Let’s be honest: When us Brits hear New Jersey mentioned, we picture a group of tanned, binge-drinking MTV personalities fist pumping to DJ Pauly D. What we don’t think about are the hip-hop game changers that Jersey has produced — the elite group of musicians who changed the way we listen to hip-hop and who created the rhymes we still recite to this day at our office parties trying to impress the cool kids from the sales department. Check out our list of six hip-hop acts that are rooted in the Garden State and prepare to be surprised!
1. Queen Latifah
The hip-hop world before 1989 was pretty much a men’s club. Grammy winner Queen Latifah, born Dana Owens in Newark, changed that with her 1989 hit, “Ladies First.”
The world wasn’t ready but they came. Thank you New Jersey for blessing us with Ms. Lauryn Hill, Wycleaf Jean, and Pras Michel.
3. Wu-Tang Clan
With a lineup this expansive (at last count, there were nine active members), it was inevitable that legendary East Coast rap crew Wu-Tang Clan would have a Garden State connection. Leader and ringmaster RZA, born Robert Diggs, owns a home in Millstone Township, and the group has lots of love for Jersey.
4. The Sugarhill Gang
Where did hip-hop make the leap from the streets to the airwaves on its way to dominating popular culture worldwide? It was in Englewood that an assembled “treacherous trio” of rappers — Wonder Mike, Master Gee, and Big Bank Hank — joined forces to craft “Rapper’s Delight.”
5. Lords of the Underground
A friend of DoItAll’s introduced the group to legendary producer Marley Marl, who invited them to record at his studio with help from K-Def. Before their debut album, Here Come the Lords, even appeared, the Lords placed three hit singles on the rap charts. By the end of 1993, the Lords had received an award from BET as best rap group of the year.
Newark native Redman, born Reginald Noble, has been releasing solo LPs pretty consistently for more than 20 years. It’s been his collaborations, such as his longtime partnership with Method Man and his work as a member of supergroup Def Squad that have received the most consistent attention.
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