First Wave Hip-House_collage

First Wave Hip-House: 1988-1990

As a shotgun marriage between two hot springs of black innovation, hip-house's reputation lies between unalloyed club bliss and pop kitsch.

Born in the 1980s, shortly after house music emerged from the dance floors of Chicago, Detroit, and New York, hip-house was a shotgun marriage between two hot springs of black innovation. Ever since, it has served as shorthand for mixing the art of rapping with 4/4 dance rhythms. Its stock has risen and fallen precipitously over the decades. Yet it persists as a concept, with a reputation that lies somewhere between unalloyed club bliss and pop kitsch.

The most famous hip-house track of this era is Jungle Brothers’ “I’ll House You,” which blended Afrika Baby Bam and Mike G’s improvisations over an instrumental of Todd Terry’s “Can You Party.” The JBs are a wildly innovative trio whose music matched the Afrocentric optimism of that time more than any other, and they released two classic albums (as well as an underrated, misunderstood third album in J Beez wit the Remedy) before winding down in the early Aughts. But too many only know them as the fun-loving “I’ll House You” guys. Their fate is evocative of hip-house’s uncertain legacy.

By the mid-90s, R&B, funk, and mainstream dance-pop defined rap artists’ entrée into the club, not house. The hip-house sound has occasionally bubbled up ever since, but never with the mass popularity it inspired during hip-hop’s golden age.

Originally published on This post has been updated.