In the entire, brief history of hip-hop, a few moments have gone—as the saying goes—deeper than rap.

These are not the scenes and headlines that made hip-hop "relevant" as much as the moments where hip-hop characters, ideals, and narratives ended up on the front pages of national papers, shifting the American news cycle and making the sounds, lyrics, and faces of the genre as much a story as any great world leader or event. Sometimes, like Bill Clinton calling out Sister Soulja, the moments were gasoline on fire. Other times, they were just a spark on a fuse waiting to be lit, like Dr. Dre making headphones everybody's most essential personal style accessory.

These are moments of protest, of struggle, and of shame. These are moments of pride and of power. These are moments that define the music we so often take for granted, whether it's Kanye saying some shit about an American President, or an American President saying some shit about Kanye—and then campaigning with Jay-Z not long after. From the subliminal moments to the most pronounced, from the film and TV show moments to the moments when the corridors of political power were forced to confront rappers—yes, rappers—these are those times when hip-hop splashed into the mainstream, by all means necessary.

Hip-hop's taken everything from figurative bows thrown to literal shots fired. Yet, they weren't game changers for rap so much as for pop culture, moments of pure, uncut recognition that this isn't just a subculture, or a trend, but pieces of the greater American mosaic. From Kanye to Clinton, from Style Wars to who Wu-Tang's for, these are The 40 Biggest Hip-Hop Moments in Pop Culture History.

Written by Foster Kamer (@weareyourfek)

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