"Rapper's Delight" by Sugar Hill Gang From the album "Sugar Hill Gang"
© 1979 Sugar Hill Gang (currently available on "The Best of Sugar Hill Gang")

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Droppin' Science: to demonstrate one's skill, wisdom or knowledge.

KRS-1
(Laurence Krisna Parker) born 08/20/65. The kingpin of Boogie Down Productions and a genuine hip-hop pioneer. At the height of his career — roughly 1987-1990 — KRS-One was known for his furiously political and socially conscious raps, which is the source of his nickname, "The Teacher". He is known not only for his music but for his lecture tours throughout the US as well. He's appeared at Yale, Harvard and countless other institutions to the dismay of some members of those establishments. He inaugurated the Stop The Violence Movement, and recorded "Self Destruction", which raised over $600,000 for the National Urban League. He's taken part in several benefit shows as well as attending rallies with Jesse Jackson. Following the death of his partner Scott LaRock in 1987 his work turned toward promoting anti-violence.

Public Enemy
Chuck D (Carlton D. Ridenhour) born 08/01/60, Terminator X (Norman Lee Rogers) born 08/25/66, Flavor Flav (William Drayton) born 03/16/59. Public Enemy rewrote the rules of hip-hop becoming the most influential and controversial rap group of the late 80s. Public Enemy pioneered a hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary. Public Enemy was formed in 1982 while Chuck D was attending Adelphi University studying graphic design. They released their debut album "Yo! Bum Rush The Show" in 1987 to great acclaim from hip hop fans and critics. However, their second album, "It Takes A Nation To Hold Us Back" became a force for social change. They received both criticism and accolades for their lyrical content on each of their subsequent albums. In the 90's several members attempted solo careers and Chuck D became a noted media pundit. In 1998, Public Enemy regrouped and provided the soundtrack to Spike Lee's "He Got Game." After a series of disagreements with Def Jam, they terminated their 12-year association and signed up with an Internet record company, Atomic Pop, becoming the first mainstream band to release an album online.

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X-Clan
Grand Verbalizer Funkin Lesson "Brother J"(Jason Hunter), Lumumba Professor X "The Overseer" (Lumumba Carson - son of activist Sonny Carson), The Rhythem Provider "Sugar Shaft" (Anthony Hardin), Grand Architect "Paradise" (Claude Grey), Isis (Lin Que Ayoung). Formed in Brooklyn, NY this Afrocentric, politically oriented rap group released two hard-hitting, stellar albums - 1990's "To The East, Blackwards" and 1992's "Xodus" - before breaking up. Activists on wax as well as outside of the music industry, they were Blackwatch members and vocal supporters of several pro-black organizations. Unfortunately, their political stance and bold red-black-green attire gained more attention then their albums.

Common (originally Common Sense)
(Lonnie Rashied Lynn) Born in Chicago, IL Common was a highly influential figure in rap's underground during the 90s. With his sophisticated, literate, and intelligent lyrical technique he developed a bit of a cult following. Performing originally as Common Sense he caught his first break winning The Source magazines Unsigned Hype contest. He debuted in 1992 with "Can I Borrow A Dollar?" and the hit single "Take It EZ." He was eventually sued by a ska band of the same name and forced to shorten his name to simply Common. During this time he completed classes in music theory which encouraged him to bring live instrumentation to the fore on his subsequent releases. After changing labels and moving to Brooklyn, he released his first album under his new name in 1997. "One Day It Will All Make Sense" featured several of hip-hops prominent artists including Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, Erykah Badu and the Roots. He landed a major label deal with MCA and released "Like Water For Chocolate" in 2000, attracting more attention than any Common album to date.

Nas
(Nasir Jones) born 09/14/73. A Long Island, NY native from the Queensbridge housing projects, Nas made his name as a skilled rapper whose music is crafted with a degree of subtlety and forethought often absent from the genre. Jones, who started rapping at the age of nine, was heavily influenced by his jazz musician father. Dispite dropping out of school in the 8th grade, Nas developed a high degree of literacy, which would later characterize his rhymes, and a style that is flamboyant yet has a lyrical armoury that far surpassed the expected "bitches and ho's" routines. His hit albums 1994's "Illmatic" and 1996's "It Was Written" were each hailed by critics for their intelligence and direction.

Jean Grae
(Tsidi Ibrahim) A native of South Africa, Jean Grae will always be a New Yorker at heart. She is the daughter of two jazz musicians and due to her upbringing she developed an appreciation for all types of music at an early age. While attending the High School of Performing Arts as a vocal major, she learned to read and arrange music including classical and choral arrangements. She was later accepted to New York University as a Music Business major. Her thorough education gave her a good foundation on becoming a hip-hop writer and producer. In the mid-90s, Jean Grae (then known as What? What?) was recruited by a rapper named Ocean, who formed a group called Natural Resource. In 1997, Natural Resource founded their own record label, Makin' Records. The group broke up in 1998 but the exposure with the group worked towards Jean's benefit. In the summer of 2002, Jean Grae released her debut album, "Attack of the Attacking Things." The album received much critcal and fan acclaim as one of the best female hip-hop albums since Lauryn Hill's 1998 album, "The Miseducation of…"

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Afrika Bambaataa
A South Bronx native Afrika Bambaataa Aasim took his name from a 19th century Zulu chief, translating as "Chief Affection." Bambaataa was the founding father of New York's Zulu Nation. A loose community of mainly black street youths, Zulu Nation and its leader, more than any other element, helped to transform the gangs of the late 70s into the hip-hop crews of the early 80s. Bambaataa himself had been a member of the notorious Black Spades, among other sects, and from 1977-85 he had a social importance to match his towering MC and DJ profiles. Beginning in 1977, Bambaataa began organizing block parties and breakdancing competitions around the Bronx promoting the ethos of peace and racial tolerance. His excellent turntable techniques led many to proclaim him the best DJ in the business. His record debut as a producer came in 1980 with Soul Sonic Force's "Zulu Nation Throwdown." Afrika Bambaataa didn't become an actual recording artist until 1982. He signed with Tommy Boy records and released his first single, "Jazzy Sensation," early that year. Afrika Bambaataa ascended to godfather status with Planet Rock, the 1982 hip-hop classic which blended the beats of hip-hop with techno-pop. "Planet Rock" was released in June and quickly exploded. Around 1982 Fab 5 Freddy was promoting music packages to the predominately white downtown Manhattan clubs and he invited Bam to perform at one of them thus becoming the first time hip-hop fused with White culture. Attendance was so large that he had to move to larger venues. His early use of drum machines and computer sounds influenced many predominant dance styles of the 80s and 90s and changed the way R&B and other forms of Black music were recorded. In 1984 he appeared in the movie Beat Street. In 1990 Bam made Life magazine's "Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" issue. He is recognized as a Humanitarian and a man of peace. He once declared: "When we made Hip Hop, we made it hoping it would be about peace, love, unity and having fun so that people could get away from the negativity that was plaguing our streets (gang violence, drug abuse, self hate, violence among those of African and Latino descent). Even though this negativity still happens here and there, as the culture progresses, we play a big role in conflict resolution and enforcing positivity."

