a unique split-screen setup featuring one half of the screen set in the 60’s, and the other in the 90’s. This was aimed to be a homage to “old school” and “new school” hip hop, side by side.
Lyrically, Lauryn is widely regarded as nothing short of masterful, with “That Thing” acting a a metaphor for sex and lust, and the whole track being a self-worth and self-respect anthem for women and men alike, in a world where “some guys/girls are only about that thing”. Particularly so expressing her instructions for women, Lauryn emphatically says “Baby girl, respect is just a minimum” – her words wouldn’t go amiss in a 2021 record, with many an artist preaching similar words of motivation to the public today.
Read more about Lauryn’s hit single here.
NOTORIOUS B.I.G – JUICY
Taking a look at a classic from one of the most influential rappers of all time: Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G, Big Poppa – whatever you want to call him – “Juicy” is a certified classic, heavily entrenched in history.
Biggie’s rise from rags to riches, nothing to something, is a story we’ve seen repeated so many times in the music world – it’s far rarer to see someone establish themselves as a true legend, with a legacy and influence reaching on way past their lifespan. “Juicy” served as a breakthrough track of sorts, or a song that cemented him in the rap game as a centerpiece of East coast culture – the song speaks on the ascension to superstardom, giving those struggling with any and every problem hope for the future. A song for dreamers, by a bigger dreamer than any, Biggie’s opening verse presents the stark contrast between eating sardines for dinner and being “in the limelight ‘cause I rhyme right”, in an honest and rather vulnerable confession of his upbringing and life before the rap money came in.
Check out the full low-down on Biggie’s ‘Juicy’ here.
OUTKAST – MS JACKSON
Outkast – made up of Andre 3000 and Big Boi – released Ms. Jackson in 2000 to critical acclaim, standing the test of time and remaining an iconic track globally even two decades later. Lyrically, the song covers breakups, separation and divorce, and the animosity felt by a mother for her daughter’s former flame. “Ms. Jackson” actually comes as an open letter to Erykah Badu and her mother – Andre had a child with Badu out of wedlock, and continuously felt as if he was portrayed as a terrible father to her mother.
Perhaps the most iconic performance of the song comes by way of the 2002 Grammy Awards, where the duo won a number of awards for the song. Andre 3000 once again shows out, in a pink jumpsuit and a long, blonde wig, while Big Boi comes in a sharply tailored suit. Andre 3000 was ahead of his time, dressing androgynous in an era where this simply wasn’t done by hip-hop stars – he really walked so today’s mainstream legends could run.
Read more about Outkast (& Andre), here.
THE BAGGIER THE BETTER
The baggier the better, that’s the motto. Or at least according to hip hop’s fashion where the baggy jeans, or ultra wide jeans, know no limits when it comes to sizing. Popularised in the 90s, wide denim came at a time where a huge cultural shift was settling in. Moving away from the rockstar born in the 50s to the hip hop artist such as Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., fashion was bound to follow. Hip hop and the baggy jeans became one, with artists from Wu-Tang Clan, Aaliyah, TLC, Eazy E and countless more were all rocking the baggy fit. Worn as a sign of rebellion, hip hop put its middle finger to the sky and wore the unconventionally sized fit just because.
While the ultra-wides have tried to make a comeback where all things make a comeback, TikTok, it seems as though no one can agree on whether to bring them back or not. Nonetheless, they will always be remembered as a symbol of an era-defining period for hip hop, as well as becoming the uniform for skaters and break dancers alike.
Get your baggy denim inspo with the full feature here.
EMINEM: CONTROVERSIES AND COMEBACKS
Over 25 years into his career, Eminem’s impact on the culture has been immeasurable and wide-reaching, inspiring millions of fans globally as well as challenging outdated stereotypes. Half composed and matured, half unhinged, vulgar and playful, Eminem is in a league of his own in terms of lyricism and flow, and arguably regarded as the greatest rapper of all time in certain unbiased circles. His history, however, is plagued with controversy, hurdles and challenges, with each and every one of his albums reflecting his headspace at the time.
