First, they infiltrated. Then they influenced. Ultimately, they dominated. Increasingly, after years of mutual suspicion, they have done it in tandem…
First, they infiltrated. Then they influenced. Ultimately, they dominated. If electronic music and hip hop were the cheeky chancers of the late 20th century music scene, the 21st century has seen them rule the roost. The pop charts have the indelible stamp of house, techno and rap all over them; the rock scene frequently turns to them to ask for help. Both continue to develop and flourish in all corners of the globe, with successive generations carrying the flame forward. Increasingly, they do it in tandem, mutual suspicion giving way to mutual respect as DJs and producers jump between the genres or morph them together in innovative ways.
1988. The Chicago house sound has gone global, whilst hip hop is enjoying its golden age. DJ International artists Tyree Cooper and Fast Eddie Smith have both scored huge hits with the new acid sound (Acid Over and Acid Thunder respectively), and are keen to push the envelope yet further. They hit upon putting a rap (in Tyree’s case courtesy of Kool Rock Steady) over a house track – and hip house begins its assault on dancefloors worldwide:
Meanwhile in New York, two of the breakout stars of the year were getting together to produce what for many remains the ultimate hip house cut, frequently referenced to this day. Todd Terry had ruled the summer of love with a succession of dancefloor bombs under a variety of aliases, whilst the Jungle Brothers had risen to prominence with their Straight Out The Jungle album. Terry let the JBs loose on Royal House’s Can You Party, and as they rapped of “house music all night long” they not only created an instant classic, they forged the blueprint for future collaborations between artists from these new heavyweight genres.
The Jungle Brothers formed part of a rap collective, the Native Tongues, which also featured De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and the UK’s Monie Love. All would either record hip house tracks, or were more open than many rappers to house remixes of their material.
1989 proved to be a landmark year for hip house, with genre-defining releases from the likes of Doug Lazy, KC Flightt and Twin Hype; and regular house mixes of rap artists such as Roxanne Shante and The D.O.C.
Meanwhile, there were many hip hop tracks that didn’t necessarily use a four to the floor beat, but did have both the energy and the tempo to be adopted by house DJs whose dancefloors craved the fusion of rap and house. Roxanne Shante, Sugar Bear, Chubb Rock and Young MC were all beneficiaries.
Europe had quickly taken both hip hop and house into its heart, and the blending of the two lit a fuse under the continent’s dancefloors. Before long, producers Europe-wide were proving masters of hip house. Technotronic (Belgium), Clubland feat. Quartz (Sweden / UK), Deskee, Tony Scott (both Holland), D-Rail, Master Freez (both Italy) and Snap (Germany) all made waves with their take on this stylistic amalgamation.
In the UK, the first generation of rappers found themselves constantly in the shadow of their peers across the Atlantic. London crew Shut Up & Dance gradually began to develop a British twist on the sound that in time would dominate the rave arena, paving the way for jungle, which in turn would lead to the drum ‘n’bass and UK Garage scenes. However, check out this early SUAD release – pure hip house, Doug Lazy put through a Hackney blender.
Other UK MCs soon realised that teaming up with your local house production team quickly opened new avenues, as London’s Cookie Crew (with Beatmasters) and Manchester’s MC Tunes (with 808 State) found out.
Once the door to the pop charts had been prised open, the likes of Double Trouble (Street Tuff) and Adventures of Stevie V (Dirty Cash) would enjoy huge hits, as would US act 2 In A Room with 1990’s truly global smash Wiggle It.
After a heady three years, hip house effectively ran out of steam. Hip hop had become big business, frequently front page news, sales in the millions, moving away from its dancefloor routes. House as a genre was maturing and developing in myriad different directions. Many hip house tracks were beginning to sound somewhat throwaway by comparison. As hip hop’s macho posturing came ever more to the fore, it was starkly at odds with house music’s embracing of its gay disco roots.
Hip house didn’t disappear entirely in the 1990s. Farley & Heller teamed up with Ricardo Da Force for Fire Island by Fire Island (1992); Justin Robertson brought in Mancunian rapper MC Buzz B to front Packet Of Peace by his Lion Rock project (1993); whilst Lo Pro featured on X-Press 2’s Hip Housin’(1994). Much as it was often off the mainstream radar in the 1990s, worldwide there were different scenes that were marrying hip hop style breaks with the dancefloor dynamics of house, often with a nod both to the 1980s cut and paste stylings of Coldcut and Steinski; and to classic electro. More often than not, the vocal hooks were samples. The likes of the Chemical Brothers in the UK and DJ Icey in Orlando spearheaded this movement.
