In the first decade of recorded rap, the music and approach to production changed every three years almost like clock work. From 1979-1982 the music was provided by live bands attempting to re create the popular breakbeats that street DJ's were manipulating in parks and parties. From 1983-1986 the drum machine was the dominant instrument in the production of rap records. The Roland TR 808, the Oberhiem DMX and the Linn drum were heard on most of the records released during this period. The drum machine gave way to the digital sampler around 1986, birthing the golden era.
The first few years of recorded rap produced quite a few major hits; "Rappers Delight", "The Breaks" , "Planet Rock" and "The Message" amongst them. These recordings would serve as a template for a successful rap record that would receive prime time radio airplay, international charting and opportunities for arena tours, opening for the biggest R&B and Rock acts of the time. The drum machine era had its share of hit recordings, most notably Run-D.M.C's first two albums, as well as recordings by "Fresh Fest" affiliated acts such as The Fat Boys, WHODINI, U.T.F.O. and Newcleus. Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew's "The Show/Ladi Dadi" was a huge hit in this era, as well as L.L. COOL J's "Radio" which straddled the drum machine and golden eras.
Rap's golden era, which most historians agree occured from 1986 through the early 1990's marked the period when rap's mainstream appeal hit an all time high, due in large part to MTV beaming the latest rap videos into the living rooms of mainstream America with Yo! MTV Rap's, as well as rap music recieving major placement in motion pictures, television commercials and other facets of popular culture.
Sandwiched between the first rap recordings and the golden era, the drum machine era is referred to by many rap fans as "the lost era", despite some of the previously mentioned successes of the time. The period of drum machine production benefited from the opportunity to improve upon the limitations of the live band era, while serving as a template in many ways for the sample heavy golden era that followed. There was a large number of underground recordings that didn't do as well as some of the bigger, more widely distributed and better promoted records, but they certainly influenced them and were just as good and in some cases better than their better financed counterparts. History hasn't been as kind to many of these mid 1980's songs as it has been to some of the other early eras of rap. Here are 20 forgotten songs from Hip Hop's drum machine era.