It's been forty years since the dawn of MTV. The popular network obviously changed the music industry forever, as music videos became inextricably tied to our most iconic artists, songs and albums.
But Music Television was tentative about embracing Black music and even after artists like Michael Jackson and Prince broke the network's color barrier, Hip-Hop was still a slower embrace for MTV. Run-D.M.C. eventually kicked that door down with 1984's "Rock Box," and rap videos would eventually find a home on Yo! MTV Raps years later. But even as MTV and BET embraced rap videos, there were some iconic artists who were able to make waves without using music's hottest new medium.
We picked five classic albums from the 80s and 90s that burned themselves into our collective consciousness without a music video to help get them on mainstream radar.
Radio - LL COOL J
A teenage phenom out of Queens, James Todd Smith's debut put the Def Jam label on the map. Built around booming beats from producer Rick Rubin and LL's undeniable confidence and charisma, Radio set the mold for Def Jam's mid-80s sound and was a platinum-seller. The album wasn't supposed to be totally sans music videos. LL was originally expected to shoot a vid for "I Can't Live Without My Radio," but the 16-year old overslept. Instead, he was convinced to cameo in the movie Krush Groove, where he memorably performs a snippet of the song.
Yo! Bum Rush The Show - Public Enemy
Another classic debut from Def Jam, the first album from Public Enemy was like a sonic assault. Chuck D's booming voice, Flavor Flav's cartoonish energy, Terminator X's scratching and the Bomb Squad's full throttle beats--it all comes together on their legendary first project. There's more b-boyism here than fans would hear on their subsequent projects, but even in their earliest stages, Public Enemy was here to bring the noise.
Born To Mack - Too $hort
The $hort Dog was instrumental in putting the Bay Area on the Hip-Hop map, selling his early cassettes out of the trunk of his car before he ever had a major record deal. He'd formed Dangerous Music with his high school friend, Freddy B. But after three successful indie releases for Oakland's 75 Girls Records & Tapes, $hort released his fourth project, and ...Mack landed the rhymer on Jive/RCA, which re-released the album after Too $hort had his mainstream breakthrough with 1989s Life Is...Too Short.
Comin' Out Hard - Eightball & MJG
Ball & G recorded most of their debut album for Suave House Records in the basement of label founder Tony Draper, and the two emcees from Memphis made sure their music lived up to the title. Both nimble rhymers with supreme storytelling skills, the pair dropped an album full of pimpery and street game, helping to establish the South as more than just bass music. They set a standard for their hometown while also announcing themselves as one of the best in the game in any region.
Ridin' Dirty - U.G.K.
The Underground Kingz had been making serious noise on Jive Records with their first two albums, but when Bun B and Pimp C decided to pass on a label advance in lieu of being able to record their third album however they wanted, not only did they seize creative control of their career; they crafted an album that became the gold standard for southern Hip-Hop. With soulful production from Pimp C and N.O. Joe, and with Bun B taking a major leap forward en route to becoming one of the best lyricists in Hip-Hop, Ridin' DIrty became U.G.K.'s masterpiece.