Hip hop’s “Golden Age” happened to coincide with the years I spent going to school just outside of New York City, so I got to witness the Era from within range of both WBLS 107.5 and 98.7 KISS FM. Run-DMC had broken through to some mainstream success in 1985 – they appeared at Live Aid in that year – and the genre was spreading from the inner-city to the suburbs based mainly on Run-DMC’s fusion of rap and rock ‘n roll. Punk rock, the voice of restless youth in the early 80s, was in decline, and its audience was splintering into two divergent camps – those who migrated to new metal like Slayer or Corrosion of Conformity, and those of us who wandered into the emerging Hip Hop movement centered in NYC. When I left Baltimore for school in New York in August of 1986, I took with me three boxes of vinyl – mostly early 80’s punk rock and new wave – but there were three hip-hop LPs sitting right at the top: the first two Run-DMC albums and their newest, Raising Hell.
By my (admittedly subjective) calculations, the fall of 1986 was the dawn of the golden era – an era know for its diversity, innovation, production quality, and long-term influence – and no doubt driven financially by the idea that the suburbs would buy the records as well as the inner city. In contrast to the pop charts, hip hop was experimental and the sampling unregulated, and each of the records on this list were basically trying to out-do whatever record had just been played on the radio the week before. Album after album were remarkably different, and each record launched with styles no one had ever heard before. And this went on week after week for at least four years.
Please leave a comment if you think I have left anyone out that deserves to be here.
View the “Curated” list to see the list in chronological order.
Golden Age of Hip Hop Canon 1986-1990
A chronological list of the greatest Hip Hop albums released during the first Golden Age 1986-1990.
Run DMC - Raising Hell
May 15, 1986
Kool Moe Dee - Kool Moe Dee
Doug E. Fresh - Oh, My God!
July 7, 1986
Beastie Boys - LIcense to Ill
November 15, 1986
Schoolly D - Saturday Night! – The Album
December 1, 1986
Just Ice - Kool & Deadly (Justicizms)
Just Ice - Back to the Old School
Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush the Show
February 10, 1987
Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded
March 3, 1987
Too Short - Born to Mack
March 1, 1987
Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full
July 7, 1987
LL Cool J - Bigger and Deffer
July 22, 1987
MC Shan - Down By Law
August 8, 1987
Kool Moe Dee - How Ya Like Me Now
December 8, 1987
Stetsasonic - In Full Gear
Audio Two - What More Can I Say?
February 17, 1988
Biz Markie - Goin' Off
February 23, 1988
Doug E Fresh - The World's Greatest Entertainer
March 25, 1988
Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
April 14, 1988
Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary
May 31, 1988
EPMD - Strictly Business
June 7, 1988
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live the Kane
June 21, 1988
Eric B & Rakim - Follow the Leader
July 25, 1988
Too Short - Life is Too Short
January 31, 1988
NWA - Straight Outta Compton
August 8, 1988