For much of the initial half of hip-hop’s first three decades, Detroit was a missing player on the national stage. Despite being perhaps the most important city in the musical history of the 20th Century, there were remarkably few rappers that managed to break free of municipal limits until the late 1990s.

The music industry had treated Detroit as flyover territory ever since Motown Records departed for L.A. in the mid-’70s. With few opportunities for major label deals, no consistently successful local independent record companies, and scant radio airplay, the deck was stacked against any artist being heard much beyond 8 Mile Road (the infamous northern boundary line between the predominantly black city and its predominantly white suburbs).

Today, of course, any hip-hop head is familiar with the legacy of the producer J Dilla and the high-octane hijinks of motor-mouthed Motor City MCs—from Eminem to Big Sean to Danny Brown. But it takes a little deeper digging in the crates to unearth the fuller story of Detroit hip-hop’s truly flavorful history. This is The 411 On The 313: A Brief History of Detroit Hip-Hop.

Written by Mike Rubin (@rubinbooty)

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