The music of the 70s is most famous for its funk, soul, and rock hits. This era of Woodstock and psychedelic mania was dominated by the sounds of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Jackson 5, and Neil Diamond – just to name a few.
But the 70s was also a notable time for the beginnings of the ever-popular rap and hip-hop genre.
Best Black Male Rappers Of The 70s
It wasn’t until 1970 that popular funk jams began to alter their approach to music and deliver spoken words. This new style of imparting lyrics became known as rap, one of today’s most popular music genres.
Although numerous black female rappers celebrate success today, the rap and hip-hop genre was heavily male-dominated during the 70s.
The black male rappers of the 70s include several DJs who would call out phrases, speak rhythmically, and rhyme over trendy disco and funk hits. These men drove this creativity further and sparked the rap and hip-hop revolution.
Below are some of the best black male rappers from this decade.
Kurtis Blow is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, and so much more. This artist has demonstrated exactly what it looks like to be a successful black rapper, with a career of 15 albums and a massive impact on the genre as a whole.
In 1979, Kurtis became the first rapper ever to be signed by a major label. His first single, titled “Christmas Rappin’,” became one of the very first commercially successful hip-hop singles of all time, with 400,000 copies sold.
With this success only came more. Kurtis’s first album was wildly popular, and his second debut on the Top 40. His style combined a mix of rap, pop, and go-go, and he later went on to explore R&B as well.
Though the rapper rose to fame in the 70s, his career took off during the 80s where he dabbled in production. He worked with well-known artists, including Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Wyclef Jean, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and more.
Kurtis expanded his career even further in the 90s as an actor and music coordinator. He hosted and produced international films, including “Das Leben Amerikanischer Gangs.”
A strong advocate for racial injustice and equality, Kurtis was an activist and worked with several ministers and organizations. Through this work, he found a new calling, and he later became an ordained minister. He now has his own church in Harlem called The Hip Hop Church.
He serves there as a worship leader and minister. His other current projects include continuing his work as a rapper and DJ. He is also the Chairman of The Universal Hip Hop Museum, which will open in the Bronx in 2023.
Afrikaa Bambaataa, born Bambaataa Kahim Aasim, goes by many titles.
The Amen Ra of Universal Hip Hop culture.
The Father of The Electro Funk Sound.
This artist has acquired fame primarily for his involvement in spreading rap and hip-hop culture across the globe. As an early pioneer of rap and hip-hop, Bambaataa was one of the founding members of the Bronx River Projects-area street gang, the Savage Seven (later called the Black Spades).
After winning an essay contest, Bambaataa received a trip to Africa as an award. This experience eventually led to his name change, and he later used his artistry to save kids from gang life.
Bambaataa quickly became a famous DJ in the South Bronx rap scene and is recognized today as a talented rapper and producer. He remained active well into the 80s, 90s, and up until 2013. Although he was very active in New York during the 70s, he didn’t release his first single until 1980.
The Sugarhill Gang
The Sugarhill Gang was a 70s rap and hip-hop trio best known for their first single, “Rapper’s Delight.” This single peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and although it was the group’s only hit, the members saw success through their European careers.
The Sugarhill Gang included artists like Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien, and Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson. These three black artists were discovered and assembled by black female producer Sylvia Robinson who founded Sugar Hill Records alongside her husband.
The gang continued to work together up until 1985, when they officially disbanded. They released several European hits during the 70s and 80s, including “Apache” and “8th Wonder.”
But the group didn’t stop there.
The three artists came back together in 1999, alongside a new member, Hen Dogg, to record a children’s hip-hop album. The group later left Sugar Hill Records and continued to perform together sporadically, although they could not continue to use their original name for legal reasons.
The group suffered a great loss in 2014 when Big Bank Hank died of cancer.
Most recently, the trio went on a world tour in 2016 where they could use their original title. The group celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first single in 2019 and even performed it on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Our next artist is DJ Kool Herc, born Clive Campbell. He is a Jamaican-American DJ who’s been active since the early 70s. Among his many credits is one very important feat: originating hip-hop music in the Bronx.
Kool Herc goes by many other names, including the Founder of Hip-Hop and the Father of Hip-Hop. His official DJ name came from his time spent with a graffiti crew called the Ex-Vandals.
As a teenager, Kool Herc acquired his first sound system with only two turntables and two amplifiers. He played records from James Brown, Jimmy Castor, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s. He eventually developed his style that would later become the outline for popular hip-hop music.
This style involved Herc focusing on the short, heavy percussion portions of songs. He called it the break. Herc would isolate the break and make it even longer by combining it with other records. He found that dancers loved this part the most and figured out how to loop it in what he called “the Merry-Go-Round.”
