Cultural pioneer Don Cornelius created Soul Train as a way to spotlight Black music and debunk negative narratives surrounding Black youth and the art that they created during a difficult time of racial unrest. Though the brand has grown to be known as a beacon for R&B and soul music, Cornelius never left out the hip hop sector of Black culture.
In fact, many people were perhaps introduced to what is now considered one of the most popular genres ever by watching the legendary show. Many musical acts have stepped onto the Soul Train stage including, legendary hip hop figure Kurtis Blow, and later acts like Lil Wayne and Ja Rule. Here’s a look back at some of the best hip hop performances to grace the Soul Train stage.
Kurtis Blow “The Breaks”
Kurtis Blow was the first commercially successful rap act to appear on the iconic series in 1980. He performed his hit single “The Breaks.” Though Cornelius wasn’t as keen to rap music at the time, he continued to invite rap acts on to the weekly show.
Eric B. & Rakim “I Know You Got Soul”
Eric B. and Rakim gave an energy packed live performance of their single “I Know You Got Soul” off their debut 1987 album Paid In Full. Host Cornelius hilariously asked Rakim about not smiling to which he responded, “I ain’t no joke.”
LL Cool J “Rock The Bells”
In his first Soul Train performance ever in 1986, Ladies Love Cool James had the crowd rocking with his sizzling single “Rock The Bells.” He also performed “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.”