These 4 hip-hop songs are among the most influential, and they have ties to Bergen

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The roots of hip-hop might be firmly planted at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, but its branches clearly extend into North Jersey.

On Aug. 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc tried something new while entertaining his sister and friends at a back-to-school party. He extended an instrumental he was playing and began rapping over the music, a moment which many believe gave birth to hip-hop.

Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and DMC (Darryl McDaniels) of Run DMC perform during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2020.
Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and DMC (Darryl McDaniels) of Run DMC perform during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2020.

Fifty years later, the art form is bigger than ever. Eminem’s 2002 album, "The Eminem Show," has sold more than 12 million copies, while Outkast, The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Beastie Boys and Lauryn Hill each have albums that sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

The genre has found success all around the globe, but some of its most influential songs have ties right here in Bergen.

‘Rapper’s Delight’ by The Sugarhill Gang (1979)

"Rapper's Delight" 12" single by The Sugarhill Gang
"Rapper's Delight" 12" single by The Sugarhill Gang

Arguably the most well-known song in hip-hop history, “Rapper’s Delight” was released by The Sugarhill Gang and produced by the late groundbreaking record executive Sylvia Robinson.

The track helped hip-hop reach a wider audience and became a top 40 hit in the United States, reached top three in the United Kingdom and became a number one hit in Canada.

Both The Sugarhill Gang and Robinson — who co-founded Sugar Hill Records with her husband, Joseph —spent many years in Englewood.

In 2014, the record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (1982)

"The Message" 12" single by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
"The Message" 12" single by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Named the greatest hip-hop song of all time in 2012 by "Rolling Stone Magazine," “The Message” changed the genre forever.

It was, "Rolling Stone" said, “the first song to tell, with hip-hop’s rhythmic and vocal force, the truth about modern inner-city life in America...”

Sylvia Robinson was again a driving force behind the single, finally convincing Melle Mel — a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — to record the song after other groups passed due to the conscious lyrics.

The song made headlines again when Hackensack rapper Coi Leray sampled the track for her song, “Players,” which peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

‘Walk This Way’ by Run-DMC & Aerosmith (1986)

"Walk This Way" 12" single by Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith
"Walk This Way" 12" single by Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith

Hip-hop’s first crossover hit was recorded in 1986. Run-DMC would freestyle over the opening drum break of Aerosmith’s original version of “Walk This Way” during their concerts. When the hip-hop pioneers were recording their album, Raising Hell, producer Rick Rubin suggested re-recording the song with members of Aerosmith.

Run-DMC resisted at first but eventually gave in. The new version received airplay on both urban and rock radio stations and the video was in heavy rotation on MTV.

Rev Run — one-third of Run-DMC — and his family would go on to star in the MTV reality series "Run’s House," which was primarily filmed in their Saddle River home.

‘Big Poppa’ by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

"Big Poppa" 12" single by The Notorious B.I.G.
"Big Poppa" 12" single by The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G. — considered by many to be the greatest rapper of all time — spent time in Teaneck before his untimely death in 1997.

But that’s not where the Bergen connections end. One of his most successful singles, “Big Poppa,” samples “Between the Sheets” by The Isley Brothers, who have strong ties to both Teaneck and Englewood.

The Isleys even named their label T-Neck Records, which became famous for distributing the first nationally released recordings of Jimi Hendrix.

All Access Community Development Corporation presents “Hip Hop 50 Bergen,” an exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the genre and its global impact and local origins at bergenPAC.
All Access Community Development Corporation presents “Hip Hop 50 Bergen,” an exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the genre and its global impact and local origins at bergenPAC.

Learn More at bergenPAC

During November, the All Access Community Development Corporation (AACDC) and bergenPAC present “Hip Hop 50 Bergen,” an exhibit that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the genre and its global impact and local origins.

"People don't seem to realize that Bergen County is the place where hip-hop was commercialized and monetized," says AACDC's executive director Randy Glover. "Hip-hop achieved global recognition thanks to Sylvia Robinson, the Sugar Hill Gang, Sugar Hill Records and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five."

The exhibit features items and memorabilia from Bergen County pioneers, such as the Sugar Hill Gang. These local hip-hop innovators will also be honored with Congressional certificates and county recognition.

"Jersey is kind of a secret as far as hip-hop goes," says artistic producer Teddy "Ted" Whiting of the group Awesome 2. "It's been going on here just as long as anywhere else."

The exhibit is executive produced by Glover and bergenPAC’s Sandy Bennett Art Gallery curator Helene Cohen. The artistic producers of the event are Awesome 2's Whiting and Kevin Bonners.

"To celebrate the 50th birthday of hip-hop just around the way from where Sylvia Robinson’s studio was located, is both a natural fit and honor," says Cohen. "It’s been a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with Randy and Teddy, and we are looking forward to celebrating with the community."

The exhibit is located on the mezzanine level of the theater at 30 N Van Brunt Street in Englewood and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. and to ticket holders before concerts. Visit bergenpac.org for more information.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Hip-hop songs have ties to Bergen and beyond