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Malcolm X
(Malcolm Little) born 05/19/25 – died 02/21/65. Muslim name EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ Growing up in Lansing, Mich., Malcolm watched as his house was burned down at the hands of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. Two years later his father was murdered, and his mother was subsequently placed in a mental institution. Malcolm spent the following years in detention homes, and in his early teens he moved to Boston to live with his sister. In 1946, while in prison for burglary, he was converted to the Black Muslim faith (Nation of Islam). Speaking with bitter eloquence against the white exploitation of black people, Malcolm developed a brilliant platform style, which soon won him a large and dedicated following. He derided the civil-rights movement and rejected both integration and racial equality, calling instead for black separatism, black pride, and black self-dependence. Because he advocated the use of violence (for self-protection) and appeared to many to be a fanatic, his leadership was rejected by most civil-rights leaders, who emphasized nonviolent resistance to racial injustice. In March 1964 Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and in October 1964 he reaffirmed his conversion to orthodox Islam; declaring that he no longer believed whites to be innately evil and acknowledging his vision of the possibility of world brotherhood. Growing hostility between Malcolm's followers and the rival Black Muslims manifested itself in violence and threats against his life. He was shot to death at a rally of his followers at a Harlem ballroom. After his assassination, the widespread distribution of his life story--The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)--made him an ideological hero, especially among black youth.

Sistah Soulja
(Lisa Williamson) Born in the Bronx, and raised in the projects, Sista Souljah is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she earned a degree in American History and African Studies. She also attended the Cornell University Advanced Placement Studies, and studied abroad in Europe at the University of Salamanca. As a community activist, Souljah organized against racially motivated crimes, police brutality, and the miseducation of urban youth. In the field of entertainment, Souljah has been on many platforms including radio and television. She was the voice in NY radio that spoke to the hip-hop audience about politics, culture, business, and social organization. This includes being a featured speaker at the Million Woman March, appearances on Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and Geraldo. As a Hip-Hop artist, Souljah's CD entitled "360 degrees of Power," sparked international debate over issues of race, culture, sexism, and politics. Currently, Souljah is a 21st Century multidimensional woman. She is the Executive Director of Daddy's House Social Programs, the charitable wing of Bad Boy Entertainment. She is the author of 2 national best sellers, The Coldest Winter Ever, and No Disrespect. Additionally, she is soon to release her first film, The Coldest Winter Ever, executive produced by Souljah Story Inc, Jada Pinkett Smith, and HBO.

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De La Soul
Posdnous (Kelvin Mercer) born 08/17/69, Trugoy the Dove (David Jude Joliceur) born 09/21/68, Pasemaster Mace (Vincent Lamont Mason, Jr.) born 03/24/70. Hailing from Long Island, NY, De La Soul formed while the trio attended high school in the late 80s. Their stage names derived from inverting Mercer's DJ name - Sound Sop and Joliceur's favorite food yogurt! At the time of its 1989 release, De La Soul's debut album "3 Feet High and Rising" was hailed as the future of hip-hop. Their style was less harsh than many of their fellow rappers and their pleasantly lilting rhythms earned both critical raves and strong sales. Together with like-minded artists of the day, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers they formed the Native Tongues Posse.

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Heavy D & the Boyz
Heavy D & the Boyz is a hip hop group form Mount Vernon, NY which included Dwight Myers (born May 24, 1967), better known as Heavy D, a Jamaican American rapper and G-Whiz (Glen Parrish), "Trouble" T. Roy (Troy Dixon, R.I.P), and Eddie F (born Edward Ferrell). Heavy D’s musical style combined his strong MC skills, positive messages and fun-loving party jams infused with elements of R&B, reggae, dance, and pop. In addition to his long successful music career, Heavy D has also seen success as an actor appearing in a number of hit shows, films and off Broadway plays. An astute business man, he has also worked as a label executive, serving as both vice president of A&R and later president of Uptown Records. Most recently he has ventured into reggae music and in 2009 earned a Grammy nomination for his album Vibes.

Kid 'n Play
Kid 'n Play is a hip-hop duo from New York composed of Christopher "Kid" Reid (born April 5, 1964 in The Bronx, New York) Christopher "Play" Martin (born July 10, 1962 in Queens, New York), working alongside their DJ, Mark "DJ Wiz" Eastmond (born March 21, 1966 in Queens, New York ). Their successful music career focused upon positive lyrics backed by pop-friendly instrumental tracks. In addition to their successful musical careers, Kid 'n Play also branched out into acting, starring in a series of hit movies, and even had their own NBC Saturday morning cartoon, Kid 'n Play, for one season from 1990 to 1991. The show stressed positive role models, teaching kids how to get along and stay out of trouble. A 1992 Marvel Comics comic book based on the cartoon lasted nine issues.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince is a hip hop group from West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince, was known for his light-hearted story-telling and profanity-free style of rap. DJ Jazzy Jeff Townes was known for his turntable acrobatics, and he is credited by many as inventing a style of scratching called transforming. Their second album, 1988’s He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, made them multi-platinum stars. Not only was the album rap music's first double-vinyl LP release, its first single "Parents Just Don't Understand", made them household names and also gained them the honor of the first Grammy for a hip hop/rap song. In 1990 Will Smith went on to star as a fictionalized version of himself in the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Townes appearing on the show as Will’s friend “Jazz”. Smith’s continued success in both his acting and music careers have earned him four Golden Globe Award nominations, two Academy Award nominations, multiple Grammy Award wins and the honor of being one of the highest earning celebrities in the entertainment industry. Townes has also achieved much success as a prominent R&B, soul, and neo soul producer and is also featured in the video-game DJ Hero as a playable character.

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Bob Marley
(Robert Nesta Marley) born 02/06/45 – died 05/11/81. Born in rural St. Ann's Parish, Jamaica; the son of a middle-aged white father and teenaged black mother, he left home at 14 to pursue a music career in Kingston, becoming a pupil of local singer and devout Rastafarian Joe Higgs. Marley's music gave voice to the day-to-day struggles of the Jamaican experience, vividly capturing not only the plight of the country's impoverished and oppressed but also the devout spirituality which remains their source of strength. His songs of faith, devotion and revolution created a legacy that continues to live on not only through the music of his extended family but also through generations of artists the world over touched by his genius. Marley was the first Jamaican artist to achieve international superstardom.

Andre 3000 (Find him under OUTKAST)

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Cypress Hill
Sen Dog (Senen Reyes) born 11/20/65, Mellow Man Ace (Ulpiano Sergio Reyez) born 04/21/67, DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud) born 01/28/68, B Real (Louis Freese) born 06/02/70. Formed in 1988 and named after a local street in Los Angeles, CA Cypress Hill was notable for being the first Latino hip-hop superstars. They also became notorious for their endorsement of marijuana, campaigning for its legalization. They pioneered a new, stoned funk by using slow, rolling bass-and-drum loops. Their style was highly influential to 90's hip-hop – it could even be heard in the chilly layers of English trip-hop. With its stoned beats and B Real's exaggerated nasal whine the group's debut became a sensation in early 1992. The follow-up album, "Black Sunday" released in the summer of 1993 became a hit, entering the album charts at number one and spawning the crossover hit "Insane in the Brain."

Dr. Dre
(Andre Young) born 02/18/65. Born in Los Angeles, CA Dr. Dre is widely regarded as the architect of west coast gangsta rap. Moving away from the political stance of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions as well as the party vibes of old-school rap, Dre pioneered gangsta rap and introduced the world to his own style - G-funk. His controversial hit records with N.W.A. celebrated the hedonistic, amoralistic side of gang life. In 1992, he founded Death Row Records with Suge Knight, and the label quickly became the dominant force in mid-'90s hip-hop thanks to his debut, "The Chronic." For nearly four years, G-funk dominated hip-hop, and Dre had enough sense to abandon it and Death Row just before the whole empire collapsed in late 1996. He formed a new company, Aftermath, and while it was initially slow getting started, his bold moves forward earned critical respect.