In the late 90’s and early 00’s, Em was a white man in a black man’s game. Yes, he was showcasing every piece of prerequisite talent needed to make it big in music, but the color of his skin was always a source of controversy. This, in combination with the often dark and violent lyrics from alter ego Slim Shady, drew a lot of negative energy. This was until Dre came out and defended him, saying “I don’t give a f–k if you’re purple: If you can kick it, I’m working with you.” Moving onwards – and massively upwards – Em became a figurehead for the rap scene, with every release and project being critically acclaimed and hugely successful.
Read more about the rapper’s controversial rise to fame here.
FUR & HIP HOP
As modern rockstars became rappers, many white people moved on from styling fur coats, not for any humanitarian reason, but rather because blaxploitation movies like ‘Willie Dynamite’ and ‘the Mack’ began stereotyping young black men in fur coats as pimps or hustlers. When Hip-Hop became the dominant genre of the 90’s rappers began plugging their extensive fur collections, either as a character-building quality like their Jazz ancestors had done or as a ‘F*ck You’ rebuke of the racist depictions of blaxploitation movies. Either way, the Cam’ron and The Diplomats era of music and fashion was among us and the fur coat was once again baptises in the baselines of a new genre. The lavish oversized fur in the ‘My Hood’ music video was the perfect precursor to the infamous pink fur snapped by paparazzi at New York Fashion Week the week following the release of the video. Cam was unquestionably the undisputed king of contemporary fur coats, that is as long as you don’t ask P Diddy.
In more recent years, fur whether it be Faux or not has continued to grab the spotlight in key moments of music history or adorned by music’s biggest stars such as Rick Ross wearing white fur to the BET Awards in 2012. Similarly, Justin Bieber received huge criticism for styling a huge fur coat in the icy temperature of LA’s 65 degree winters, Drake decked a fur coat for his Views album launch shoot with Vogue, and everyone from Migos to Harry Styles has been caught or intentionally spotted wearing some form of fur ensemble.
Delve into more about Fur and music here.
JAY Z & KANYE WEST – OTIS
Released on “Watch the Throne” – which is one of the best rap albums of all time, by the way – Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Otis” was a highlight of the studio album, arriving with killer visuals, Kanye’s trademark production finesse and both icons firing on all cylinders. The album came at a time when Eminem was hailed as the “King of Hip Hop”, Kanye was collaborating with Nike on the Air Yeezy and had just tied up his partnership with Louis Vuitton which saw him remix the Jasper, Don and Mr Hudson, and Jay Z was dominating the rap game.
Performing live at the MTV VMA’s in 2011 as a last-second stand-in (yes, the performance below wasn’t planned until hours before the event started) Kanye and Jay once again embody a whole era of rap with their energy, fashion choices and overall image. Surprisingly, this was the first time the duo had ever performed the song live – and supposedly they did it without any practice at all.
Check out that video, and read more about the track, here.
SHAQ ON HIP HOP AS INSPIRATION
Featured just this month, Shaquille-Aaron Keith, the South-London born, multi-disciplinary creative spoke to us about finding inspiration in Hip Hop.
“My first introduction into becoming conscious of my being was when I stepped away from mainstream pop music and started listening to more hiphop. I started listening to J Cole in like 2008, Come Up Vol. 1 times, and I heard that project and was like, “This guy’s cool”, then The Warm Up came out, and I was like “Okay this guy’s cold!”, bear in mind at this point, in 2009/10 no one even knows who J Cole is. 2011, Who Dat drops, Friday Night Lights comes, and I start going back even further now, because I’m realising that some of these beats I’m listening to are mad familiar. I see the comments on a video saying, “he’s spitting over Jay Z Dead Presidents” and I go back and listen to Dead Presidents and I ask myself, “Who’s the guy saying “Dead Presidents to represent me”? Oh that’s Nas” so I go and listen to The World is Yours, and delve deep into Nas now, listening to him heavily for years. Then I moved on to Tupac, listening to him even heavier. From about year 10 until uni, I was listening to Tupac everyday, taking in these stories, raw emotion, he was my guy. I’ve always said that if I wasn’t a painter, I’d do rap, though I don’t think I have the voice for it”.
Read the full interview here.
From iconic tracks that are still guaranteed to fill a dance floor over 20 years after their release, to a culture inspiring the next wave of creatives, Hip Hop is an institution of history, culture and art – so its newly appointed celebratory month makes perfect sense. Happy inaugural Hip Hop History month.