Golden Age of Hip Hop: Gangsta Rap and Alternative Hip Hop

The Golden Age of Hip Hop was marked by the advent of Gangster Rap and Alternative Hip Hop. It was a movement away from the novelty acts, the screaming and the party songs and a move to better word-play, serious subject matter and some mellow and precise delivery.

Acts like Run DMC, with their rockin’ beats, were a mainstay since the New School Era when Hip Hop first started getting some mainstream traction. But as we went into the late 1980s and into the 1990s, we began to see much more creativity and innovation with gangster groups like NWA and Alternative acts like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.

Artists began to play with new ideas and a different delivery. Some of it dark and some of it happy.


Artists began to experiment musically too, with samples within samples, with samples changing mid-stream in songs, with artists like Dr. Dre bringing in new elements, greatly influenced by New School artists like Marly Marl.

Dr. Dre. By Commondr3ads (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Innovative Sampling by Marly Marl

Lyrically callous, cruel and brutal, but there’s no denying the value of Dre’s use of samples and other musical elements.

In addition, Jazz music was increasingly used to add another flavor to Hip Hop, almost returning to the roots of Black Music, back to its Jazzy origins.

Jazz drums, horns, it was a new venture in Hip Hop and added a nuance to the genre that has an influence to this day, especially among the more socially conscious. Rakim was possibly the epitome of an innovative lyricist that pushed Rap forward with Jazzy horns and drums and intricate verse.

Rakim is an incredibly talented lyricist and definitely part of the Golden Age of Hip Hop and an early pioneer of Conscious Rap. By MikaV (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Native Tongues were an Alternative Hip Hop revolution of the different artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. There were no gold chains, but there was cultural consciousness and a mellow sound. It was the most innovative music of the era.

That’s Where It’s At

The Golden Age of Hip Hop had a lasting effect on the genre. It represents artists breaking free from the mold and doing new things. It represented the introduction of different musical techniques and influences, a departure from the days of just pure aggression or party tunes and the novelty acts. It was the point in time in which Hip Hop truly broke free and broke new ground.

It is forever remembered as the of best of times in Hip Hop.

Featured Image: By Mikamote (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *