6 Hip-Hop Records Preserved at Library of Congress

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6 Hip-Hop Records Preserved in the Library of Congress

Bernd Muller/Redferns/Getty

Every year, the US Library of Congress selects a batch of 25 audio recordings it deems “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.” The records are chosen for preservation in the National Recording Registry. Selected recordings span eras and genres. They include civil rights speeches, comedy albums, jazz classics and, yes, a handful of hip-hop records. (Recordings have to be at least 10 years old to be eligible for induction.)

Here are the hip-hop records preserved at the US Library of Congress, listed by year of induction.

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Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - "The Message"


Released: 1982

Inducted: 2002

"The Message" was the first hip-hop recording selected by the Library of Congress. Though synonymous with Grandmaster Flash, “The Message” was actually penned by Grandmaster Melle Mel and Sugar Hill in-house drummer Ed “Duke Bootie.” Fletcher. “The Message” arrived at the height of socio-economic unrest in urban communities. It captured the desperation and deleterious conditions of the ghetto youth in the Reagan era. "The Message," is significant because of its focus on urban social issues--a course followed by many later rap artists," says the National Library of Congress.

Listen: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 - "The Message"

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Public Enemy - 'Fear of a Black Planet'

Public Enemy - Fear of A Black Planet
Public Enemy - Fear of A Black Planet. © Def Jam

Released: 1990

Inducted: 2004

In 2004, Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet became the first full-length hip-hop album to be enshrined in the National Recording Registry. Released 14 years earlier, the album's dark, forceful sound, courtesy of The Bomb Squad, still resonates today. P.E.'s political messages are still as meaningful as ever. The Library of Congress praised the album for signaling "the coupling of a strongly political message with hip hop music."

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Tupac Shakur - "Dear Mama"


Released: 1995

Inducted: 2009

“Dear Mama” is the best song on 2Pac’s best album, Me Against the World. Conflicted and convoluted, it’s a powerful ode to motherhood. “Dear Mama” honors Afeni Shakur’s strength and dedication even as she battled drug addiction and poverty. The Library of Congress called it "a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper's own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and societal indifference.”

Watch: 2Pac - "Dear Mama"

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De La Soul - '3 Feet High & Rising'

De La Soul. © Tommy Boy

Released: 1989

Inducted: 2010

One of the in hip-hop history, 3 Feet High & Rising is also a universally recognized masterpiece. The teenage trio moved against the tide, providing a playful alternative to the hardcore sound of the day. The Library of Congress expressed admiration for the group's "astonishing range of samples."

Watch: De La Soul - "Me Myself & I"

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Sugar Hill Gang - "Rapper's Delight"


Released: 1978

Inducted: 2011

The origin of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is murky and involves lawsuits, plagiarized rhymes and good old fabrication. Still, it is one of the most important rap songs of all time. Released in 1979, “Rapper’s Delight” was catchy and commercially viable enough to popularize hip-hop as an art form.

Listen: Sugarhill Gang - "Rapper's Delight"

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Lauryn Hill - 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'


Released: 1998

Inducted: 2014

After years as a member of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill finally broke out as a solo star with 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Some of the album’s most unforgettable tunes are poignant tributes to motherhood, relationships and culture.The Library of Congress praised Hill for her vocal range. Hill combined her captivating croons with strong, effective and technically superior rapping. Says the Library of Congress: “The rapping is rhythmically compelling while always retaining, and frequently exploiting, the natural cadences of conversational speech.” Hill capped her breakout with a Grammy sweep: she bagged 10 nominations and five wins, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.

Watch: Lauryn Hill - "Doo Wop (That Thing)