Top Eight “What If?” Moments In Rap History

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In a recent interview with Hip Hop Motivation, rap entrepreneur Dame Dash has raised eyebrows by claiming that the late Notorious B.I.G. was due to sign to Roc-A-Fella Records shortly before his death.

“Biggie’s plan was give Puff and them like three more albums then come sign with us, and we was gon’ do The Commission,”said Dash.

He added: “That was what was gonna happen, or at least that’s what was talked about very seriously. I think that’s why he did a double album. He was gonna do a triple album, and he was gonna be out his contract, and then he was gonna come fuck with us.”

Sadly, Biggie’s death in 1997 prevented what could have been a truly groundbreaking moment. By that point a world-class rapper, his teaming up with Roc-A-Fella would likely have paved the way for a duo with fellow label star, Jay-Z – whose foundations had already been laid with the launch of Reasonable Doubt, one year previously.

Tracks like Brooklyn’s Finest and I Love Dough showed definite signs of a blossoming relationship between the two rappers, who seemed to bounce off each other effortlessly. However, by the same reckoning, they may also have become rivals. In a industry so focused on battling and one-upmanship, it wouldn’t be foolish to assume such a thing. Just look at what happened to Ice Cube during his N.W.A. years.What if?… What If? It’s a question you could ask of so many things in life.

Hip Hop has changed dramatically since the early 1970s, going from a small cultural art movement to a billion dollar industry. Talent has obviously played a huge part in that metamorphosis, but, like most big businesses, it would have got nowhere near as far without the support of big deals and strategic partnerships. Chance meetings and fashion are also important when it comes to make or break instances. Essentially, it all boils down to one thing: being in the right place at the right time. Reimagining the past, we’ve decided to explore how the game might look, had those opportunities never come. Submitted for your approval are rap’s top eight ‘what if?’ moments:

8. What if: Dre had never launched Beats headphones?

High-end headphones were nowhere near as big a thing before Beats by Dr Dre hit the market in 2008. They were simply something you bought to listen to music on-the-go.

Beats gave us bass like we’d never had before, along with a stylish new design. Considering Dre’s absence from the music scene of late, the venture couldn’t have come at a better point. Without it, he’d likely of just stuck to producing, and not broken out of showbiz in quite the same way.

7. What if: Yo! MTV Raps had never been introduced?

As the first show to give dedicated airtime to hip hop music videos, Yo! MTV Raps took the music form to radical new heights. Artists who’d previously struggled to breakthrough now had their songs on rotation, and were able to make further headway. Everyone from Big L to MC Serch came to feature on the programme in its seven year history, and the final freestyle in the very last episode is legendary.

Had the show of never launched, rap may not have become quite so global a commodity in the ’90s.

6. What if: Run DMC had never teamed up with Aerosmith?

If you were black you were into rap, if you were white you were into rock. That’s how divided America was when it came to music in the 80s. Aerosmith and Run DMC were pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum.

However, all that changed in 1986, with the arrival of Walk This Way, a track which brought together two of the biggest bands in music. Would hip hop and rock have crossed over in quite the same back then without it? We doubt it.

5. What if: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had never aired?

“In West Philadelphia, born and raised..”. Yes, we all know and love the theme tune. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is pretty much one of the most universally funny sitcoms ever made, popular with young and old alike.

Few (if any) other shows at the time depicted an all-black family with such high esteem, taking into considering Uncle Phil’s occupation as a high-flying lawyer. Will Smith owes a lot of his acting talent to it; as for hip hop, it gave way to a much wider conversation on African american culture which might otherwise have never taken place.

4. What if: The Beastie Boys had never surfaced?

Before Eminem, three white Jewish kids did the unthinkable and made a rap album that went platinum in four months. How? By injecting live action guitar riffs and bass drops into their music, thereby diversifying the audience reach. Licensed to Ill, their debut release, opened some serious doors for rap music, which may have stayed closed for longer.

3. What if: Jay Z had never opened for Obama at an Ohio Rally?

His performance at Obama’s final campaign rally  in 2012 was significant in helping the President secure re-election. Performing alongside Bruce Springsteen, he delivered Public Service Announcement, 99 Problems, Encore, Run This Town and On To The Next One. Twitter followers reacted crazily to the live-stream, and for all the controversy it attracted, we reckon Obama’s majority win would have been considerably smaller minus Jigga.

2. What if: Lauyrn Hill had never gone it on her own?

Lauyrn Hill made history at the 1999 Grammy’s by bagging not two but five awards, for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Album, and Album of the Year, with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

For women who’d previously dreamed of making into big in rap, including Queen Latifah and Mc Lyte, there was now light at the end of the tunnel. If anyone’s given life to the likes of Nicki Minaj and Queen Latifah, it’s Hill.

1. What if: The real slim shady had never “stood up”

Prior to Eminem’s emergence in the 90s, white rappers, at least commercially, were few and far between. With Vanilla Ice’s career falling flat on its face, the space was cleared for a new artist to take his place (and do a better job of it).

Eminem’s controversial rapping was something you could take seriously – it was hard, honest, intelligently written, and somehow funny at the same time.Tragicomedy was something new for hip hop, and Em’ owned it like a mofo. Now considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, his absence from the music business would likely have left a gaping hole in terms of diversity and progress.

Think we’ve missed out on anything? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment box at the bottom. 

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