1.From NYC to the top of the charts

1/10

When hip-hop rose from the streets of the South Bronx and Queens in the early '80s, British photographers Janette Beckman and David Corio were on the front lines, capturing pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Roxanne Shanté, and others for music publications like NME and Melody Maker. Their work is now being showcased in an exhibition titled Catch the Beat at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, which also includes their pics of early punk icons like the Ramones and the Clash.

Here, Beckman and Corio tell SPIN about hanging with some of hip-hop's great — before they were stars

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2.From NYC to the top of the charts

2/10

When hip-hop rose from the streets of the South Bronx and Queens in the early '80s, British photographers Janette Beckman and David Corio were on the front lines, capturing pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Roxanne Shanté, and others for music publications like NME and Melody Maker. Their work is now being showcased in an exhibition titled Catch the Beat at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, which also includes their pics of early punk icons like the Ramones and the Clash.

Here, Beckman and Corio tell SPIN about hanging with some of hip-hop's great — before they were stars

START THE GALLERY >>>

3.Public Enemy

3/10

When they released their 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show — and their game-changing follow-up, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the following year — Public Enemy added a political dimension to rap. They were the mad-as-hell voice for impoverished and disillusioned blacks in the Reagan era, especially on tracks like "Night of the Living Baseheads" and "Rebel Without a Pause."

But when Corio met the group in the mid-'80s in London, he found them to be fairly down-to-earth American guys: "They were concerned that there were no McDonalds restaurants in England," says Corio, who shot the group during morning rush hour on a main street in Hyde Park. "And you can tell they weren't quite so big because Flavor Flav's clock around his neck is fairly small."

4.Biz Markie

4/10

Markie, who sung the 1989 Top 10 hit "Just a Friend," earned a reputation as hip-hop's lovable, goofy younger brother — what he lacked in rhyming skills, he made up for with his affable, aw-shucks personality.

Corio first photographed Markie in London in the late-'80s, when his label Cold Chillin' brought its roster over to perform, and he found Markie to be as fun-loving and approachable in person as he was on record. "He climbed onto a Mercedes and was jumping up and down on the hood, strangling himself his chains," says Corio. "He was a real easy person to shoot — every picture was him just mugging or sticking his face in the camera."

5.Run-D.M.C. and Posse

5/10

The trio — Jam Master Jay, Run, and D.M.C. — were one of the first acts to turn hip-hop into a mainstream phenomenon: They were the first rap group to score a gold record and get nominated for a Grammy, while their music, which incorporated rock elements, proved rap was suited for arenas and not just the streets.

Beckman wasn't sure what to expect when she traveled out to the suburbs of Hollis, Queens, to photograph the group (along with their posse) in 1984. "But Run met me at the station and was like 'Walk with me,' and then took me up the street to this nice, quiet suburban street where they were living," she recalls.

6.Afrika Bambaataa

6/10

Bambaataa pioneered the use of breakbeats in hip-hop when he started DJing block parties in the South Bronx in the late '70s, and his 1982 single "Planet Rock" is one of the first rap singles, along with Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" and Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."

Corio caught up with Bambaataa after he DJ'd a hip-hop showcase at the Victoria venue in London. "The show had just ended and he came back on to cut his records," he recalls. "A very spontaneous shot."

7.DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, LL Cool J

7/10

Jazzy Jeff, Will "Fresh Prince" Smith, and Cool J helped attract a broader rap audience with their cleaner brand of music, and they were equally approachable and down-to-earth in person. "That's probably the first press picture he had ever taken," says Beckman of Cool J. "He's very young, so cute and innocent looking."

8.Roxanne Shante

8/10

The Queens, New York, rapper was one of the first women to break through with her smash single "The Real Roxanne," which offered a feminine response to U.T.F.O's 1984 song "Roxanne, Roxanne."

"She couldn't have been more than 14 or 15," says Beckman of photographing Shanté in 1984. "But she managed to get the voice back for females in hip-hop. She was huge."

9.RZA and Slick Rick

9/10

Corio and Beckman both found the Wu-Tang Clan rapper (left) and the British-born MC (whose 1988 debut featured controversial singles like "Treat Her Like a Prostitute") to be some of the most colorful and friendly subjects they've ever shot. "Hip-hoppers do their stock-in-trade poses, but once you get chatting with them, they open up a bit and rappers like RZA are really gentle giants," says Corio.

10.The Fugees

10/10

Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras offered a refreshing change to the gang-related themes of '90s hip-hop when they released their breakthrough 1996 album The Score, which paired Roberta Flack and Bob Marley samples with socially-conscious messages. "That gangsta shit is B.S.," Jean told SPIN that April. "The real thugs and gangsters got the rappers saying that shit. The real gangster to me is the guy who owns Sony [the Fugees' record label], the guy who owns SPIN, the guy who owns MTV. Hardcore is like being in a house with the eight of us, mom on welfare."

Corio met the trio right after they had signed a deal with Sony in the early '90s. "They were fresh and very shy," he recalls. "Lauryn looks like a little baby! They were quite awed by it all."