Ten acts that helped make hip-hop more accessible to mainstream audiences
Eminem best describes his monumental impact on mainstream culture in his song "White America": "See the problem is I speak to suburban kids/Who otherwise woulda never knew these words exist/Whose moms woulda never gave two squirts exist/Til I created so much motherfucking turbulence." Eminem won the hearts of millions of impressionable American kids with his 1999 album The Slim Shady LP, with his middle finger up and the other hand on his junk. By next year's The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem was one of the top-selling artists in the world. To see his influence, you need look no farther than the incredible backlash against him, the likes of which hadn't bee seen since NWA's Straight Outta Compton.
Without a doubt, the most sonically dynamic duo in hip-hop history has been OutKast. Album after album, Andre 3000 and Big Boi come out with something new and innovative, taking hip-hop to previously unknown places. Though diehard hip-hop heads will usually champion either ATLiens or Aquemini as OutKast's best album, the duo reached their commercial peak with 2000's Stankonia, which was certified gold within its first week of release. With influences ranging from high-speed electronica to salsa, Stankonia was unlike anything hip-hop had heard before and thus gained fans in nearly every musical camp -- it's near impossible to find anybody who flat out doesn't like OutKast.
2. Kanye West
Kanye West: Musical genius, voice of a generation, gay fish. You know you're a cultural fixture when you get lampooned on South Park, and Kanye West is a cultural phenomenon. Since The College Dropout, his 2003 debut, which peaked at number two on the charts, Kanye has released four consecutive number one albums, each a critical success as well as commercial. And as ubiquitous as his voice is, his production is even more omnipresent, and Kanye will undoubtedly retire as one of the greatest producers of all time. Kanye is truly an artist that transcends genre, encompassing styles that range from classical music to EDM -- his legacy will likely be similar to that of a David Bowie or Prince as an innovator that changed the face of music forever.