Run DMC, Jam Master Jay and KRS One are often recognized as the founding fathers of rap. They were originators of the game, but they barely put the genre on the map. No, that distinction goes to others - the real founding fathers of rap.
There were some amazing acts along the way to rap's breakthrough; LL Cool J's "Mama's Gonna Knock You Out," Young MC's "Bust A Move," and a slew of hits performed by Public Enemy made waves, inciting a little hip-hop fever. However, "By The Time I Get To Arizona," for those who remember, efficiently kept rap from becoming mainstream, due to the song's provocative lyrics and, most importantly, the graphic nature of the track's music video. Of course, back then, MTV only played videos, tempered by the occasional "MTV News" with Kurt Loder. This being said, music videos during the era were an integral part of an album and therefore a band's commercial success. One music video, however, strattled the line of "appropriateness" and, along with a perpetually-catchy tune, broke the plain for rap to engrave itself on the musical mainstream pedestal. That video, "Ain't Nuthin' But a G Thang," broke the "socially-acceptable" barrier of music and launched it's creator, Dr. Dre, into the avant-garde of the pop-music market. Rap was now a modern musical foundation.
Showing some "real O.G.'s" rolling in their low-riders complete with hydraulics, through town and into a local park for an epic party and barbeque, "Ain't Nuthin' But a G Thang" handsomely kept rap's visual edge while presenting a tune that was irresistable to any who listened (at least, to one demographic: the youth). Rap had not become suddenly marketable as much as Dr. Dre's song (as rap as rap gets) itself took over the market, getting young men to spend their allowances and paper-route money on the album The Chronic. The album, complete with a giant marijuana leaf and "Parental Advisory" label on the cover, ensured its mystique.
Around the same time, another performer, Biggie Smalls, was tearing up the east coast, becoming the most popular act in New England. His Ready To Die album was mainstream on the streets of New York city, even if MTV had yet to acknowledge his growth from former crack-dealer to pop-music platinum artist. The album's number one hit "Juicy," to this very day, gets every driver in Southern California to throw their hands up off the steering wheel and dance, when they hear the familiar jam come on the radio. In a few years to come, he and an artist named Puff Daddy would take over clubs and house parties, making the number one hits on dance floors. With other east coast acts such as Wu Tang, NAS and Busta Rhymes, rap had transformed from a niche-market to coast-to-coast sensation.
Regardless of their influence on Dr. Dre and Biggie Smalls, Run DMC, Jam Master Jay and KRS One were not the fathers of rap; the genre, what it is today, feeds on a plurality of consumer interest. When "Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang" arrived on MTV, social-barriers, in fact color-barriers, that had originally subdued rap's ascent to top of pop music culture were shattered, forever. A new social institution had been formed - Rap. Without these two artists, Dr. Dre, Biggie Smalls, and a slew of others during the early 1990's, rap would never have become the popular form it is today.