Snoop
(Calvin Broadus) born 10/20/72. Born in Long Beach, CA he was nicknamed Snoop by his mother. After high school graduation, he spent time in and out of jail for various crimes. It was through music that he finally found his escape. He began recording homemade tapes with his friend Warren G, who happened to be the stepbrother of N.W.A.'s Dr. Dre. Dre, was considerably impressed with Snoop's style and began collaborating with the rapper. Introduced to the world through Dr. Dre's "The Chronic," Snoop Dogg often blurred the lines between reality and fiction. His debut album, 1993's "Doggystyle", become the first debut album to enter the charts at number one. Snoop's career has broadened over the years to include acting and he has appeared in several films, television shows and commercials.

Ice Cube
(O'Shea Jackson) born 06/15/69. Raised in South Central Los Angles, Cube began writing raps while in high school and at the age of 16 penned "Boyz-n-the Hood." While rapping at parties hosted by Dr. Dre, he met Easy-E. Later with Dre and Easy-E he would form the first incarnation of N.W.A. After a one-year hiatus when he obtained a degree in architectural drafting, Cube returned to N.W. A. just in time for the release of their breakthrough album, "Straight Outta Compton" in 1988. With its hardcore lyrics and political undertones, the album became an underground hit. Shortly thereafter, Cube became the first member to leave the group and he quickly established himself as one of hip-hop's best and most controversial artists. As his career progressed, he expanded his horizons by starring in two John Singleton films (most notably "Boyz N The Hood") and he began writing and producing. He wrote and starred in 1995's "Friday" and made his directorial debut with 1998's "The Players Club".

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Eminem
(Marshall Bruce Mathers III) born 10/17/72. Born in St. Joseph, MO (near Kansas City), Eminem spent the better part of his impoverished youth between his hometown and the city of Detroit. He began performing at age 14, rapping in the basement of his high school friend's home. Due to the unavoidable racial boundaries that came with being a white rapper, he decided to hone his skills as a freestyle rapper and win over the underground hip-hop audience first. Initially rejected, over time he became a popular attraction. In 1997 he used his skills to win the Rap Olympics MC Battle in Los Angeles. His win drew the attention of Dr. Dre and they immediately began work on what would become his best-selling "Slim Shady LP". He was the first Caucasian rapper to make a significant impact in years; giving voice to the legions of disaffected youth who could relate to the white lower-class experience.

50 Cent
(Curtis Jackson) born 07/06/76. Born and raised in Southside Jamaica, Queens, 50 was raised by his grandmother after both his parents passed away when he was young. 50 Cent endured substantial obstacles throughout his young yet remarkably dramatic life before becoming one of the most-discussed figures in rap, if not pop music in general. Following an unsuccessful attempt at mainstream success (foiled by an attempt on his life in 2000) and a successful run on the New York mix-tape circuit, Eminem signed 50 to a seven-figure contract with Shady/Aftermath – a joint deal with Eminem's label and Dr. Dre's. With such esteemed co-executive producers behind him, his unrelenting drive and infectious flow, 50's debut album, "Get Rich or Die Trying" was destined to set the pace for hip-hop in the coming years.

G-Unit
50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Tony Yayo.
Hailing from Queens, NY G-Unit is comprised of 50 Cent's closest cohorts. They rapped on a series of popular mix-tapes until 50 Cent was picked up by Shady/Aftermath and in turn put them on the scene. 50 featured them on the re-mix to his single "P.I.M.P." which also featured Snoop Dogg. The video received heavy rotation on MTV giving the group just the push they needed before the release of their debut album "Beg for Mercy."

Lisa Left Eye Lopes
(Lisa Nicole Lopes) born 05/17/71 – died 04/25/02. As one third of TLC, one of the biggest-selling female R&B groups of all time, rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes appealed to audiences far and wide for her catchy hooks and sassy attitude. With the release of their debut album "Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip" in 1992, Lopes garnered attention by wearing a condom over her left eye to promote safe sex. At the beginning of 2002, Lopes announced that she had signed a solo deal with the infamous Suge Knight's new label Tha Row, for which she would begin recording a follow-up to the unreleased "Supernova" under the name N.I.N.A. (New Identity Non-Applicable). Unfortunately, she would never get the chance. While vacationing in her favorite getaway spot, La Ceiba, Honduras, Lopes lost control of the car she was driving and later died from severe head trauma.

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Flavor Flav
(William Drayton) born 1959. A classically trained pianist, Flavor Flav was rapping under the alias MC DJ Flavor when he first met graphic design student Carlton Ridenhour, who under the name Chuck D formed pioneering rap group Public Enemy. As the cartoonish counterpoint to Chuck's authoritarian presence, Flavor Flav essentially invented the role of the rap sidekick, innovating the absurdist delivery later borrowed by everyone from Busta Rhymes to Ol' Dirty Bastard; with his gold teeth, clownish sunglasses, and omnipresent clock dangling from his neck, Flavor also became PE's visual focus, taking lead vocal duties on hits including the classic "911 Is a Joke." Even as Public Enemy's influence waned in the mid-'90s, Flavor Flav continued to make headlines for his frequent run-ins with the law.

Ludacris
(Christopher Bridges) born 09/11/77. Ludacris began his career in Atlanta as a DJ on a local radio station. He made a name for himself throughout the Atlanta area and in the late 90's began leaning more towards rapping than DJing. At the time the South was a rap mecca of sorts with the success of the Dungeon Family, Goodie Mob and Outkast. He rode the early-2000s Dirty South explosion to widespread popularity. He released "Incognegro" in 2000 on his own label, Disturbing tha Peace. The single, "What's Your Fantasy?" became a regional hit and garnered the attention of many major labels. He signed with Def Jam South, re-worked some of his earlier tracks and collaborated with some of the best producers available resulting in his debut album "Back for the First Time." He's since released a flurry of successive hit singles and contributed to hits for other artists at the same time.

Da Brat
(Shawntae Harris) born 04/14/74. Hailing form Chicago, Illinois Da Brat was one of the first of a new breed of female MCs to hit the hip-hop scene during the '90s. She started rapping at age 11 and was still a teenager when producer Jermaine Dupri discovered her in 1992 after winning an amateur rap contest. Dupri signed her to his So So Def label and produced her debut album, "Funkdafied", which was released in 1994. The title track was an enormous hit, going to number two on the R&B charts and spending nearly three months on top of the rap singles chart. She became the first female rapper ever to have a platinum-selling album. "Funkdafied" also hit number one on the R&B album chart, a staggering achievement for a debut release by a female rapper. For her 1996 follow-up, "Anuthatantrum", Da Brat took greater control of her music and persona. The album was another commercial success, returning her to the R&B Top Five and the pop Top 20.

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The Cold Crush Brothers
The Cold Crush Brothers were one of the first rap crews to emerge from the Bronx soon after hip-hop's birth in the mid-'70s. Founding members Grandmaster Caz, the Almighty KG, Tony Tone, JDL, Easy AD, and DJ Charlie Chase were showmen as well as a skilled tag team of rappers. They practiced and perfected their routines for over a year beginning in 1978 and began performing live, especially at numerous "MC battles" that took place at that time. The party-flavored rhymes hark back to a more innocent time when MC stood for Master of Ceremonies, DJs actually did something other than scratch over a DAT tape, and the only references to killing were metaphors. In 1982 they appeared in the legendary hip-hop film Wild Style. The Cold Crush Brothers never released a full-length album but did release a number of influential singles on the Tuff City label, including "Fresh, Wild, Fly and Bold." Most of these singles are collected on 1995's Fresh, Wild, Fly & Bold. The group broke up in 1986.

