Hip-hop wasn't born in the 1980s -- the hip-hop culture was created in New York in the late 1970s, and early rap acts like Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, and the Sugarhill Gang started recording before 1980. But it was in the 1980s that hip-hop went from having a small cult following on the East Coast to being a huge international phenomenon. It was during the 1980s that hip-hop not only became the music of choice for many young African-Americans -- it also influenced a lot of pop/rock and dance music and became so widespread that you could walk into a club in Berlin and hear young guys rapping in German. Just as many R&B historians have described the 1960s and 1970s as R&B's classic era, many hip-hop historians will tell you that the 1980s and early '90s were hip-hop's classic era. Released in 2000, this 12-song compilation spans 1984-1990 and makes East Coast rap its main focus. The only West Coast rapper K-Tel includes is Too Short, whose "Life Is Too Short" from 1988 is among the Oakland native's cleaner hits. The '80s: Hip Hop Hits doesn't get heavily into gangsta rap -- although Philadelphia native Schoolly D's "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" is considered one of the earliest gangsta rap classics -- and it doesn't get into Florida bass music at all. But it paints an attractive picture of Northeastern Corridor MCs by including major hits by Run-D.M.C. ("It's Tricky"), Whodini ("Friends"), D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince ("Parents Just Don't Understand"), Kool Moe Dee ("Go See the Doctor"), and others. Though alternative rap and hip-hop house aren't high priorities, the CD acknowledges alternative rap with A Tribe Called Quest's "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" and touches on hip-house with the Jungle Brothers' "I'll House You." This collection is far from the last word on 1980s hip-hop, but all things considered, The '80s: Hip Hop Hits isn't a bad CD to have in your collection.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson