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25 essential East Coast anthems

Hip hop music was born on the East Coast of America in 1970s New York. A form of rebellion in hip hop three is the magic number, and the invention of hip hop culture is mainly credited to three individuals along their affiliates partially. Those three people are DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. Kool Herc is credited with introducing what he calls ‘The Merry-Go-Round Technique’ to African-American DJs to create an extended break.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are credited with introducing MCing over the extended breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore is credited with popularising the scratch technique to add excitement and vigour to records.  

Along the way, hip hop went through multiple evolutions on the East Coast to get to the sound we know today. With contributions from cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, hip hop began to morph, evolve and grow over time, creating a sonic melting pot. 

However, some records were instrumental in putting certain cities on the map and certain songs gave cities an identity. Since the 70s, hip hop has continued to evolve and grow ever more popular, becoming internationally one of the world’s most popular genres of music. With artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z now achieving billionaire status off the back of this worldwide genre. However, sometimes it’s essential to look back to the roots.

The US has always had regional differences, whether that be regional cultures, regional accents or others, differences exist, and the same can be said for hip hop. The South, colloquially known as the “Dirty South”, is most definitely known for its electronic sound of Crunk. Crunk hip hop was the main sound in the south and was the go-to for rappers in southern states such as Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. It was less soulful and instead was invigorating, which meant it was better for the strip club environment—a huge part of hip hop culture in the south but not elsewhere. In New Orleans, you had what was dubbed “New Orleans Bounce Music”, however, like “Miami Bass Music”, the scene and sound was hyper-localised and short-lived.

On the West Coast in southern California, G-Funk was the sound and, unlike Miami Bass and New Orleans Bounce, the sound spread nationwide like wildfire putting LA on the map. Spearheaded by Dr Dre and Deathrow Records, G-Funk is still popular today.

However, although G-Funk is known as the sound of California, people pay less attention to North California. The Bay area in the early 2000s cultivated its own sound, which came to be known as Hyphy Music. Pioneered by Traxamillion and Keak Da Sneak, it was popular and in demand, but, again, it was a short-lived, hyper-localised scene.

On the East Coast, the boom-bap sound, the breakbeat sound and the jazz-hop sound were the three big contenders during the 80s and 90s. With producers like DJ Premier, Large Professor and J Dilla epitomising the East Coast sounds. Groups such as Slum Village, Tribe Called Quest, and rapper Joey Bada$$ are prime examples of chilled-out East Coast jazz-hop. A song like LL Cool J’s  ‘Rock The Bells’ is an excellent example of Breakbeat hip hop. Whereas ‘How High’ by Method Man and Redman is a prime example of boom-bap.

We could talk about east hip hop all day, so, instead, take a listen to our ‘Essential Mixtape’ of 25 tracks from East Coast hip hop.

  • ‘Planet Rock’ – Afrika Bambaataa
  • ‘Boogie Down Bronx’ – Man Parrish
  • ‘Rock The Bells’ – LL Cool J
  • ‘White Lines’ – Grandmaster Flash
  • ‘The Message’ – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
  • ‘The Show’ – Doug E Fresh
  • ‘Saturday Night’ – Schoolly D
  • ‘Fight The Power’ – Public Enemy
  • ‘Paid In Full’ – Eric B. & Rakim
  • ‘Me, Myself and I’ – De La Soul
  • ‘Twinz’ – Big Pun featuring Big Joe
  • ‘N.Y State Of Mind’ – Nas
  • ‘Bonita Applebum’ – A Tribe Called Quest
  • ‘I’m Not A Player’ – Big Pun
  • ‘One More Chance’ (remix) – The Notorious B.I.G
  • ‘Waves’ – Joey Bada$$
  • ‘C.R.E.A.M’ – Wu Tang Clan
  • ‘Shook Ones, Pt. II’ – Mobb Deep
  • ‘Quiet Before The Storm’ – Mobb Deep featuring Lil’ Kim
  • ‘Ready Or Not’ – The Fugees
  • ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ – Lauryn Hill
  • ‘Get At Me Dog’ – DMX
  • ‘Many Men’ (Wish Death) – 50 Cent
  • ‘Smash Sumthin’’ – Redman
  • ‘Get By’ – Talib Kweli