Ten acts that helped make hip-hop more accessible to mainstream audiences

Categories: Lists, Poptimystic

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Eric Gruneisen

Hip-hop is a world unto itself. Its rich tradition of spoken word poetry, self-referential subject matter and electronic and sample-based production make it, in many ways, a difficult musical form to adapt to, especially if you come from a more traditional background. These ten acts helped make rap more accessible to mainstream audiences.

See also:
- Ten essential gangsta-rap albums
- The ten best storytellers in hip-hop
- The ten best hip-hop lyrics of 2012

10. Linkin Park
Linkin Park first earned mainstream success during the short-lived nu-metal trend with their 2000 album, Hybrid Theory. Although Linkin Park is not strictly a "hip-hop" group, they punctuate their rock-metal-grunge fusion with flourishes from turntablist Joe Hahn, while vocalist Mike Shinoda also contributes a degree of rap to the group with his hip-hop influenced lyrics. With their hybrid music, they opened the eyes of metalheads to hip-hop and vice-versa.

9. Atmosphere
Atmosphere, composed of MC Slug and producer Ant, is responsible for the hip-hopification of untold numbers of angsty adolescents in the '90s who were initially driven away by the glamorization of sex, violence and self-aggrandizement that dominated mainstream '90s rap. The Rhymesayers act caught on in a big way with 2002's God Loves Ugly and has been a force ever since. The utter hopelessness of Slug's lyrics, along with his down-to-earth persona, connected with a generation left wanting from the early demise of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, and with Ant's friendly production, Atmosphere became the perfect soundtrack for young people caught in the roller coaster of their own emotions.

8. Rage Against the Machine
Skirting right on the boundary of rap and metal, Rage Against the Machine fuses the revolutionary lyrics of Zack de la Rocha and the extraordinarily heavy but surprisingly eclectic playing of guitarist Tom Morello. The group's self-titled 1992 debut is not only one of the greatest rap metal albums ever, it's a powerful political statement. Through this act, rap, metal and punk fans learned that they all had problems with the status quo, and they didn't necessarily all need to go about solving it separately.


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6 comments
Joe Tarantino
Joe Tarantino

Kanye's production brought me to hip-hop. Yes, I know he's an asshole.

Derek McElhinney
Derek McElhinney

They influenced me to quit listening to music on the radio (except in my car when commuting to and from work).

Mike Long
Mike Long

No Run-DMC???? They only influenced EVERY act on this list. Without Run-DMC's "King of Rock" crossover success in 1985, not only would there have been no "Yo, MTV Raps" (pretty much every non-coastal, suburban kids gateway to Hip-Hop), but, arguably, no Aerosmith comeback in the Run-DMC/Aerosmith "Walk This Way" video. (I didn't say it was ALL good). Not a bad list, other than it ALSO omits Tupac, The Beastie Boys, The Fat Boys ...

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I'd give ear to 'christian country gospel' before I EVER listened to ANY rap aside from Aerosmith . 

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Mike Long    

You are %100 correct w/ your Aerosmith take . 

As much as I hate to admit it ....

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