When hip hop music emerged from the South Bronx in the late 1970s it was the indisputable voice of the inner-city African-American and Latino experience. Musically it nodded to the hardest of R&B and funk rhythms and lyrically it reflected the often hardscrabble existence its practitioners and proponents lived. Like other musical forms that deal in real life and death struggles, such as heavy metal and hardcore punk, authenticity was paramount. As its popularity grew however, it escaped the cities narrow streets and the narrow definition of what could be considered authentic hip hop. Though sometimes problematic in a genre so implicitly connected to its original audience and roots, by the mid ’80s hip hop had begun to build a sizable suburban audience and the first white MCs began daring to get on the mic and appear on wax.
The first white group to truly make a mark in hip hop were New York’s very own Beastie Boys. Actually starting life as a hardcore punk band, the group of well-to-do rappers became obsessed with the nascent genre and by mid-decade were delivering classic albums like License To Ill and Paul’s Boutique. Their career-cementing fourth album Ill Communication, their second #1 album after their debut and containing the hit song and video “Sabotage,” turns 20 years old this weekend and for its anniversary we thought we’d review all those that came in their wake. Truthfully, the efforts of some early white rappers were laughable at best (*cough* Markey Mark *cough*), disgraceful at worst (*cough* Vanilla Ice *cough*). But there is no denying the impact folks like the Beasties, Eminem, and yes, Mackelmore, have had on the genre. Head up to the gallery above to explore some of the most influential white rappers in hip hop history.
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