Mar 04


FT + New York London Paris Munich20 comments • 1,982 views

EARLY RAP IN THE UK TOP 40 (not a definitive list cos I’m doing it quickly and haven’t heard everything)

Dec 79: Sugarhill Gang – Rappers Delight #3
Dec 79: Kurtis Blow – Christmas Rappin #30
Jan 81: Blondie – Rapture #5
Jun 81: Evasions – Wikka Wrap #20
Jun 81: Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood #7
Dec 81: Adam And The Ants – Ant Rap #3
Jan 82: Modern Romance – Queen Of The Rapping Scene #37
Aug 82: Grandmaster Flash – The Message #8
Dec 82: Malcolm McLaren – Buffalo Girls #9
Jan 83: Wham! – Wham! Rap #8
Mar 83: Kenny Everett – Snot Rap #9
Jul 83: Gary Byrd & GB Experience – The Crown #6
Oct 83: Rocksteady Crew – Hey You (Rocksteady Crew) #6
Nov 83: Roland Rat Superstar – Rat Rappin #14
Feb 84: Break Machine – Street Dance #3
Feb 84: Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines #7
Feb 84: Mel Brooks – To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) #12
Mar 84: Afrika Bambaataa – Renegades Of Funk #30

And then I got bored. Research done for this thread. What did I miss?


  1. 1
    Mark M on 13 Sep 2007 #

    There’s a vital point at the top of this list: Rapture is often credited – inc by folk like Fab Five Freddy, who is of course mentioned on it – with bringing rap to a wider audience. But it followed two big ‘proper’ early hip hop hits. What’s interesting, I guess, is how long the old school/novelty years lasted.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Jul 68: Pigmeat Markham – Here Comes The Judge #19
    (not to be confused with the simultaneously charting version by Shorty Long which was sung rather than “rapped”)

  3. 3

    isn’t the point that rapture brought it to an in-crowd audience? who’d heard of rap before but not been open enough to see the possibilities? (or possibly: liked it — debbie’s rap has a goofy “will this do”? charm which sez THIS IS FUN YOU CAN DO BETTER WHY NOT TRY whereas the earlier two are technically adept (=feels out of reach?) as well as a bit hermetic (DO I GET THIS? NOT SURE) *and* novelty-esque (IS THIS REPEATABLE? NOT SURE) — so they took rap to a wide audience yes but not in a way that said “this is yours also”?

    (obv another way to express that is “white folks be stealin black music”– but the existence of a certain kind of white listener is part of what gave post-old skool the useable encouragement) (i’ve always thought anyway) (have to go, chuck D is on the phone, i better talk fast…)

  4. 4
    Mark M on 14 Sep 2007 #

    I know tha’s the theory, and it is certainly there in Wild Style, with Blondie as the bridge from the Bronx to the East Village, but I’m still sceptical about whether that really happened. The Message – the track that takes rap beyond novelty for both the wider and critical audience (for good or ill) came a pop eon after Rapture, by which time I don’t think Blondie’s endorsement was so weighty.

  5. 5
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Regarding IS THIS REPEATABLE? it should be noted that due to sampling restrictions at the time the Sugarhill house band had to play the “Good Times” riff over and over again for fifteen minutes on the full-length “Rappers’ Delight”; since they went on to become Tackhead/Mark Stewart’s Maffia they are thus the missing link between Terry Riley and Massive Attack.

    Also NO ONE in Britain had heard of Flash when DH namechecked him in “Rapture” since IPen’s page-long NME rave review of “Wheels Of Steel” appeared a full month after “Rapture” was a hit so that was beyond cool (WOS/Message dichotomy being the popist/rockist divide, i.e. WE MUST TAKE IT SERIOUSLY ERGO END OF FUN).

  6. 6
    Kuen-Wah Cheung on 7 Aug 2008 #

    Thanks for such a great list!

    Wham’s ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’ charted in November 1982, a few months before ‘Wham Rap!’s re-release.

  7. 7
    koganbot on 8 Aug 2010 #

    isn’t the point that rapture brought it to an in-crowd audience?

    Well, not the East Village in-crowd, who jumped on the phenomenon pretty much with “Rapper’s Delight” (and a few people even earlier even though I didn’t know them, unfortunately), and – on the other hand – I don’t think “Rapture” really did have much of a “You can do it too” effect on the in-crowd that it did reach – which would have been the high-school hipster in Fort Collins and Des Moines and Fon-Du-Lac, not the East Village – though of course I don’t know.

    But supposedly there was a reverse impact, crossing from Blondie to the Bronx: I thought the song was good but that Blondie’s rap was terrible, but according to something I read somewhere*, actual South Bronx actual MCs and DJs were actually excited by the sonics and by the subject matter, which didn’t match what they were doing so gave them ideas to add to the palette. Supposedly.

    *State-of-the-art citation I’m using here.

  8. 8
    Ed on 9 Aug 2010 #

    From some site I found*

    “We’ve been told by guys from Wu Tang that ‘Rapture’ was the first rap song they ever heard–which is pretty amazing. It’s really touching to hear it from those guys, because that’s what they do. Chris [Stein] and Debbie must be pleased, too, because it was their idea to do this song in the first place.–Jimmy Destri in response to a question about Blondie’s “place in hip-hop history” due to the song ‘Rapture’ (Aquilante, 12 February 1999, “Living” section, p. 50)

    That makes “Rapture”‘s influence a pretty slow burn, of course.