Golden Age of Hip-Hop
A lot of people disagree on the exact dates of this time period. For many hip-hop fans in their 30s, the period beginning around the early 80's to the early 90's was the "Golden Age"of hip-hop. This time period, and the years preceding it, produced many pioneers and musical geniuses whose work has influenced every aspect of pop-culture today. In contrast to the rap music currently dominating the airwaves, hip-hop was a culture during these early years and there were many different mediums in which you could express yourself: graffiti, break-dancing, DJ-ing and of course MC-ing. Three out of the 4 elements of hip-hop have all but been eliminated over the years. MC-ing, or rap, has changed drastically since this "Golden Age" when lyricists seized the opportunity to tell stories ranging from comical to philosophical.

RUN D.M.C.
Run (Joseph Simmons) born 11/14/64, DMC (Darryl McDaniels) born 05/31/64, Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) born 01/21/65 - died 10/30/02. Natives of Hollis, Queens; Run is the brother of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. By the late 80's Russell had already formed Rush Productions and (with Rick Rubin) formed Def Jam Records, a pioneering record label. He prodded Run to join forces with his friend DMC and form a rap duo. They followed his advice and in 1982 after graduating from high school they enlisted the help of Jason Mizell to scratch turntables. One year later they released their first single, "It's Like That/Sucker M.C.s" which went on to become a Top 20 R&B hit. With the release of their second album 1985's "King of Rock", Run DMC had become the most influential and popular rap groups in America. They received mainstream success when they fused rock and rap on 1985's "Raising Hell". It was the first album to reach #1 on the R&B chart, chart in the pop Top 10 and to go platinum. Subsequently, Run DMC became the first rap act to receive airplay on MTV, to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first non-athletes to endorse Adidas products. The next few years saw the group struggle both personally and professionally as the hip hop audience moved more towards hardcore rappers such as Public Enemy. In 1993, after becoming born again Christians, they released "Down With the King". The title single became a Top 10 hit and the album went gold. A successful comeback, it proved the group was still very much respected in the hip-hop community. They embarked on a tour with Aerosmith in 2002 following the release of two greatest hits albums. Mere weeks after the conclusion of the tour, Jam Master Jay was senselessly murdered at a recording studio in Queens. Only 37 at the time, his death marked the end of an era and was deeply felt by hip-hop heads both old and young alike.

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ERIC B & RAKIM
Hailing from Queens, New York this rap duo consisted of Eric Barrier (b. Elmhurst, New York) and William "Rakim" Griffin (b. William Griffin Jr., Long Island, New York). Rakim was the lyricist, Eric B the DJ. Eric was working for the New York radio station WBLS in 1985 and the station was searching for the city's top MC. Along came Rakim. They started working together before emerging with the demo, "Eric B. Is President". Their long-playing debut was preceded by a stand-out single of the same name, "Paid In Full', which inspired over 30 remixes. When the album arrived it caused immediate waves. They also originated the similarly coveted "Pump Up The Volume" sample. While Eric B put the funk back into rap music, Rakim introduced a more relaxed, intuitive delivery that was distinctly separate from the machismo of Run-DMC and LL Cool J, and was probably the biggest single influence on 90s hip-hop artists such as Nas and Dr. Dre. Each of their albums offered a significant musical development on the last; Rakim's raps growing in maturity without sacrificing impact.

MC Lyte
Born Lana Moorer, October 11, 1970, Queens, New York, but raised in Brooklyn. The daughter of First Priority boss Nat Robinson, and sister to the Audio Two brothers, Lyte began her career in fine style with the 45 "I Cram To Understand U (Sam)", released when she was still a teenager. Lyte has gone on to underscore her patent scouring wit, often referring to the out of control egos of her male counterparts, with synthesizer and funk beats coalescing beneath. After an extended hiatus, Lyte returned in 1996 with the US Top 10 hit single "Keep On, Keepin' On". In 1998, Lyte celebrated a remarkable 10 years on the rap scene with "Seven & Seven". Lyte has also put aside time to become active in several social projects/organizations, including anti-violence campaigns, Rock the Vote, and AIDS benefits. In 2001, Rhino Records issued the 16-track career overview "The Very Best of MC Lyte." Lyte then mounted a comeback in 2003 with "Da Undaground Heat", Vol. 1. More recently she has utilized her ear and eye for talent as a judge on the hit show Star Search.

Jurassic 5
Formed in 1993 at the Los Angeles, California venue Good Life, Jurassic 5 became one of hip-hop underground's leading lights. Comprised of rappers Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir, Mark 7even, and turntable maestros DJ Nu-Mark and DJ Cut Chemist (b. Lucas McFadden), the group came together from two separate crews - the Rebels And Rhythm and Unity Committee. Their position at the head of the late 90s new wave of underground rap, alongside artists such as Black Star, was confirmed when the Jurassic 5 EP was released in December 1997. The nine tracks were concise and razor sharp in comparison to the bloated epics being released by the rap mainstream, and the EP was immediately hailed as one of the decade's most important hip-hop releases. The tracks harked back to the old school attitude of New York's Native Tongues Posse, the seminal late 80s coalition of artists including De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest who reaffirmed rap's social agenda.

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Outkast
Dre (born Andre Benjamin 05/27/75) and Big Boi (born Antwan Patton 2/1/75) attended the same high school in the Atlanta borough of East Point, and several lyrical battles made each gain respect for the other's skills. The duo signed with LaFace Records prior to graduation and immediately broke big with "Player's Ball". Their blend of gritty Southern soul, fluid raps, and the rolling G-funk of their Organized Noize production crew epitomized the Atlanta wing of hip-hop's rising force, the Dirty South, during the late '90s. OutKast took Southern hip-hop in bold, innovative new directions: less reliance on aggression, more positivity and melody, thicker arrangements, and intricate lyrics. After that first single hit number one on the rap charts, the duo embarked on a run of platinum albums spiked with several hit singles which enjoyed numerous critical accolades in addition to their commercial success. In 2003, the duo made history releasing the two disc set "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" containing a solo album each from Dre and Boi. The set debuted at number one on the Billboard charts with two singles (one from each disc) remaining at the top of the charts for a remarkable eight weeks. The album picked up two Grammy's for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year.

Black Star
In high school, Talib Kweli met Dante Smith aka Mos Def hanging out in Washington Square Park where all of the boroughs would meet to battle. Then, in 1994 on a visit to Cincinnati, Ohio, Kweli met Tony Cottrell (DJ Hi Tek), producer for the hip hop group Mood. After collaborating on several tracks for Mood's 1997 album, Doom, Kweli and Hi-Tek (under the name Reflection Eternal) released "Fortified Live" on Rawkus Records, a classic single that immediately established the duo as an up-and-coming force in hip hop. Kweli then teamed up with fellow emcee Mos Def to record and release "Mos Def And Talib Kweli Are Black Star" (1998). The Black Star collaboration was heralded by hip hop lovers and artists alike as one of the best albums of the decade. They are one of the few hip-hop bands that realize not everyone in the African-American community is involved in gangsta culture and their focus is on telling the stories that aren't being told in their communities. At a time when popular hip hop is dominated by cries of "make money money," Mos Def and Kweli deal with issues of social consciousness and self love, proving responsible discourse in hip hop can be cool.

Fab 5 Freddy
(Fred Brathwaite) born 1959. Native of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fab 5 Freddy was first known as an underground graffiti artist. He graduated high school in the 70's and studied painting at Medgar Evans College. Through a friendship with music columnist Glenn O'Brien, he became a cameraman and regular guest of his show. O'Brien also introduced him to many up and comers of the downtown hipster scene. Fab 5 later introduced these same hipsters to Afrika Bambaataa and the hip hop culture. In 1982 he starred in and produced the soundtrack for Wild Style. During the late 80's he directed several hip hop videos and was approached to host Yo! MTV Raps. In 1992, Fab 5 Freddy compiled a dictionary of hip-hop slang titled Fresh Fly Flavor.

