Golden age hip hop (or "golden era") is a name that is most commonly given to mainstream hip hop music created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, typically by artists originating from the New York metropolitan area. It is said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence after the genre's emergence and establishment in the previous decade. There were various types of subject matter, while the music was experimental and the sampling eclectic.
There were strong themes of Afro-centricity and political militancy, while the art was experimental and the sampling eclectic. The artists most often associated with the Golden Age are Run-D.M.C.. (though they started around the ol skool era), Public Enemy, Beastie Boys (like Run-DMC they started around the ol skool era), Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Jungle Brothers. Releases by these acts co-existed in this period with, and were as commercially viable as, those of early gangsta rap artists such as N.W.A., the sex raps of 2 Live Crew, and party-oriented music by acts such as Kid 'n Play and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and MC Hammer.
Innovation – a time “when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre” according to Rolling Stone. Referring to “hip-hop in its golden age”, Spin’s editor-in-chief Sia Michel says, “there were so many important, groundbreaking albums coming out right about that time”, and MTV’s Sway Calloway adds: "The thing that made that era so great is that nothing was contrived. Everything was still being discovered and everything was still innovative and new”. Writer William Jelani Cobb says "what made the era they inaugurated worthy of the term golden was the sheer number of stylistic innovations that came into existence... in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were literally creating themselves and their art form at the same time".
It also provided some of the greatest advances in rapping technique - Kool G Rap, referring to the golden age in the book How to Rap says, “that era bred rappers like a Big Daddy Kane, a KRS-One, a Rakim, a Chuck D. . . their rapping capability and ability - these dudes were phenomenal”.
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