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Three years after The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’,” Michael Jackson and blandly competent rock acts like Asia ruled. The hip crowd blasted Prince from their Alpine stereos; genuine new wave was only a rumor for most. Even Captain Rapp’s homegrown “Bad Times (I Just Can’t Stand it)”—an unremarkable echo of Run-DMC’s “Hard Times”—had yet to hit.

The real action was in Compton, south of Pico’s cultural capital, a town your average Hollywood music exec could not find on a map despite being less than 20 miles from Sunset Boulevard.

At the seminal nightspot Eve’s After Dark, promoter and DJ Lonzo Williams was developing a kind of rap music that owed as much to funk as hip-hop. His group, The World Class Wreckin’ Cru, featured future N.W.A member DJ Yella and a utility player of a teen named Dr. Dre. Problem was, South Central’s scene was DJ-driven, and the record labels up in Hollywood, unable to imagine how they might monetize the movement, would not have known what to do with the doings at Eve’s, in the unlikely event they found the Compton club on that aforementioned map.

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Drew Pierce

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