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Some aspects of rap music which initially appear to be ‘flash-in-the-pan’ moments, turn out to be enduring features, such as auto-tune and the Wu-Tang Clan. Many others, although they suddenly take the world by storm and seem to be inescapable, don’t survive the ravages of time. Here are a few notable examples:

TV Themes

This was certainly a sign of the times, as most rap crews only had a drum machine, a keyboard and a turntable to work with, but it almost seems like 50 per cent of all hip-hop records from the mid-’80s featured the theme from Gilligan’s Island in the hook. Even the timeless classic that is ‘The Show’ uses the jingle from Inspector Gadget!

Answer Records

When in doubt, just reply to a popular song and hope that someone notices. As a result, there are at least ten ‘Roxanne’ answer records that I can think of off the top of my head, while Salt-N-Pepa got their start as Super Nature when they responded to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s aforementioned hit with ‘The Show Stoppers.’

Rap Ballads

Once LL Cool J stole the hearts of teenage girls everywhere when he declared ‘I Need Love,’ every hip-hop artist was forced at gunpoint by their record label to record a sappy love song. Unfortunately, with the exception of MC Shan’s oddly endearing ‘Left My Lonely,’ they were all sickeningly bad.


We can blame New Jersey for this one. One might argue that Jungle Brothers ‘I’ll House You’ was harmless enough, as was Queen Latifah’s ‘Come Into My House,‘ but the vast majority were just 120 BPM club songs awkwardly wedged in the middle of regular rap albums just in case house DJs accidently left all their dancefloor records at home and only had Lakim Shabazz and EPMD LP’s in their crates, as you do.

Being Ruff, Rugged and Raw

Around 1992, if you wanted to be taken seriously as a rap crew you had to ensure that you had 40 Below Timbos, a Carhartt hoodie, a beanie/skully and some kind of weapon (once again, blame Jersey and Treach). This also entailed yelling the name of the song on the chorus over and over, carrying a brown bag of booze and constant use of corny slang such as ‘represent,’ ‘props’ and ‘phat.’

Tongue Twisting

Closely tied-in with the RRR movement above, the popularity of Naughty By Nature, Das-EFX and the Fu-Schnickens meant that everyone and their grandmother was suddenly on some ol’ Dr. Seuss shit, and were convinced that if you couldn’t perform some kind of bizarre verbal gymnastics while you were rapping that you simply weren’t trying hard enough. Even the normally sensible Jay Z fell victim to this craze in his younger days.

Wearing A Suit, Shiny or Otherwise

This manifested itself in a few stages, beginning with the New Jack Swing era which saw Heavy D, Three Times Dope and Big Daddy Kane abandon the jeans and sweats look for colourful suits and tuxedos in an attempt to look more sophisticated. Puffy, who was a big part of the whole Uptown look and sound that spearheaded this trend, would later take it to hilariously campy heights with the silver and bright yellow boiler suits that he, Ma$e and Missy Elliott so enjoyed.

Ringtone Beats

At one stage in human history, people paid money to have a catchy song play whenever their phone rang. Many rap songs were made to reflect this phenomenon, designed almost exclusively to sound good through your Nokia flip phones prehistoric chipset.

Bloggers Are The New DJs?

When music blogs emerged during the height of the mixtape/street album era, a bunch of corny dudes were suddenly able to generate a fan base by supplying them with new songs and freestyles to download every couple of days, thus fooling record labels into thinking they were legitimately talented recording artists and offering them deals. As it turned out, the majority either burnt themselves out by the time they hit the studio to make an album or they just tanked and returned to making songs for blogs.


Aligning yourself with the correct fashion label that ties in with your personal ‘brand’ is of uber-importance now, to the point where the actual rapping is secondary to what you’re wearing on stage. Musical styles are worn and tossed aside as easily as last weeks hot sneaker. Fashion has always been an integral part of hip-hop, but now being a corporate shill is what’s hot in the streets.

Scented Candles

It appears we’ve tired of the Wrestlemania brand of machismo that helped 50 Cent sell millions of records in his prime, and now crave sensitive, navel-gazing rascals who can give us all the feels in between selfies and cranking out memes. Bubble baths, mani-pedis and facial exfoliating are all essential daily operations for the modern rapper dude. What a time to be alive!

 Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.