1990’s not so underground Rap/ Hip-Hop

Thesis Statement:

Rap and Hip-Hop not so underground:

My project focus is on Hip Hop in the early 90’s. Just after much of the subculture was underground within the 90’s it really started to become a more main stream excepted culture for teens and young adults. This subculture has remained alive for over thirty years now. The fact that this type of subculture has remained so popular means that it is constantly recycling itself and changing to adapt to each new generation that comes. To keep the popularity of this subculture there are a few things an observer of this culture must understand. The way in which it remains a hot way of life, the way it still appeals to new generations, how it changes with the times but yet remains the same all at once.


History of Hip hop: 

  • This music trend started in the late 1970’s
  • The subculture began in 1977 in bronx, New York.
  • Described as an urban lifestyle that would go on to change many different industries. A few examples:
    1. The music industry
    2. Clothing industry
    3. Teen culture in general
  • The journey to main stream media wasn’t so welcoming to begin with for this subculture. Pop culture was the over bearing radio choice at the time.
  • The subculture took off in the 1980’s
  • Where music videos began on MTV and gave the subculture life.
  • To be able to put images to the sound gave young teens a fast track into the type of clothing and image they would need to be apart of said culture.
  • Although this subculture exploded in the 1990’s.

My main focus: 

  • With the media now by Rap and Hip-hops side the subculture took on a new life.
  • The media industry understood that instead of fighting this subculture they could commercialize it and package it in a way that not only kept it appealing to new audiences but that they could make a large amount of money off of this.
  • TRL on top of MTV gave this subculture and these music artists a voice.
  • With companies that reflect this subculture being smashed into the young teens faces when these people who make television appearances.
  • An example of how this subculture adapts it the fashion forward movement:
  1. That image of a hip-hop rapper in baggy pants and a crooked walk wasn’t always the fashion iconic look for this subculture.
  2. Each generation has a significant fashion impression on hip-hop culture.
  3. It used to be matching baggy track suites with a boom box on the shoulder.
  4. And today it is a mix of different kinds of fashion styles with labels being the main focus of an outfit.

Rap vs. Hip-hop?

  • In the 1990’s rap and hip-hop became one unit.
  • A rap artist was often refereed to as a rapper who is also a hip-hop artist.
  • This music industry change wasn’t that far fetched. The reason being one may be a rapper but that beat in the background is a hip-hop beat.
  • In the 90’s music stores stopped having a separate section for rap and hi- hip you will now find that it its categorized as rap/hip-hop.
  • This genre of music is one of the largest and these two are put in the same category.
  • That significant hip-hop beat you hear is thanks to the electronic sound of 1980’s music.
  • It was the soundboard for artists that they used to rap off too.
  • On top of just the hip- hop sound what kept the rap industry going was the evolving slang words used by rappers to appeal to younger and younger audiences.
  • I use the word audience because that is what this subculture is an audience.

1990’s package image:

Gansta Rap 

    • This can probably be pin pointed straight at the rapper Ice-T.
    • This development of a subculture of a subculture.
    • This gave life to the baggy pants, hard core rapper look and lyrics.

The mainstream

    • Thanks to public enemy’s decision to go main stream for fear that their  subculture would die gave birth to a new era of rap/ hip-hop.
    • Introducing gansta rappers such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Biggie, Wu-Tang Clan just to name a few.
    • By re-packaging this lifestyle it selling it again to young teens kept it alive.
    • Rap/ Hip-hop remained in high demand thanks to the idea to go mainstream and change the subcultures image.

West coast vs. east coast 

    • The next move for the industry to spread across the country and get the audience more involved was making them choose sides.
    • This rivalry as real as it may have been for the Gangsta rappers themselves gave entertainment to young teens.
    • Both being areas of inner suburbia and the home to notorious gangs kept making headlining news for famous shoot outs or drive-bys.

Mention of the later 1990’s:

  • The west coast quickly lost in the battle between the coasts.
  • It became east coasts to repackage and make their own. It’s home New York City.
  • Introducing newer artists like nelly, lil jon, ying- yang twins with dr. dre and Jay Z still the top iconic figures of rap/ hip-hop.

Annotated Bibliography: 

History of rap/ hip-hop:







Gangsta Rap:


West vs. East:



Hip Hop Underground

Through out the 80’s and early 90’s a subculture known as Rap and hip hop began to develop. In 1977 in bronx new york this subculture began. Hip Hop is described as a urban lifestyle and would go on to change the music industry, clothing styles, young teen culture in general. This subculture has remained alive for over thirty years now, this genre of music is one of the most popular. The reason I combine rap and hip hop is because they go hand in hand, but the difference between them is clear. Hip hop is the culture, that consists of more things than just music as mentioned before. Where as Rap is the music that is in direct relation to this culture. Rap and hip hop are often categorized together in a music store.

