While hip-hop was birthed in 1973 (thank you, Kool Herc), it really began developing into a cultural juggernaut in the 1980s. The decade’s mightiest MCs laid down lyrical blueprints that are still found in the DNA of today’s best rappers. The heavy use of name checking—a staple of hip-hop—is a testament to their lasting influence. The era is characterized, in large part, by chaos and unrest, but some of the genre’s most incredible art was put forth during this period. Although they were still figuring things out as they trailblazed this new path, many of the earliest rappers managed to create classics that laid the foundation for the culture we all know and love.