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Queen Latifah
Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970 in East Orange, New Jersey Queen Latifah is largely recognized as rap's first lady. In 1988 at just 18 years old she released her debut single, "Wrath Of My Madness", after working as the human beatbox for the female rapping crew Ladies Fresh. One year later, her debut album enjoyed fevered reviews: an old, wise head was evident on the top of her young shoulders. She possessed a style that picked selectively from jazz and soul traditions. By her third album, she shifted from the soul and ragga tones of "Nature Of A Sista" to sophisticated, sassy hip-hop. Queen Latifah subsequently embarked on a career as an actor, notably in the hit streetwise black comedy, Living Single, where she played magazine boss Khadijah James. The Queen Latifah Show, a daytime talk show, debuted in 1999 and ran in syndication until 2001. Her performance in the acclaimed movie musical Chicago, garnered her Best Supporting Actress nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes. As if that were not enough, she additionally set up her own Flavor Unit record label and management company in 1993, as an outlet for new rap acts as well as her own recordings. Queen Latifah remains one of the most positive role models for young black women (and men) in hip-hop culture.

Aaron McGruder
Cartoonist. Artist and creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip The Boondocks. Inspired by his love of hip-hop culture, The Boondocks is a story of two African American kids (brothers Huey and Riley) who are attempting to adjust to life in white suburbia. A graduate of University of Maryland, where he received a degree in African American Studies, Aaron seeks to promote thought, help improve the state of racial discourse and expand the types of humor found on comic pages.

Old Skool
Old School Rap is the style of the very first rap artists who emerged in the late '70s and early '80s. At the dawn of the hip-hop era, all rap was East Coast Rap and all of rap's most important early artists were based in the New York City area — old-school legends like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Run-D.M.C. However, as rap music grew and became more diverse over the course of the 80's many productive scenes began to appear throughout the Northeast and eventually throughout the country. Most rap from the 70's and early 80's had the fun, playful flavor of the NYC block parties and dances at which it was born. From the mid- to late '80s it tended to gravitate towards more aggressive beats and sample collages, and many MCs prided themselves on their technical dexterity in crafting lyrics. With diverse topics ranging from comical to political to downright philosophical, artist throughout the 80's such as KRS-1, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest helped rap music develop into a respected art form.

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THE BEASTIE BOYS
Mike D (born Mike Diamond, November 20, 1966), MCA (born Adam Yauch, August 5, 1965), and Ad-Rock (born Adam Horovitz, October 31, 1967). The Beastie Boys began as a hardcore punk group in 1981. By early 1984, however, they had abandoned punk and turned their attention to rap. Their hit debut album, "Licensed to Ill" (1986), an amalgam of street beats, metal riffs, b-boy jokes, and satire, became the fastest-selling debut in Columbia Records' history, moving over 750,000 copies in its first six weeks. In fact, "Licensed to Ill" became the biggest-selling rap album of the '80s. Their Dust Brothers-produced second album, "Paul's Boutique", was ignored by both the public and the press at the time. In retrospect, it was one of the first albums to predict the genre-bending, self-referential pop kaleidoscope of '90s pop. The Beasties refined their eclectic approach with 1992's "Check Your Head", where they played their own instruments. "Check Your Head" brought the Beasties back to the top of the charts, and within a few years, they were considered one of the most influential and ambitious groups of the '90s, cultivating a musical community not only through their music, but with their record label, Grand Royal, and their magazine of the same name. "Ill Communication" debuted at number one upon its release in 1994, and went on to double-platinum status. In addition to their record label and magazine the Beasties often concentrated on various political causes and in 1996 Adam Yauch founded The Milarepa Fund and organized a two-day festival to raise awareness and money about Tibet's plight against the Chinese government. The Tibetan Freedom Concerts went on to become an annual event.

MOS DEF
Born in Brooklyn, Mos Def pursued the arts at a young age, excelling as a performer. His artistic career began in the late '80s as a television actor, a profession he began directly out of high school. By the mid-'90s though, Mos Def turned to rap music as his new profession. His first full-length album, "Black Star" (1998), a collaboration with Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, shook the hip-hop community, which embraced the album and spoke of a Native Tongue revival. His solo debut, "Black on Both Sides" (1999), did much the same a year later. Both critics and fans alike considered Mos Def somewhat of a hip-hop savior in an age of flossin' gangstas and angry thugs. Initially regarded as one of hip-hop's most promising newcomers in the late '90s, Mos Def expanded his reach in the years to come, establishing himself as a serious actor and also making a bid to reshape the rap-rock genre forming the rap-rock group Black Jack Johnson.

TALIB KWELI
Born in Brooklyn Kweli's first name, Talib, is an Arabian name meaning "the seeker or student" while his last name is a Ghanaian name meaning "of truth or knowledge." His ascent into hip-hop began after he met (DJ) Hi-Tek and then Mos Def during a stint at N.Y.U., where the two studied theater, in 1995. Kweli and Hi-Tek initially formed the MC/DJ duo Reflection Eternal and later added Mos Def to the mix and changed their name to Black Star. Their self-titled full-length CD "Black Star" (1998) won enormous acclaim and acceptance, and subsequently the three members embarked on similarly successful solo careers. Kweli first revived his previous MC/DJ partnership with Hi-Tek for the "Reflection Eternal" album (2000) and then collaborated with several producers for his second, "Quality" (2002). Kweli's thoughtful and heartfelt rhymes provided a welcome alternative to mainstream East Coast rap of the time (Jay-Z, Nas, Puff Daddy, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang), and a large audience of golden-age revivalists embraced his music, as did the alt-rap scene and most critics.

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THE ROOTS
Black Thought (Tariq Trotter),?uestlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson), Hub (Leon Hubbard), and Malik B.Philadelphia group who paved the way for live rap, building on Stetsasonic's "hip-hop band" philosophy of the mid-'80s by focusing on live instrumentation at their concerts and in the studio. The Roots' focus on live music began back in 1987 when rapper Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) and drummer ?uestlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) became friends at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts. Since the duo had no money for the DJ essentials — two turntables and a microphone, plus a mixer and plenty of vinyl — they recreated classic hip-hop tracks with ?uestlove's drum kit backing Black Thought's rhymes. Playing around school, on the sidewalk, and later at talent shows, the pair began to earn money and hooked up with bassist Hub (Leon Hubbard) and rapper Malik B. The Roots' first major-label album, "Do You Want More?!!!??!", was released in January 1995; forsaking usual hip-hop protocol, the album was produced without any samples or previously recorded material.

RES
Born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, RES (née Shareese Renee Ballard) listened to her parents' Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Teddy Pendergrass albums at home. She also developed an appreciation for groups like the Eurythmics and Pearl Jam while attending the Academy of Notre Dame, an all-girls Catholic college prep school. Now classically trained, RES found her lifelong passion for music at the tender age of seven, when she was first enrolled in voice lessons. By the age of 14 she was singing Italian arias from operas. In late 1999 she signed with MCA Records and began guesting on songs such as the title track of GZA's "Beneath the Surface" and Talib Kweli's and Hi-Tek's "Too Late" from Reflection's Eternal. Her debut album "How I Do", is a cohesive collection of refreshingly original songs that boast vivid, compelling lyrics and incorporate elements of soul, hip-hop, alternative rock, roots reggae, acid jazz, folk, drum 'n' bass and psychedelic influences.

