3 Eternal Rap Songs from the 1980s that Have Stood the Test of Time

If the 1970s was the decade when rap music was born, then the 1980s is when it came of age. Listening to the genre through the years and you can hear it grow. If you fast-forwarded through songs from the era, it would be like one of those sped-up videos of a seed growing into a sapling growing into a mighty oak.

Videos by American Songwriter

And here below, we wanted to explore three songs from the era that demonstrate the range of the genre. From fun and goofy to, quite literally, full of messages. Indeed, these are three eternal rap songs from the 1980s that have stood the test of time.

[RELATED: The 21 Best Will Smith Quotes]

“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy from Do the Right Thing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1989)

This song by the bombastic rap group Public Enemy was written for the iconic New York City-based movie Do the Right Thing from writer/director Spike Lee. The auteur needed a song that would blast audiences in the face and so he sought out Chuck D and Flavor Flav for their signature one-two punch of power and style. On this song, Chuck D tells listeners to stand up for themselves and quite literally fight the power. On the track, he raps,

1989 the number another summer (get down)
Sound of the funky drummer
Music hitting your heart ’cause I know you got soul
(Brothers and sisters, hey)
Listen if you’re missing y’all
Swinging while I’m singing
Giving whatcha getting
Knowing what I know
While the Black bands sweating
And the rhythm rhymes rolling
Got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power

“Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince from He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (1988)

Over the course of his successful career, Will Smith has been a successful rapper, television actor and movie star. But it was music that came first, including songs like this 1988 hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand” from the album He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper with his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff. On this song he talks about many things teenagers deal with, like moms buying outdated clothes and borrowing the family car. It’s a funny, goofy, even cartoonish song that still holds up today. On the track, Smith raps,

OK, here’s the situation
My parents went away on a week’s vacation and
They left the keys to the brand new Porsche
Would they mind?
Umm, well, of course not
I’ll just take it for a little spin
And maybe show it off to a couple of friends
I’ll just cruise it around the neighborhood
Well, maybe I shouldn’t
Yeah, of course I should
Pay attention, here’s the thick of the plot
I pulled up to the corner at the end of my block
That’s when I saw this beautiful girlie girl walking
I picked up my car phone to perpetrate like I was talking
You should’ve seen this girl’s bodily dimensions
I honked my horn just to get her attention

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five from The Message (1982)

One of the original rap hits, this song from the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five talks about the dangers and hardships of inner-city life. Before rap was the most profitable musical genre on Earth, it was even more of an oral history medium, a way to share stories of hard living. And this track is example No. 1. On the iconic offering, Melle Mel opens with the first verse, rapping,

Broken glass everywhere
People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far
‘Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

6 Folk Rock Bands Explain the Meaning Behind Their Names

Watch Animated Teenage Versions of Def Leppard, Tom Morello Rock Out in New “Just Like 73” Lyric Video

Watch Animated Teenage Versions of Def Leppard, Tom Morello Rock Out in New “Just Like 73” Video