Q-Tip and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest

How Lollapalooza Helped Push a Hip-Hop Point-of-View to the Masses

Lollapalooza will be decidedly different this year. Hundreds of thousands of music fans who would normally pack Chicago's Grant Park will have to enjoy the scaled down digital version from the comfort of their own homes. However, one aspect of the show that remains a consistent is the presence of Hip-Hop acts who span the generations like Run The Jewels, Tyler, The Creator, Chance The Rapper, Cypress Hill, OutKast, and LL COOL J.

While the early days of Lollapalooza will forever be synonymous with indie rock acts expressing their early '90s angst, festival founder (and Jane's Addiction frontman), Perry Farrell, saw firsthand how Hip-Hop's spirit could be a driving force for decades to come.

Ice-T was already a legitimate Hip-Hop superstar when Lollapalooza organizers were scheduling the first festival in 1991. He and guitarist Ernie Cunnigan — his friend from Los Angeles' Crenshaw High School — had a shared affinity for acts like Slayer and other thrash metal. It was only natural that when they collaborated on music, songs like "Body Count" were decidedly more metal influenced. While touring throughout Europe in the late Eighties, Ice-T had noticed how audiences would mosh to fast rap cuts like Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise" and "Welcome to the Terrordome." It seemed only natural to build on that energy — albeit with a humorous twist.

"If you're not laughing, then you're buggin'," Ice-T said of Body Count songs. "It's so harsh that it's funny. So it's kind of a dark humor. I call it grindhouse like a Tarantino movie. When the guy runs to the trunk, he doesn't pull out a gun, he pulls out a rocket launcher. That's Body Count."

Body Count's approach to music put them in the the crosshairs of the PMRC — joining heavy metal heavyweights like Judas Priest, Motley Crue and AC/DC — and pop stars like Prince, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. The end result of the congressional hearings was the infamous RIAA warning sticker, which became commonplace on album covers across the spectrum of popular music.

"Body Count" — featuring Ice-T, Cunnigan, Ice-T, guitarists Ernie "C" Cunnigan and Dennis "D-Roc" Miles, bassist Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts, drummer Victor Ray "Beatmaster V" Wilson and backing vocalists/hypemen Sean E Sean and Sean E. Mack — appeared on his influential 1991 Sire/Warner album O.G. Original Gangster. At the same time, Cunnigan had been working as a messenger when he met Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction. This led to a slot on Farrell's Lollapalooza festival in 1991.

This jarring collaboration — albeit far-removed from '90s era boom bap rap — was the first step in showcasing Hip-Hop performers as "rock stars." In subsequent years, more traditional Hip-Hop acts broke through like Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Boo-Ya Tribe, House of Pain, Arrested Development, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Fu-Schnickens, The Pharcyde, and Souls of Mischief.

Lollapalooza may be different this year, but that's okay. The familiarity of Hip-Hop will get us through to 2021 when everyone can feel the Chicago sun on their skin.

* Banner Image: Q-Tip and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest / Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

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