SADE
Born Helen Folasade Adu in a village 50 miles from Lagos, the capitol of Nigeria, she is the daughter of an African father and an English mother. A fan of Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Holliday, Sade began developing a good singing voice in her teens. Before her career took off, Sade worked part-time jobs in and outside of the music business. She studied fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art in London while also doing some modeling on the side. From 1981-83, Sade fronted the funk band Pride, leaving the following year to form her own band with ex-Pride members Stewart Matthewman (saxophone), Andrew Hale (keyboards) and Paul Denman (bass). The line-up was completed by drummer Paul Cook. Their debut album "Diamond Life" broke her into the US market on the back of the Top 5 hit single "Smooth Operator", and went on to become one of the biggest-selling debut albums of the decade. In the years that followed Sade released 6 more albums, often taking off several years between multi-platinum releases. Throughout their history, the group has always attracted a diverse, multi-racial audience who are drawn by the band's open-minded approach to music. Sade refuses to be classified simply as a pop group, an r&b act, a soul band or anything else one-dimensional. Instead, like the multi-cultural London streets the group hails from, their music has thrived by embracing diversity as a guiding principle.

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JIM HENSON
Puppeteer, born in Greenville, Mississippi. His ‘Muppets' (Marionettes/puppets) first appeared on a five-minute program entitled ‘Sam and Friends'. Other commercial and short appearances led to nationwide popularity on Sesame Street (1969-present). Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and friends went on to gain phenomenal success in The Muppet Show (1976-81), which reached an estimated 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries, The Muppets also appeared in a string of films and on a Grammy-winning album (1979). The recipient of numerous Emmy awards, he continued to make television programs combining live action and increasingly sophisticated puppetry, including Fraggle Rock (from 1983) and The Storyteller (from 1987).

DR. SEUSS
Illustrator, cartoonist, author. b. 1904. Theodore (Dr. Seuss) Geisel guided, instructed and amused children of all ages and nationalities with more than forty books, among them "Horton Hatches an Egg", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "The Lorax". Dr. Seuss also wrote "The Cat in the Hat", the sucess of which helped create Beginner Books, still a division of Random House, Inc. Though most of his books have been classified as children's books, his satirical social commentaries have won him many adults fans as well. Lesser known aspects of his career are the advertising and political cartoons he created during his college days and before the publication of his first children's book ("And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street", 1937). During the 1930's Geisel created Quik Henry, the Flit!, the first major advertising campaign done entirely in cartoons.

MATT GROENIG
Cartoonist, Producer. Born in Portland Oregon, cartoonist Groenig created Life In Hell, a sarcastically grim comic strip detailing the lives of 3 maladjusted rabbits. The strip became an underground success, spawned a series of books and is now syndicated in a 250 newspapers worldwide. In 1987 The Tracy Ullman Show asked Groenig to create an animated version of "Life In Hell". Rather than surrender the creative rights he created The Simpsons, which became it's own prime time series on Fox in 1989. In January 2003 Fox signed the Emmy winning show for 2 more seasons, making The Simpsons America's the longest running sitcom.

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IYANLA VANZANT
Author, Spiritual Life Counselor. Iyanla Vanzant is the award winning author of such bestsellers as: "Acts of Faith", "Faith in the Valley" and "In the Meantime". As an empowerment specialist, Spiritual Life Counselor and ordained minister, she lectures and facilitates workshops nationally with a mission to assist in the empowerment of women and men everywhere.

OPRAH WINFREY
Television talk-show host, actress, and producer. Born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. After a sucessful career as a jounalist and talk show host in Chicago, Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program. She soon gained ownership of the program from ABC, drawing it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions ("Oprah" spelled backwards). In 1994, with talk shows becoming increasingly trashy and exploitative, Winfrey pledged to keep her show free of tabloid topics. The media giant contributed immensely to the publishing world by launching her "Oprah's Book Club," as part of her talk show. The program propelled many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure reading a new kind of popular prominence. In 1999 Oprah debuted Oxygen Media, a company she co-founded that is dedicated to producing cable and Internet programming for women. In April 2000, Oprah and Hearst Magazines introduced O, The Oprah Magazine, a monthly magazine that has become one of today's leading women's lifestyle publications. It is credited as being the most successful magazine launch in recent history and currently has an audience of over two million readers each month. O, The Oprah Magazine, is another medium through which Oprah connects with her audience and provides possibilities for transforming their lives. Oprah's contributions extend well beyond the worlds of television film and publishing and have established her as one of the most important figures in popular culture.

NEALE DONALD WALSCH
Author. Neale Donald Walsch is the author of the bestselling "Conversations with God" series of books. The "With God" Series has redefined God and shifted spiritual paradigms around the globe. In order to deal with the enormous response to his writings, Neale and his wife, Nancy Fleming-Walsch, created the Conversations with God Foundation, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to inspiring the world to help itself move from violence to peace, from confusion to clarity, and from anger to love.

CHRIS ROCK
Comedian, Actor. Born in 1966 in Andrews, South Carolina. Chris Rock is most noted for his raw observational humor that creatively makes fun of all sexes, ages, and races. His uninhibited nature has earned him respect and praise from both white and African American communities. His hilariously funny HBO specials "Bring the Pain" and "Bigger and Blacker" have won him both Emmy Awards and critical acclaim. In 1997, Rock began hosting his own show on HBO. "The Chris Rock Show" earned several CableAce Awards. Rock also received two Grammy Awards for his spoken comedy albums "Roll With the New" (1997) and "Bigger and Blacker" (1999).

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S.O.S. Band
Formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, the S.O.S. Band enjoyed a long run of hits on the R&B charts during the 80s. The group originally consisted of Mary Davis (vocals, keyboards), Jason "T.C." Bryant (keyboards), Billy R. Ellis (saxophone) and James Earl Jones III (drums) and later added members Willie "Sonny" Killebrew (saxophone, flute), John Simpson III (bass, keyboards) and Bruno Speight (guitar). Originally known as Sounds of Santa Monica the group later changed its name to the S.O.S. Band and teamed up with songwriter/producer Sigidi Adullah. Performing in the then popular funk style, the band began to amass a catalogue of hits in 1980, with "Take Your Time (Do It Right) Part 1". Abdul Ra'oof (trumpet, percussion, vocals) was added to the line-up following the release of the band's self-titled debut. After teaming up with producers Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis in the mid-80s, they returned to the pop singles chart four more times. On the R&B chart they were mainstays through 1987, returning to the Top 10 four more times - in 1983 with "Just Be Good To Me" and the beatbox ballad "Tell Me If You Still Care", in 1984 with "Just The Way You Like It", and in 1986 with "The Finest". Many of these releases helped to popularize the now-classic sound of Roland drum machine, the TR-808.

Surface
Surface is comprised of Bernard Jackson, David Townsend and David Conley. This 80's soft vocal trio is known for such hits as "Happy", "Closer Than Friends", "You Are My Everything" and "Shower Me With Your Love". Prior to their string of hits, the trio had a successful career as song writers. Townsend a former guitarist for the Isley Brothers, met Conley when he joined a band called Port Authority. After Townsend and Conley met Jackson it was decided that they'd write songs together. They became staff writers for EMI Music and their songs were covered by New Edition("Let's Be Friends") and Sister Sledge ( "You're So Fine"). The trio later became performers, began using the name Surface and moved to Los Angeles where an EMI Music executive brought one of their songs to the attention of Columbia Records.

Loose Ends
Formed in 1982 by Jane Eugene, Steve Nichol and Carl McIntosh, Loose End (as they were originally known) were the first all-black British band to be signed to the Virgin Records label. After several unsuccessful singles they changed their name to Loose Ends, enlisted producer Nick Martinelli, and started to make an impression on the soul/dance scene with a series of excellent releases. Their major breakthrough came with the Top 20 singles "Hangin' On A String (Contemplating)" and "Magic Touch".

