Hip-Hop's heritage is rich and vast, even in the days before music videos and major label deals became the norm. There's a tendency to focus on the foundational aspect of rap's early days, but the artistry is evident in the production of labels like Enjoy and Sugar Hill, and also in the lyricism of the first emcees to make rap records.
In the mid-1980s, the success of artists like Run-D.M.C. and Def Jam Records broke down the mainstream doors for Hip-Hop. But the artform and the music itself had firmly established a standard for artistry and a generation of emcees embodied that standard.
Here are our picks for the 10 dopest emcees before 1984.
DLB of the Fearless Four
Mighty Mike C of The Fearless Four
Sha Rock of the Funky Four+One
The art of moving the crowd with fresh rhymes is epitomized in Busy Bee. And the man known as Busy Bee Starski is the template on which battle rap has been built. Bee has always had a knack for humorous wordplay and high energy stage presence, two hallmarks of emceeing. And as one of the highlighted stars in Wild Style, he became one of the most high profile "street rappers" of his era.
Kool Moe Dee of the Treacherous Three
Grandmaster Caz of The Cold Crush Brothers