This technique became a staple in DJ Kool Herc’s sets and significantly contributed to the development of the rhyming style that goes along with rap and hip-hop today. He coined some popular rap phrases such as “Rock on, my mellow!” and “To the beat, y’all!”
His rhythmically spoken accompaniment is what we now refer to as rapping, and rappers today give the credit of this art form to DJ Kool Herc. While he had an active career, it wasn’t until 2019 that he released his first-ever vinyl record with record producer Mr. Green.
In the 70s, the genre was much more than just rap. Artists like Special K come from the world of old-school and hardcore hip-hop that just doesn’t exist in today’s music industry.
Special K, formally known as Kevin Keaton, got his start in the late 1970s when he met artists Kool Moe, DJ Easy Lee, and L.A. Sunshine. Together, this group started hip-hop collaboration the Treacherous Three.
Special K was able to showcase his impressive freestyle abilities within this group. Another member of the group, who left shortly after its formation, was Spoonie G. Spoonie G’s uncle was Bobby Robinson, who owned Enjoy records.
Through this connection, Spoonie G was able to get a song recorded by the Treacherous Three on his first single record on the B side. This single was released in 1980 and was the start of the Treacherous Three’s official success.
The group signed a single deal with Enjoy records and released Body Rock. This record was the first to combine hip-hop with rock and roll for a new and unique sound.
Special K and the group later moved on to work with Sugar Hill Records. Unfortunately, the group Run DMC became popular around that same time and quickly overshadowed the Treacherous Three on the charts. At that point, the group began to fall apart, and Special K started pursuing other endeavors.
Special K put out his own 12″ with Republic Records in 1987. While the group’s run wasn’t very long, Special K and the other members are recognized today for originating fast rapping. They served as influences for other MCs – like LL Cool J and Rakin – and represent the beginnings of lyrical rap.
Best Black Female Rappers In The 70s
As previously mentioned, when it comes to 70s rap and hip-hop, men ruled much of the industry. While the 70s were full of impressive black female talents like Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Roberta Flack, and Chaka Khan, not many ladies rose to prominence for their fast-paced rhyming and rapping.
But that’s what makes the two black women below so important. They made a path where there was none, making it possible for black women today to have a successful career in the rap industry.
The blossoming genre may not have had a lot of black female energy, but a couple of notable artists left their marks on the scene.
Sha Rock was born in 1962 as Sharon Green and is widely considered the first female rapper. She grew up in the South Bronx and saw the first years of hip-hop spring to life. People have referred to her as the Mother of the MC, and she now holds a prominent place in the history of female artistry.
Sha Rock got her start as a breakdancer on the Bronx hip-hop scene, and she joined the group The Funky 4 + 1 as the plus one. The group released its first hit with Sugar Hill Records in 1979, and they later became the first hip-hop group to appear on national television.
Sha Rock made it her life’s work to pave the way for women in hip-hop. She didn’t merely serve as a sex icon or something to look at. Instead, she made her way as an equal to men in the industry in every way.
Although her music career wasn’t very extensive or filled with many hits, Sha Rock played a critical role by proving black female rappers had a place in the rap and hip-hop industry – and not just as objects in the lyrics.
This famous female rapper goes by the name Lady B, but her given name at birth was Wendy Clark. The Philadelphia native was not only a rapper but a radio DJ as well. She receives extensive recognition as being one of the first female rappers and hip-hop artists, and fans lovingly refer to her as the Godmother of Hip-Hop.
Lady B got her introduction to the hip-hop world when she traveled with ex-NBA player B. Free. During these travels, she discovered the New York City rap and hip-hop culture, and it drew her in.
In 1979, Lady B got her own weekend show on WRNB 100.3. It was very popular and a huge success and allowed her to connect with the industry. That same year, she recorded her first single, “To the Beat Y’all,” which she famously recorded in just one take.
Lady B’s radio DJ career lasted until 2017. Her show on Power 99fm was famous for breaking out hip-hop artists who now celebrate extensive fame, like Run DMC, Queen Latifa, The Treacherous Three, LL Cool J, and many more.
Many cite Lady B as one the most influential female radio personalities in the history of rap and hip-hop, and her work indeed paved the way for future female rappers we know and love today.
She has received several awards, including the Philly Urban Legend Award and two Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Top Black Rappers In The 70s, Final Thoughts
The 70s were far more meaningful than hippies, drugs, and music festivals. Rappers, particularly black rappers, found great success during this “peace, not war” decade. Both male and female black rappers took the hip-hop world by storm with lyrical jams.
Today, we have the honor of listening to their music and watching rap music evolve into what it has become in modern radio.