The ’80s was hip-hop’s first real decade, the era when everything started to blow up. There’s an old saying that no idea’s original: “There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s never what you do, but how it’s done.” Hip-hop was about poor kids taking broken pieces of the world around them and putting them back together. This was the true break with history—the end of the beginning, if not the beginning of the end.
Early on, it wasn’t an album genre; hip-hop was all about parties and park jams, preserved and spread via bootleg cassette. Soon after it was about stars and singles, disco loops and breakbeats, drum machines, and ultimately, albums. The art of the hip-hop album was perfected by the close of this remarkable decade. We may never see an era of music so fresh and vibrant again.