photograph of 2pac and biggie
Christopher Wallace, aka "The Notorious B.I.G." and Tupac Amaru Shakur, aka "2Pac"

Late 20th Century

Early 1980s – 2000

FRom Analog to Digital

The late 20th century saw Black music fully embraced by mainstream American pop culture. Michael Jackson, who was a star in the Motown and disco genres, became the most popular entertainer in the world after the debut of his album Thriller.

The new musical form of hip-hop was born at a back-to-school party on August 11, 1973. It was dismissed as a fad, derided as inferior music, and then demonized as a threat to the youth. It went on to become (and still is) the most popular form of Black music in America and the most dominant force in American popular music in general over both pop and rock in terms of US Billboard charts.

Arsenio Hall broke new ground as the first Black late-night talk show host. The Arsenio Hall Show featured r&b and hip-hop artists that, while popular with young people of all races, were absent from late-night broadcast television at the time. On June 3, 1992, candidate Bill Clinton appeared on his show and played “Heartbreak Hotel” on saxophone.

The first compact disc was manufactured in August of 1982 and was released commercially the following October. By 1988, CDs were outselling vinyl records. By the late 1990s, the mp3 file format became the industry standard, and the digital music era was truly underway.

Genres from this era

Neo Soul

Neo Soul

Soul music makes a return.

Techno

Techno

Electronic dance music born in Detroit.

House

House

Birthed from the underground clubs of Chicago and New York.

Hip Hop & Rap

Hip Hop & Rap

Two turntables and a microphone.

Notable Events

Someone Think of The Children

Someone Think of The Children

November 1, 1985

Succumbing to pressure from the Parents Music Resource Center, the RIAA agreed to put “Parental Advisory” labels on selected releases.

Operation Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm

January 17, 1991

In response to Iraqi military forces attempt to annex Kuwait, a coalition of nations led by the United States begin an aerial and naval bombardment.

The Artist

The Artist

1993

Prince changed his name to a glyph, which was a mash-up of the gender symbols for man and woman, as an act of rebellion against his record label.

One In A Million

One In A Million

August 13, 1996

Aaliya’s second album signaled a newly emerging maturity and featured contributions from soon-to-be legends Timbaland and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott.

Napster

Napster

June 1, 1999

The pioneering peer-to-peer file digital audio sharing service is released.

Genre Map