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1987: In The Beginning

In 1987, key events were taking shape. Jody Watley had struck out on her own from Shalamar and was enjoying heavy success with "Looking For A New Love" and "Some Kind Of Lover." Def Jam Records executive Andre Harrell had already decided to leave the predominantly hip-hop label, and create a slicker, more refined label named Uptown Records. L.A. & Babyface produced the hit "Rock Steady" for the Whispers, which triumphantly peaked at #7 on the Billboard Pop chart. R&B group Levert's "Casanova" peaked at Pop #5, and artists such as Al B. Sure, Keith Sweat, Guy, Bobby Brown and New Edition were all getting ready to enter (and dominate) the charts by the middle of the following year.

In pop music, Prince's "Sign O' The Times" campaign was on a winning streak, Michael Jackson was back with his Bad album, and George Michael's Faith LP was wooing urban and suburban fans alike. The Full Force-produced Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam were getting noticed with their hit "Head To Toe," and Miami-flavored dance acts like Expose ("Point Of No Return"), Pretty Poison ("Catch Me I'm Falling"), and Company B ("Fascinated") were making folks want to just get out and dance. Additionally, even some of Janet Jackson's Control singles were being re-mixed in a noticeably urban/dance fashion -- especially the Jam & Lewis remixes of "Nasty," and Shep Pettibone remix of "The Pleasure Principle."

Other significant events to take place in "urban-related" media from the mid-1980s included the following:


***The Cosby Show: a) debuts on NBC and saves the network; b) becomes the #1 show on T.V. for five straight seasons during the 1980s; and c) revives the family sitcom format.


***LL Cool J's Radio is released and changes the face of hip-hop at that time

 

***Def Jam's Krush Groove is released to theatres

 

***Whitney Houston emerges as a major crossover pop icon in 1985

 

***Janet Jackson takes Control in 1986 -- wins Grammys in 1987.

***Run DMC's update of "Walk this Way" peaks at Billboard (Pop) #4 in 1986


***Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys becomes first rap album to top the Billboard albums chart in 1987; the Beasties also become the first rap group ever to perform on American Bandstand

***Club MTV debuts - this in combination with the rise of the Freestyle genre (think: Lisa Lisa and Expose) further 'urbanizes' popular music

***Def Jam artists embark on successful World Tour headlined by LL Cool J & Whodini


***LL Cool J reaches #1 on Billboard's Black Singles Chart (now called R&B) in 1987

***In 1987, NBC begins airing A Different World, a Cosby Show spin-off sitcom taking place at a historically Black college

Songs like "Rumors" by the Timex Social Club, and "Tender Love" by the Force M.D.'s, were crossing over to "mainstream" audiences, wetting suburban appetites for even more urban music, setting the stage for 1988 -- when New Jack Swing really began...


1988: The Wheels Start Turning

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