Whodini
Brooklyn, New York-based rappers who, from their formation in 1982, pioneered the commercial rap/rock crossover. Whodini consists of rappers Jalil Hutchins, John "Ecstasy" Fletcher and legendary old skool DJ Drew "Grandmaster Dee" Carter (known for being able to scratch records with nearly every part of his body). Rap innovators, Whodini were one of the first rap groups to add a R&B twist to their music, laying the groundwork for the new jack swing movement. Whodini made its name with good-humored songs like "Magic's Wand" (the first rap song to feature an accompanying video), "The Haunted House of Rock" (a rewrite of "Monster Mash"), and "Freaks Come Out at Night". Whodini's live shows were also the first rap concerts to feature official dancers.

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Stetsasonic
Rappers Glenn "Daddy O" Bolton, Martin "Delite" Wright, and Bobby "Frukwan" Simmons, DJs "Prince Paul" Huston and Leonard "Wise" Roman, and keyboardist/drummer/DJ Marvin "DBC" Nemley. Formed in 1981, Brooklyn's Stetsasonic were one of the first rap groups to use a live band, and were also among the first to promote a positive black consciousness. Daddy O and Delite founded the group and began performing in New York hip-hop clubs, picking up other members along the way. They released their debut "On Fire" in 1986 but it was their follow-up, "In Full Gear", that brought them critical acclaim. "Blood, Sweat & No Tears" (1991) was considered by many to be their best and most diverse album, but Daddy O decided that they had run out of ideas and broke up the band. He went on to work with Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a producer and remixer. Prince Paul established himself as a producer for his work with De La Soul and Fine Young Cannibals and later worked with Frukwan again in the Gravediggas.

 

Big Daddy Kane
Born Antonio Hardy, Brooklyn, NY, September 10, 1968. Big Daddy's stage name "Kane" was an acronym for King Asiatic Nobody's Equal. Emerging during the Golden Age of hip-hop, Big Daddy Kane was the ultimate lover man. There was, however, much more to this "Smooth Operator" than his stylish wardrobe, gold jewelry, and sophisticated charisma. So well versed in the philosophy of the Nation of Islam's Five Percent school, Kane could act as an Afrocentric consciousness-raiser just as effortlessly as he worked his Playboy persona. Furthermore, Kane possessed a remarkable rhyming technique honed from his numerous MC battles and his best material ranks among the finest hip-hop of its era. His sex-drenched persona undoubtedly had an enormous influence on countless future would-be players.

Digable Planets
Doodle Bug (b. Craig Irving, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Butterfly (b. Ishmael Butler, Brooklyn, New York) and Ladybug (b. Mary Ann Vierra, Silver Springs, Maryland). Though they were not the first act to merge the two, these psychedelic jazz rappers (along with Gang Starr) were hailed as innovators of the genre. Digable Planets formed in the early 90's when Butler met Vieira while attending college in Massachusetts. The two later met up with Irving and began recording. Musically, they epitomized the laid-back vibe of jazz hipsters with their perfect combination of wordplay and dreamy jazz backing. Lyrically, there were often underlying messages, as expressed on cuts like "La Femme Fetal', an attack on the Pro-Life lobbiest who firebomb abortion clinics. The trio toured with live musicians in an attempt to recreate the jazzy atmosphere of the album and unfortunately disbanded shortly after their second release "Blow Out Comb". Ishmael Butler later reinvented himself as Cherrywine, releasing his debut album "Bright Black" in 2003. Ladybug, now a mother of four currently living in Harlem, NY, is currently working on a solo release.

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Guru
Born Keith Elam. Rapper/composer Guru is the "lyrical half" of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr, one of the first groups that attempted to blend jazz with rap. After three successful Gang Starr albums, Guru launched his solo career, issuing "Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1" in 1993. The album featured guest appearances by jazz legends Roy Ayers, and Donald Byrd and was followed up two years later by a sophomore solo outing, "Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality." "Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2" again featured a variety of special guests (including Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis, and members of Jamiroquai). Despite his solo career, Guru has remained true to Gang Starr, continuing to contribute to projects and albums.

A Tribe Called Quest
Q-Tip (born Jonathan Davis, November 20 1970, New York), DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad (born August 11 1970, Brooklyn, New York), Jarobi (who left the group by their second album) and Phife Dog (born Malik Taylor, April 10 1970, Brooklyn, New York). One of hip-hop's most intelligent and artistic rap groups, A Tribe Called Quest formed at school in Manhattan, where they started out as part of the Native Tongues Posse (they were given their name by fellow Native Tongues members the Jungle Brothers). By abandoning the macho bragging rap music had been built upon and focusing instead on abstract philosophy and message tracks, Tribe epitomized the hip-hop alternative to hardcore and gangsta rap. Lyrically Tribe often confronted numerous black issues such as date rape, use of the "N" word, and the trials and tribulations of the rap industry. Musically, Quest built upon De la Soul's jazz-rap revolution, basing tracks around laid-back samples rather than the typical James Brown tracks that many rappers of the 80's relied upon.

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Lauryn Hill
Born May 25, 1975, South Orange, New Jersey. Raised in South Orange, NJ, Hill spent her youth listening to her parents' multi-genre, multi-generational record collection. She began singing at an early age, and was soon landing minor roles on television (As the World Turns) and in film (Sister Act II: Back in the Habit). At one point the multi-talented Hill managed to balance her acting career with her music career (as part of the rap group the Fugees) and her enrollment at Columbia University. After achieving international hip-hop stardom along with Fugees members Pras and Wyclef Jean, Hill began work on her solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill . Hill wrote, arranged, or produced just about every track on the Miseducation album, whose sound broke new ground by successfully integrating rap, soul, reggae, and R&B. By the end of the year, the album topped almost every major music critic's best-of list. In February 1999 Hill took home five Grammy Awards, the most ever for a woman at the time.

Aaliyah
Born Aaliyah Dana Haughton, January 16, 1979, Brooklyn, New York, died August 25, 2001, Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas. Aaliyah ("highest, most exalted one" in Swahili) grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her early career was fostered by R. Kelly, and in 1994 he wrote and produced her platinum selling debut "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number." She remained a "straight A" student at Detroit High School of the Performing Arts throughout the first stage of her recording career, persevering with her education despite commercial success. In 1996 Aaliyah released the double platinum "One In A Million", on which she worked with producers Timbaland and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot. In 2000 Aaliyah began filming on her screen debut in Andrzej Bartkowiak's "Romeo Must Die". Aaliyah subsequently completed filming on the Anne Rice vampire flick "Queen of the Damned" and was cast in a prominent role in the two sequels to "The Matrix." Returning to her music career, 2001's self-titled third album demonstrated a new maturity and confidence, with Aaliyah fashioning a bold new sound. One month after its release (August 2001) tragedy struck when, after filming a video in the Bahamas, Aaliyah and various members of her record company attempted to fly home. The small light aircraft crashed killing Aaliyah and her entourage. Her third album posthumously climbed to the number 1 position in America. Even with only three albums in her tragically brief career, Aaliyah has earned a place as a talented trendsetter among the R&B elite. Her work (with Timbaland and Missy especially) was some of the most forward-sounding R&B of its time.

Kimora Lee Simmons
Kimora Lee Simmons (born Kimora Lee Perkins on May 4, 1975) is an American super model, author, philanthropist, producer, television personality, Tony winner (2003 Def Poetry Jam) and the president and Creative Director for Phat Fashions. Simmons has also appeared in small roles in television and films and stars in a reality show (Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane) based on her personal life and career. Her book "Fabulosity: What it is and How to Get it" garnered rave reviews from respected publications such as the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. The book empowers women to cultivate their inner goddess with independence, fearlessness, and confidence.

