50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 9): Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, OutKast, Speech Debelle & more

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 9): Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, OutKast, Speech Debelle & more

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Week, we asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward…


“My cousin, the late MC Skibadee, introduced me to this album. I swear I broke the vinyl, I listened to it that much! It was my introduction to hip-hop and the political messages also resonated with me as a young boy because they were describing some of the things I had experienced, but never heard anyone talk about in that way. I’ve never looked back since.” Glyn Aikins (RCA UK)

“Not only is it one of the most revolutionary albums in hip-hop, but one of the most revolutionary in music full stop. I met the group several times and once had to escort a very hungry Chuck D and Flava Flav, complete with his legendary clock, from a music studio in London down to the nearest McDonald’s. A moment I’ll never forget!” George Ergatoudis (Apple)

“The music, the artwork, and the logo caught me. Public Enemy brought the noise, and I heard it loud and clear. This genre-defining, perfect body of work changed my life. It woke me up. It was my higher learning. Public Enemy’s debut show at the Manchester Apollo inspired me to be a DJ, and I’ve been bringing the noise ever since. Years later in an incredible full circle moment, Chuck D wrote the foreword to my book Hip-Hop Raised Me and described me as a ‘Generator of generations’. Great music inspires, unites and moves crowds.” DJ Semtex

“This album ripped up the rule book of whatever came before it in hip-hop music and planted the seeds that not only influenced, but inspired and empowered so many others after its release. I remember hearing the single Rebel Without A Pause for the first time as a teenager and not knowing what I was listening to. It sounded like chaos, but so captivating at the same time. They made me and my generation want to pick up a book and learn more about the world, our culture and history. Public Enemy’s image and iconic music videos like Night Of The Living Baseheads set a new bar for hip-hop videos in the late ’80s and the MTV generation. Public Enemy brought the art of noise, politics, social commentary and Afrocentric values to hip-hop, and no other group has been able to match what they have done since.” Lekan Latinwo (Intricate Management/The Crate 808 Podcast)


“Before there were endless think pieces about who is the GOAT, there was simply Big Daddy Kane. King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal was a member of New York’s Juice Crew and combined the swagger of a pimp with breathless verbal acrobatics that had asthmatics like me wondering how he did it. His 1988 Cold Chillin’ Records classic Long Live The Kane captured everything his early 12”s had promised in a flawless set released at a time when rap LPs were packed with filler like an M&S ‘best ever’ sandwich. Aside from the very occasional nod to loving the ladies, it’s all pure brag rap, and it has never, ever been done better. Songs like Set it Off, Raw and Ain’t No Half-Steppin’ are bursting with energy and endless quotables that would be sampled and scratched themselves by countless DJs in thrall to Kane’s charisma. Marley Marl is credited with producing this golden era landmark in its entirety, and while that is still being squabbled over, it doesn’t really matter. It’s Kane’s show all the way.” Andrew Emery (author/journalist) 


“Speech Debelle’s ground-breaking album Speech Therapy shattered societal norms with its raw and introspective lyricism, while her win as the first female UK hip-hop artist to receive the esteemed Mercury Prize [since Ms Dynamite in 2002] solidified her place in music history.” Nadia Khan (Women In CTRL/AIM) 


ATLIENS (1996)

“I wouldn’t exist in this business without this record. ATLiens made me beyond curious and want to learn it inside out. I can go bar for bar across every track, I know every sound, adlib and nuance. I was captivated by it when I first heard it, and I still listen to it every single week now. I’m obsessed with the incarnation of something bigger than a genre. Lyrics and melody that cross borders and blend cultures, and records that feel fearless. I think this album does all three.” Pete Simmons (Universal Music Publishing Group UK)


“This might not be one for the purists out there, but for me it is one of the gateway drugs to hip-hop – and is so pivotal to the success of the scene. It’s a whirlwind of contradictions, a beautiful mash-up of styles and tone and an outright challenge to the stereotypes of what hip-hop could be. Versatile, divergent and well-loved rap artists working in tandem to produce something unorthodox and original – what’s not to love? Influencers before the hashtag!” Natalie Wade (PPL/The Cat’s Mother)


“I absolutely loved this record when it first came out and still do. The stories about life in the NY streets are as brutal as they are poetic, it felt like it was on a completely different level to anything else at the time. The brilliant production by the band themselves was just as raw and original. The intro alone to Shook Ones Pt II is just about as good as it gets.” Joe Kentish (Warner Records)

“From Survival Of The Fittest to Give Up The Goods (Just Step), Temperature’s Rising and the certified anthem Shook Ones Pt II, this album was part of the soundtrack to my twenties. The hi-hat intro on Shook Ones will always set it off. The lyrics very much resonated with what was going on in the ’90s in inner city Manchester – there were definitely parallels with the levels of violence taking place at the time with the guns, drugs and turf wars that were happening Stateside. I was lucky enough to see them live a few times, but the most special was in 2016 in New York when they did a one-off show at the Blue Note. I queued for a ticket for two hours and got into this tiny club which was packed to the rafters. The energy was magnetic and they performed the album seamlessly from start to end – it was just one of those unforgettable moments.” Laura Lukanz (Amazon Music)


“Hip-hop at its best and a hugely significant, important record for me both personally and professionally. It didn’t seem likely Run The Jewels could continue their amazing run – how many artists release four great albums in a row? But somehow they raised the bar again. RTJ4 is a fun yet furious rollercoaster with Killer Mike and El-P spitting razor sharp bars over El’s incendiary beats, and with some amazing guests in the mix too (RIP Gangsta Boo). Released during the chaos of Covid and amid the global Black Lives Matter protests, this album arrived exactly when it was needed.” Ben Harris (Run Music)

 Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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