However, the track that truly put the mixing of the two genres back on the map came completely from leftfield. Jason Nevins had been a fixture on the house scene for several years, with releases on labels such as Tribal, Loaded and Nite Grooves. He offered to do an ‘on spec’ club remix of a personal favourite, Run DMC’s 1983 debut It’s Like That. The label saw enough potential in the results to pay him a $5,000 fee (relatively modest by the standards of the day). A few months later, the mix was an international multi-million seller. Run DMC, long regarded as hip hop royalty, saw their catalogue reach a whole new audience; and Nevins became one of the most in-demand remixers around, enabling him to up his fee accordingly.
As the new century dawned, influential artists from both sides of the genre divide seemed inspired once again to explore the possibilities created by mixing things up. In 2000, Armand Van Helden, king of the house and UK garage scenes, invited respected rapper Common to partner up on Full Moon.
A year later, at the height of her powers, hip hop queen Missy Elliott released the straight up house of 4 My People, dedicated to “clubheads”, and remixed by Basement Jaxx.
High profile artists from both scenes were now openly working together and referencing each other’s work. Crucially, a new generation of DJs and producers was emerging who had grown up with both hip hop and house (and all the related mutations), loved both equally, and wanted to reflect that in their work. A classic example is Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, who in 2002 was hot property with his debut album Original Pirate Material. Musically, The Streets was an alternative British take on hip hop with an undoubted UK garage influence. However lyrically, Skinner’s talent lay in relating tales of the rave scene and clubbing. Such was the case with Weak Become Heroes – and commissioning a remix from a house producer as well versed in music history as Ashley Beedle was a masterstroke. The ultimate genre-straddler.
The Chemical Brothers, meanwhile, were now in a position where they could entice Q Tip from A Tribe Called Quest to add a guest rap to the mighty Galvanise.
In 2005, word seeped out that hip hop mogul / superstar P Diddy (aka Puff Daddy, or Sean Combs to his mum) was making a house track. Mixmag couldn’t believe their luck when it turned out Diddy was working with Felix Da Housecat, and that he had ok’ed Felix featuring their collaboration as a world exclusive on the cover mount CD he was recording for the magazine. Jack U is a homage to / reworking of the Jungle Brothers’ I’ll House You. It was some time before it would see a full release (by which time P Diddy had also teamed up with Erick Morillo to release Dance I Said on Subliminal, but arguably the most intriguing version to see the light of the day has been this interpretation from Germany’s electronic culture vulture DJ Hell.
For the last decade or so, hip hop and house have continued to forge their own very distinct paths, but there has been a mutual recognition of their many shared genes. These cousins are no longer so distant. Perhaps this spirit is best summarised by 2008’s collaboration between Copyright, Mr V and Miss Patty – together, they shake shit up.
Azealia Banks briefly threatened to be the first true star of house/hip hop fusion. Whilst her frequent social media tirades and public spats have sadly seen her fill more column inches than dancefloors, her music still highlights the endless possibilities of genre mashing.
We now live in an era where DJs such as Spinna and Snips can be equally revered in both the house and hip hop scenes; where a true house master like Marc Kinchen (MK) can choose to move into hip hop, do so with huge success, then be welcomed back into the house / techno world with open arms. Fans of supreme beat maker Kaytranada simply don’t care that he defies easy categorisation. Kanye West weaves house classic Brighter Days by Cajmere into his Sunday Service and it raises spirits rather than eyebrows. When you listen to contemporary tracks that could be deemed to be hip house, such as those we feature here by Honey Dijon featuring Cakes Da Killa, Channel Tres, and Soul Clap (taking us back to where we began, with Jungle Brother Baby Bam guesting), you witness all the energy that made the first wave of hip house so exhilarating; but you are also benefitting from 30 years’ worth of experimentation, of jousting, of competition. Two gargantuan musical genres that have overcome childhood squabbles and, when they choose to hang out, deliver dancefloor magic.
That magic has continued this year. Dave + Sam filtered the spirt of vintage conscious rap into their sumptuous house cut Til The World Blow Up, aided and abetted by Chicago legend Mike Dunn one of the true pioneers of spoken word / rapped house tracks.
Meanwhile, Qwestlife’s new release Fever, as well as being a peak time feelgood dancefloor slayer, is a supreme example of musical cross-pollination 2019 style, and how far down that road we have now travelled. A contemporary French/British production duo who met on Soundcloud can call on rap legends Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio, not to mention a singer in Siedah Garrett whose list of collaborations has few equals. Bringing in Kon for remix duties, a man famed for his ear for the best of numerous genres, only spices up the mix even more.
Blending disparate musical styles successfully takes a special skill – but when masters of the art get it just right, there’s little that can surpass it. In the words of Q Tip:
Don't hold back, 'cause there's a party over here So you might as well be here where the people care The time has come to - galvanise
Check out our Hip-House and Talkin' House playlist here: