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Rock Around the Block

17 New York bands that have changed the course of rock and hip-hop.

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The Beastie Boys with the members of Run D.M.C.
Photo credit: AP Photos

THE SUGARHILL GANG Certainly not the first rappers—and Grandmaster Caz has a good case against them for ripping off his rhymes—but the Gang generously brought the hip-hop party into suburban sound systems.

PATTI SMITH The dark goddess of Glassboro, New Jersey, inventor of a whole new bohemia.

THE RAMONES 1-2-3-4! As aggressive minimalism, nothing beat it; nothing ever will.

YOUNG RASCALS Greatest of the raunchy Italo soul masters/race pioneers. In their heyday, they wouldn’t play unless half the bill was black.

BEASTIE BOYS Big-yapped rawk-and-rap. And when the obnoxiousness faded away, three auteurs took their place in Paul’s Boutique.

LOU REED Another kind of singer-songwriter. New York to the (rotten) core, whether he’s scoring heroin uptown or “talking ’bout a landlord laughing ’til he wets his pants” on the “Dirty Blvd.”

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA Did he invent the scratch? Hip-hop’s first—and greatest—re-contextualizer, the man who got asses to move to Kraftwerk in the boogie-down Bronx.

MOBY The Eminem fans chase him because he doesn’t eat meat, but in the big music throwdown, this baldie’s soul transcends all raves.

TALKING HEADS Somehow, with that RISD eye-pop and big-brain deal, you always felt they were slumming at CB’s. But they knew more about black music than their prole confederates. “The Big Country” is still the best snotty Midwest put-down song.

DE LA SOUL “Strong Island” emcees and D.J., they got the joke, which, alas, was on them once those suits piled up (the Turtles were ruthless) and killed wild-style sampling.

RUN-DMC “DMC . . . what does it mean?” “D for never dirty, MC for mostly clean.” Jam Master Jay in Hollis until his dying day. Their new jackhammer-of-the-gods style still being replicated.

BLONDIE A bit of glamour amid the Bowery flophouses. A million compilations later, still cool.

KISS Outta Brooklyn, the Waffen SS in logo not so funny, but Gene Simmons’s (real name Chaim Witz) tongue was. A bigger sense of space than most. To paraphrase Snoop Dogg, they had their minds on their money and their money on their minds.

GRANDMASTER FLASH Twenty-one years later, “The Message” is still hip-hop’s greatest epic. “White Lines” not far behind.

SONIC YOUTH Expansive alt rock that never went prog. And they offered an ambitious Daydream Nation still not equaled by indie’s shy shoegazers.

TELEVISION Tom Verlaine was skinny, willowy. Richard Hell, before the Voidoids, also skinny, spiky. Managed to be mystic without having to turn in their punk pass.

THE STROKES The Velvets’ revolution lives.

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