Hip-hop had broken through big by the mid-1980s.
Platinum-selling albums by acts like Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J had moved the genre from the pop culture fringes to center-stage. Rappers were selling out tours and landing major endorsement deals—and delivering albums that crushed the perception that this was a singles-driven genre that focused on party-friendly hits. Run-DMC, King of Rock, Raising Hell, Radio, Bigger and Deffer and Licensed To Ill had all been commercially successful releases, with the Beasties and LL putting the fledgling Def Jam label on the musical map. Other labels like Cold Chillin’ and Tommy Boy would soon rise to prominence in the wake of Def Jam’s mainstream success. It all set the table for one of the most significant years in hip-hop history: 1988.
Hip-hop’s ascension had been steady, but in 1988 the genre exploded into a diverse array of styles and sounds that forever restructured how the artform was perceived and how the music was marketed.