    *even more state-of-the-art citation

  9. 9
    Tommy Mack on 10 Aug 2010 #

    Debbie’s rap is the musical equivalent of watching Steve McQueen try to jump that fence on his motorbike: Always seems like she’s going to nail it at the start, but seems like she loses her nerve and descends into anything that rhymes nonsense.

  10. 10
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 10 Aug 2010 #

    “Anything that rhymes” is why I like it! She’s game!

    (Does McQueen lose his nerve? He doesn’t find the angle in time, and time runs out and he’s shot by Nazis <– my memory)

  11. 11
    punctum on 10 Aug 2010 #

    Not shot by Nazis or anyone else; he gets recaptured and taken back to the camp, all defiant and doing his Robert Mitchum walk.

  12. 12
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 10 Aug 2010 #

    Does someone else get caught in the wire and shot? Or am I remembering a different film altogether?

    (This is what happens when you watch films and read at the same time. Do Sam and Frodo row to the Deathless West in a tiny little boat?)

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 10 Aug 2010 #

    Was the radio edit kind to Debbie? I don’t remember hearing the really stoopid bits at the time.

    Nice research. I’m genuinely shocked at how few hits there were (and how many were novelties) before ’84. This really bears out London Lee and Andy Pandy’s thoughts on how chart return shops weren’t doing the job in the early 80s – if rap was so Top 40 unfriendly, how come novelty rap sold so well?

    And being pedantic… Break Machine’s Street Dance is a great early electro hit an’ all but it doesn’t have any rapping on it.

  14. 14
    koganbot on 10 Aug 2010 #

    Steve McQ never lost his nerve.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coWCkAOkQ0U (contains SPOILERS)

  15. 15
    Lazarus on 15 Feb 2016 #

    If you were going to include Mel Brooks you should have had Alexei Sayle’s ‘Ullo John Got a New Motor?’ which was in the chart around the same time. Also a nod to the Waitresses’ ‘Christmas Wrapping’ (“you mean you forgot cranberry too?”) – only a number 45 (or thereabouts) but thankfully, somebody still plays it every year.

  16. 16
    Adam Puke on 16 Feb 2016 #

    Not to forget the ever-unpopular Clash with their consecutive The Magnificent Seven (no.34) and This Is Radio Clash (47) in Apr/Nov 81.

    I’m not sure if they inhabit ‘Rapture’s semi-officially sanctioned realm or somewhere closer to the snots and hitlers.

  17. 17
    Lazarus on 17 Feb 2016 #

    By the way I listened to the Hitler Rap again after seeing that list – having not heard it in 32 years – and it is wonderful, far better than I remembered.

    Also, Kid Creole & the Coconuts’ debut hit ‘Me No Pop I’ featured a rap from Coati Mundi.

  18. 18
    Izzy on 17 Feb 2016 #

    5: I had no idea that Rapper’s Delight is the house band vamping, rather than a sample. DJ Sven & MC Miker G’s wonderful Holiday Rap did the same thing, presumably not with live musicians, but dates from 1986 and is hence too late for this list.

  19. 19
    Mark M on 3 Jan 2021 #

    I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts/watching random bits of YouTube/etc about late ’80s and early ’90s hip-hop. And thus hearing lots of stories about Latin Quarter*, the Manhattan club that was the big hip-hop nightspot in the late ’80s.

    And one recurring element of these stories is Melle Mel, who was – as someone put it ‘both the Statler and the Waldorf’ of the Latin Quarter. This is the age of Public Enemy, BDP, Eric B & Rakim – the music had leapt forward dramatically since the heyday of the Furious Five. And in the crowd were the kids who would make up the next wave: A Tribe Called Quest, 3rd Bass etc. And there, every night, still in the leather and studs, was Melle Mel, telling everybody that this wasn’t how to do hip-hop and scowling as the kids went nuts to Stetsasonic and challenging the upstarts to battles.

    And how old was this Ancient Mariner? In 1987, Melle Mel was 26. He’s actually younger than Chuck D and Flavor Flav, but unlike them, wasn’t able to seem like a contemporary of teenagers like LL Cool J and Rakim…

    *Or Latin Quarters, as everyone who went there during its hip-hop years seems to call it. The club originally dated back to the 1940s.

  20. 20
    Mark M on 2 Apr 2021 #

    A couple more things on this subject:
    a) Monie Love was on the Questlove Supreme podcast and she was saying that although Rapper’s Delight was a big hit over here, it wasn’t a way into (what we later called) hip hop. That came for her with watching Wild Style and Break-in’/Breakdance – and she made the point (which other people have also said) that dancing was the thing that really took hold beyond NYC and the rhyming came later.

    b) On what I wrote at point 4 – I was utterly convinced that Debbie Harry appeared in Wild Style. But my memory was faulty: she doesn’t – the sole Blondie connection is Chris Stein’s score.

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