Continuing its four-night run, Vh1 aired part two of the book-turned-documentary The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the New Rules of the Economy, which chronicles the movement of hip-hop culture into the mainstream. Here, 5 things you should've learned from Part Two. —Andrew Asare
1. Local street style icons like Dapper Dan influenced rapper fashions.
Much of the fashion in Harlem in the 1980s was determined by the hustlers and rappers wanted to be like them. Tailor Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day created a business that fostered that lifestyle. Open 24 hours a day for 8 years, Dapper Dan’s Ladies & Gentlemen Boutique in Harlem on East 125th Street refashioned haute-couture labels like Louis Vuitton and MCM into custom-made garments with their logos on jackets and pants.
One could walk into Dapper Dan’s looking plain and leave looking like luggage. “He really took the psyche of what we were thinking and he created a business out of the attitude of being ghetto fabulous,” said Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records.
“I credit Dapper Dan as the guy who tanned couture fashion," said Steve Stoute. "Because Dapper took the Guccis and MCMs and made it so that sports stars, hip-hop artists and drug dealers could wear them and that spread all around the world. And that changed the way couture labels started to cut their clothing.”
2. Two white Harvard students founded The Source
Hip-hop old heads are well aware of the Dave Mays Source origin story. An unconventional publication found in the most conventional setting—Harvard, to be exact—Jonathan Shecter and David Mays curated hip-hop’s first exclusive magazine The Source. In what Shecter considered “the primetime of hip-hop,” he and Mays turned listeners from their on-campus hip-hop radio show into subscribers for a then one-page editorial that told the stories of artists like KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD and Rakim.
“The only magazines catering to hip-hop consumers at that time were Right On and Black Beat and both of them were Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Heavy D up in the limousine as Biggie said it so eloquently, so there wasn’t really anything really can say that was for the intelligent rap fan or just the real rap fan,” said Shecter. The two white Jewish Kids who grew up loving the art form hip-hop had turned a small newsletter into a $10 million-dollar a year publication.
3. Hip-hop turned grit into gold with flicks like Boyz n the Hood.
Though hip-hop culture transcended into the world of film with fun musical flicks like Wild Style and Krush Groove, Hollywood opened its doors to a new version of hip-hop films that publicized the realities of the inner city and poverty.Colors, Do The Right Thing and Boyz n the Hood—directed by Dennis Hopper, Spike Lee and John Singleton, respectively—opened mainstream eyes. The result: Singleton became the first African-American to receive the Academy Award for Best Director for the 1991 classic Boyz n the Hood.
4. Arsenio Hall opened up the door for hip-hop on late-night.
Rappers may make regular appearances on Jimmy Fallon and company, but that wasn't always the case. While Jay Leno and David Letterman were a force in mainstream late night television, the prince of late night, Arsenio Hall, helped bring hip-hop artists to the forefront when they were snubbed by other shows. He also debuted an artist that would go on to dominate music: Mariah Carey. “The biggest point of my life was allowing Arsenio hall to be on my show,” said Carey.
5. NWA and Ice-T flipped the script by shedding light on police brutality and racial injustice in the hood.
From racial profiling in New York to misunderstood lyrics from Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing,” mavericks like Public Enemy, NWA, and Ice-T changed the game, opening up the mainstream (and angering a few politicians) with explicit records like “Fuck Tha Police” and “Cop Killer."
“We gave them a safe glimpse of the hood,” said Dr. Dre. “Kids from the suburbs had a chance to take that trip, so to speak.”