Looking back at the beginning of this subculture’s journey main stream wasn’t always so welcoming, pop music was and still is the music genre giant. It was only in the 1980’s where the music videos for this subculture began and gave it life. Only in music videos could an artists style be seen and glamorized beyond a photo or television appearance. Which subcultures didn’t get many television appearances until TRL. That image we have of a rapper or hip hop artist in our head with baggy pants and a crooked walk wasn’t always the fashion icon look for the subculture.

With new technologies electronic manipulated music was all the craze. When describing the music of the 1980’s it is hard not to give credit to the electric keyboard or electric guitar for those things looking back thirty years later were the sounds of the 80’s. For my subculture it was the sound board that artists used to get that sound to rap off too that they wanted. Building on ones song requires to use of the cultures slang words and dance moves which brings in the music video visual depiction.

Grandmaster Flash- The message

Salt-n-pepa- Whatta Man

Kriss Kross- Jump

Slick Rick- Children’s Story

Cover Song Analysis “Tainted Love”

Tainted Love covered by Soft Cell

Tainted love/ Where did our love go covered by Pussy Cat Dolls

For Analysis of a cover song I decide to choose the song “Tainted Love” which has been covered by many bands and many artists. Originally compose by Ed Cobb from the American group The Four Preps which the song was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964. Before looking into this song further I had believed that this song was originally recorded by Soft Cell in 1981 and the cover I wish to focus on is the cover done by The pussy cat dolls in 2005. Since I decided to focus my attention on the song from the recording done by Soft Cell and the Pussy Cat Dolls I will only focus on these two different performances of this piece. This song is covered by so many different artists because the meaning of it can be manipulated and changed depending on the message one is attempting to send out.

For starters the covers I focus on for this song is covered by two different sexes. In Soft Cell’s rendition of the song it is recorded from a man’s perspective on love. In the Pussy Cat Dolls case it is recorded by a group of female singers. Just by this seemingly small change from male to female singers the song takes on a new life for both. This minor change to a song can flip the entire meaning of the lyrics due to social stereotypes we all have within us. On how a certain sex should dress or behave, this song is a perfect example of how the double standard theory works. A man is allowed to be mean and manipulative for men it is easier for them to be promiscuous, where a women should only be modest, well spoken and it is such a shock when she doesn’t follow all the rules.

In soft cell’s lyrics you get the sense that she is in the arms of another man with the lyrics “you don’t really want anymore from me, to make things right, you need someone to hold you tight,” that line coming from a man’s perspective seems to me like the female partner he speaks of doesn’t really need him just need the attention from men in general making her out to sound like a whore. He describes this women to be deceiving but yet still attractive. Allowing people who listen to believe it is the struggle between the guys head and well the way she makes him feel sexually. With the lyric lines “Don’t touch me please, I cannot stand the way you tease, I love you though you hurt me so.” Listening to this song now performed by Soft Cell to mean doesn’t sound like real love it is almost as if her is referring to another type of feeling he is mistaking for love. The song ends with him packing up and leaving this tainted love he felt trapped in.

In the Pussy Cat Dolls version of this song many things seems to take one new meanings. It is no longer a deceitful women we are discussing but yet a man, another man in society taking a women for an emotional ride. Being a fan and apart of the generation that experienced the Pussy Cat Dolls from their rise and fall in the music industry they did not choose this song out of a hat. The Pussy Cat Dolls were a female group that prided themselves on being sexual and independent from men. Many of their songs glamorized the single female with songs such as “I don’t need a man” and  “Beep”. Which these songs gave a voice to the modern day feminist, not the feminist that the original composed version from the 1960’s would have known.

Coyle’s argument in understanding a songs historical background and how it’s meaning can change depending on the generation on who is singing. The movement of feminism has changed a lot over the past two generations being a student with parents that were apart of the baby boom generation to have grown up in the 50’s and 60’s, I feel as though the definition of a feminist is not the one I grew up knowing. By the Pussy Cat Dolls redoing this song gives female listeners the emotional backing to tell that guy to go away. The social stereotypes that play along with these two different recordings again just because it is the same song does not mean it gives the same message.

Using the same exact line of lyrics “you don’t really want anymore from me, to make things right, you need someone to hold you tight,” suddenly accompanied by a female voice gives it a new way of hearing the story of this tainted love. It makes the man in which the song is about just another player, not out for a partner rather out for just some company for the night. It makes him sound like a dirtbag but not a promiscuous female as Soft Cells version implies. The Pussy Cat Dolls version also ends with another cover by fading out the song with lyrics from “Where did our love go?” ties this song up to the notion that this female is a glutton for punishment. She truly loves this man unlike the Soft Cell version where the song ends with him just essentially leaving the women to be.

The beats although the same snapping “Duhn- Duhn” the Soft Cells version is more slow and given a manlier vibe. The Pussy Cat Dolls version on the other hand is much more in your face beat faster, more predominate. In the 1980’s this song was a chart topper, extremely popular. The Pussy Cat Dolls cover although also popular didn’t make it’s way to the same standard as the cover before. I believe this to be because it was aiming at a different audience, unlike Soft Cells which was more for a general popular. Pussy Cat Dolls were aiming again at independent modern day feminist with their music and the songs they chose to perform and record.