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Biggie Smalls
Born Christopher Wallace, May 21, 1972, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, died March 9, 1997, Los Angeles, California. Often considered the savior of East Coast hip-hop, The Notorious B.I.G. became both a symbol and victim of the culture of violence he depicted so realistically in his records. Growing up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Biggie began selling drugs and acting as a lookout at an early age. He first rapped, under the name Biggie Smalls, as part of the neighborhood group the Old Gold Brothers. Experimenting with his own demo recordings, a copy of B.I.G.'s work made it's way to Mister Cee, Big Daddy Kane's DJ. Cee passed the demo on to The Source, which gave it a glowing review in its "Unsigned Hype" column. The positive publicity attracted the attention of Sean "Puffy" Combs of Bad Boy Entertainment, who signed Wallace. Adopted the stage name Notorious B.I.G., Wallace made his recording debut in 1993 in the Mary J. Blige hit "Real Love". His debut album Ready to Die achieved platinum sales and B.I.G. ended 1995 as not only the top-selling rap artist, but also the biggest solo male act on both the pop and R&B charts. Even after reaching this level of success, Notorious B.I.G. never left the ghetto behind. He began work on a second album, Life After Death which unfortunately he never lived to see released. He was gunned down after leaving a party in California in March 1997. Two years later the Notorious B.I.G. was back at the top of the charts with Born Again, a collection of unreleased material.

Tupac
Born Tupac Amaru Shakur, June 16, 1971, Brooklyn, New York, died September 13 1996, Las Vegas, Nevada. Tupac was the son of two Black Panther members. As a teenager Shakur studied at the Baltimore School Of Arts, before he moved to Marin City, California with his family and began hustling on the streets. He started his hip-hop career as a back-up singer and dancer for Digital Underground and in 1991 released his solo debut 2Pacalypse Now. This platinum-selling album offered a rare degree of insight and bits of wisdom. Tupac followed this success by launching his acting career, appearing in Ernest Dickerson's Juice and in director John Singleton's movie Poetic Justice, opposite Janet Jackson. Caught up in the gangsta lifestyle that he dipicted in his songs and movie roles, Shakur, who had no police record prior to becoming a recording artist, began having serious altercations with the law. In 1996's Shakur released the sprawling double set All Eyez On Me, while in prison. This critically acclaimed album sold over six million in its first year and generated a hit single with the Dr. Dre duet "California Love'. That same year, Shakur began concentrating on his acting career again, appearing in the films Bullet and Gridlock'd . While his star power and creativity were clearly on the rise, the gangsta lifestyle he captured so often in his music soon overtook his life. On September 8 after watching the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand, Tupac was shot in a drive-by shooting and died six days later. Since his death Shakur's recorded legacy has generated several posthumous releases and hit singles.

Jay Z
Born Shawn Corey Carter, December 4, 1969, Brooklyn, New York. A Brooklyn native, Carter attended school with and became a life long friend of the Notorious B.I.G. He first began releasing records in the late 80s while trying to steer away from the lure of the streets. After several misladen record deals, Jay-Z set-up his own Roc-A-Fella imprint in 1996 with entrepreneur Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. His debut set, "Reasonable Doubt", achieved gold sales. The follow-up "In My Lifetime,Vol. 1" was released in the aftermath of Notorious B.I.G.'s murder cementing him at the top of the rap game. Highly sought after as a guest artist, Jay-Z also found the time to write, produce and direct the semi-autobiographical short Streets Is Watching. Since his debut Jay-Z has released an unprecedented album or two every year. Disgruntled by the shift the rap industry has taken (away from quality lyrics towards a good hook and hollow rhymes), he announced in October 2003 that he would retire from recording and performing, and devote his time to the business side of the music industry.

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Eve
Born Eve Jihan Jeffers on November 10, 1979, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A sexy MC who is never as over the top as her competitors, Eve is a strong no-nonsense MC who can hold her own against anyone on the mic. Eve started out as a singer in her early teens, performing with an all-female vocal quintet. After honing her skills as a rapper in impromptu battles with friends, Eve began rapping in a high school rap group under the name Gangsta. Her first break came when Dr. Dre signed her to his Aftermath label and helped produce her demo tape. Later a chance meeting with rapper DMX led to Eve passing a battle-rap audition to join Ruff Ryders label as their only female MC. Her 1st album, 1999's Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryder's First Lady, debuted at number 1, the first time a female rapper had ever accomplished that feat. Her 2001 follow-up Scorpion went platinum and won Eve a Grammy Award for the hit single "Let Me Blow Your Mind" (a collaboration with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani). In 2002 she released her 3rd album Eve-Olution and started her acting career, appearing in the high-grossing movies Barbershop and XXX. Eve's star power continues to be on the rise. In addition to starring on her own hit sitcom Eve, she has launched her own clothing line called Fetish.

Russell Simmons
Russell "Rush" Simmons grew up in the Hollis area of Queens, NY. He studied sociology at CCNY-Harlem and in 1978 began using his spare time to promote early hip-hop block parties and shows around Harlem and Queens. From there he went on to managing the careers of friends, local hip-hop artists, and his brother's group Run DMC. Eventually Simmons started his own production company (Rush Management) and in 1982 he hooked up with Rick Rubin to found the Def Jam label. Def Jam grew into one of the most popular and creatively vital labels in hip-hop history helping launch the careers of legendary artists such as LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Slick Rick. Now considered one of the most important businessman in the history of rap music, Simmons' marketing savvy helped bring hip-hop culture into the mainstream of American and mass media. Over the years Simmons built his communications company into the largest black-owned enterprise in the industry. In 1999 he sold Def Jam for 100 million dollars. As one of the most respected figures in the rap business, he has continued to take an active interest in shaping the direction of hip-hop culture. He has also devoted his attention to the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a non-profit organization that works with label heads, artists, and other key figures in hip-hop to discuss responsible directions for the culture's image and marketing.

Puff Daddy
Born in Harlem in 1970, Sean Combs spent much of his childhood in nearby Mt. Vernon, NY. He juggled two paper routes in his youth making him a shrewd businessman at a very early age. He applied to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and while attending, convinced childhood friend Heavy D to sign him up as an intern at the label he recorded for, Uptown Records. Shortly after he was an A&R executive with his sights set on the vice presidency. His ambition got the best of him and he was released from his duties at Uptown the following year. Not one to stay down for long he began working as a remixer and in 1993 set up Bad Boy Entertainment , running the label out of his apartment. Sean "Puffy" Combs — alternately known as Puff Daddy or P. Diddy — created a multi-million dollar industry around Bad Boy Entertainment. He was responsible for over 100 million dollars in total record sales and named ASCAP's 1996 Songwriter of the Year. The biggest hip-hop impresario of the mid-'90s, Puff Daddy continues to be a force to be reckoned with today.

Missy Elliot
Born Melissa Elliott, July 1 1971, Portsmouth, Virginia. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott has become one of the most esteemed figures in contemporary music. Unlike most of urban music's female superstars, Missy writes her own songs as well as performs them. In addition to her own trend-setting, chart-topping hits, Missy has written, arranged and produced hits for other artists such as Aaliyah, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson. Elliott first started her career performing in a neighborhood singing group, Sista. Elliott then signed to Elektra Records as a solo artist on the understanding that they would subsidize her own label, Gold Mind Records. In 1997, she launched her solo career with the platinum selling album Supa Dupa Fly followed by 1999's sophomore set, Da Real World. Missy's 2001's Miss E ... So Addictive managed to surpass her first two albums with critics and fans alike hailing it as one of the finest albums of the new millennium. On each of these albums, Missy Elliot has proved with both dignity and humor that women could be sexual as well as powerful. As a result, she defied every stereotype imaginable without forsaking her broad fan base.

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