7 Hip Hop Pioneers Who Deserve Their Flowers

The pioneers of Hip Hop are responsible for the growth of the genre since the early 70s. The genre has enjoyed longevity and established many great talents as icons and legends in the music industry. Moreover, there are many Hip Hop pioneers who have continued to maintain media relevancy and constantly receive their flowers. Still, there are many other legacy acts that have been swept under the radar. Nonetheless, these icons have contributed greatly to the mainstream genre we know today. 

Whether they have faded into obscurity, or have received way less love than they should be getting, it’s important to award them their due recognition. Before the big stars of this current generation of Hip Hop artists, these pioneers were pacesetters who set the stage for what Hip Hop has grown to become. Furthermore, they deserve to have their names immortalized in the halls of Hip Hop history.

Coke La Rock

Coke La Rock -  Hip Hop Pioneers
US rapper Coke La Rock poses during the 50 years of Hip-Hop Grandmaster Flash and friends “Birth of a Culture: The Four Elements Block Party” at Capital One City Parks Foundation Summer Stage on August 4, 2023 in New York. As a teenager Grandmaster Flash began pioneering the turntable-as-instrument, playing the now iconic Bronx block parties that gave birth to hip-hop and revolutionized music.
Tonight, he was back home, commemorating 50 years of the genre with a performance that had New Yorkers born in the mid-20th century reliving their youth — and hip-hop’s. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Coke La Rock holds a significant place in Hip Hop history as one of its earliest pioneers. The rapper is often credited as the first MC in Hip Hop culture and played a crucial role in the early days of Hip Hop as a result of his contributions. During the 1970s, when the genre was first taking shape in the Bronx, New York, he was at the forefront of the movement. He collaborated closely with DJ Kool Herc, another Hip Hop pioneer known for his creative DJing techniques. Together, they are credited with helping to create the foundation of what would eventually become Hip Hop music and culture.

Read More: Melle Mel: A Hip Hop Icon & Trailblazer

The Sequence

This all-female Hip Hop trio was formed in 1979, and made significant contributions to the early development of the genre. The group was composed of three members: Angie “Angie B” Brown Stone, Cheryl “Cheryl the Pearl” Cook, and Gwendolyn “Blondie” Chisolm. The Sequence is recognized as one of the earliest female Hip Hop acts. Furthermore, the pioneers broke barriers in a male-dominated genre, challenging gender norms in Hip Hop. Their 1979 single, “Funk You Up,” was the first rap single released by a female group. Additionally, the group’s blend of rap, R&B, and funk had a lasting impact on subsequent generations of artists. Their contributions helped shape the direction of Hip Hop and its integration with other musical genres.

Read More: Ladies First: Rapsody On Hip Hop’s 50th & Women’s Influence On The Culture

Schoolly D

Schoolly D -  Hip Hop Pioneers
American rapper Schoolly D (Jesse Weaver) poses in front of a graffiti tagged wall on Harrow Road, London, UK, 1986. (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

During the early years of rap, this MC’s influential contributions helped to nurture the genre and push it forward. Schoolly D emerged in the mid-1980s as a rapper and producer. He quickly made a name for himself, pioneering the infamous “gangsta rap” subgenre. While he may not be able to take full credit for being the sole originator of gangsta rap, he is definitely one of the most significant contributors to the development of the subgenre. His gritty lyrics and unapologetic storytelling style set the stage for other gangsta rap artists like N.W.A. and Ice-T.

Read More: Ice-T Explains Why 50 Cent & Bobby Shmurda Were The Last Real Gangsta Rappers

Tone Loc

Tone Loc -  Hip Hop Pioneers
NEW YORK, NEW YORK–FEBRUARY 24: Rapper Tone Loc (aka Anthony Terrell Smith) performs at the Copacabana on February 24, 1989 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The deep-voiced MC Tone Loc gained fame in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The rapper and producer is known for his signature raspy voice and laid-back, humorous style. However, one little-known fact about the California native is that he is the first rapper to have a rap single certified platinum. The smash hit, “Wild Thing,” from his 1989 debut album Loc-ed After Dark was an instant classic upon its release. The song redefined what mainstream and commercial success could be in Hip Hop. More importantly, he changed the game in a distinctive way. Tone Loc was a key figure in the late ‘80s rap scene. Even today, his songs remain iconic examples of party rap.

Read More: Tone Loc Details ‘Confederate Flag Hat’ Fight That Almost Got Him Arrested

MC Lyte

MC Lyte  Hip Hop Pioneers
NEW YORK, NEW YORK–June 20–Rapper MC Lyte (aka Lana Moorer) appears in a portrait taken on June 20, 1991 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives).

At 17 years old, MC Lyte released her debut studio album in 1988 — a monumental feat that made her the first female rapper to release a solo rap album. The rapper and DJ is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of women in Hip Hop, and rightfully so. Lyte As A Rock, released to critical acclaim, was the first of its kind in the Hip Hop scene. Throughout her musical career, MC Lyte focused on positive and empowering themes in her lyrics. Through this, she earned respect as a conscious and thought-provoking artist. She is a trailblazer, and made impactful contributions to Hip Hop music, especially for female MCs.

Read More: MC Lyte & DJ Paul Talk DJing For Michael Jordan & Fruitful Meeting With Drake’s Mom

Public Enemy

Public Enemy  Hip Hop Pioneers
NEW YORK, NEW YORK–SEPTEMBER 19: Rap group Public Enemy (Flavor Flav (aka William Jonathan Drayton Jr.); Chuck D (aka Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) and Terminator X ( aka Norman Rogers)) appears on the “Public Enemy Week” segment of “Yo! MTV Raps” with hosts Doctor Dre’ (aka Andre Brown) and Ed Lover (aka James Roberts) on September 19, 1991 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives)

Public Enemy is a pioneering rap group known for their politically charged lyrics, inventive production techniques, and sonic experimentation. The group was formed in Long Island, New York, and gained prominence in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Furthermore, their music served as a voice for marginalized communities, and a call to action against injustice. Public Enemy’s lyrics addressed issues of racial inequality, systemic oppression, and social justice, topics that were not often addressed in mainstream music at the time. Their confrontational and dauntless style helped cement them as pioneers in Hip Hop culture.

Read More: Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” Turns 35


Run DMC - Hip Hop Pioneers
American rap group Run DMC pose at the Grammy Awards, 1980s. (L-R): Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell), Joe ‘Run’ Simmons and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This legendary rap group consists of pioneers who played a pivotal role in shaping the Hip Hop genre’s mainstream acceptance. The group was formed in 1981, and was composed of rappers Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and DJ Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. Run-D.M.C. is credited with revolutionizing Hip Hop, and was one of the first Hip Hop pioneers to emphasize the importance of the MC and DJ relationship. The group gained attention with their first single. Still, they enjoyed mainstream success as well after collaborating with Aerosmith on a remake of their song, “Walk This Way.” However, it was Run-D.M.C.’s third album, Raising Hell, that catapulted them to superstardom. Overall, their impact extends beyond music, and they have built a legacy for themselves in the Hip Hop scene and beyond.

Read More: Rev Run Recalls Jam Master Jay Hearing Public Enemy For The First Time: “God Has Come Down From Heaven”


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