Flashback: hip-hop history

The latest edition of the CBC Archives newsletter Flashback looks at a new genre of music in 1990, new technology in 1993 and a tale of two new TV channels in 1984.

"I don't think I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, because I intend to be a lawyer"

Explaining rap music in 1990

33 years ago
Duration 5:51
Reporter Naomi Loeb finds out what rap music is and who's listening to it. Aired Jan. 24, 1990 on CBC's Midday. This report has been edited to exclude copyrighted material not belonging to CBC.

One of the many memorable segments of the 2023 Juno Awards, aired on CBC on March 13, had to be the joyous celebration of hip-hop's history in Canada. (If you watch closely, you can even see relevant archival video in the background.)

The genre was still novel and usually called rap when CBC's Midday reported on it in early 1990. Venues like Toronto's Concert Hall were regularly packed for live shows and local crews were publicly performing rhymes set to a beat.

"I don't think I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, because I intend to be a lawyer," said a young woman who compared rap to poetry. "I don't think I'd go rapping to the judge ... [but] it's for now and it's a way of teaching my people."

Much ado

Cable channels MuchMusic and TSN begin in 1984

39 years ago
Duration 2:06
A shoestring operation specializing in music videos and a more expensive business producing live sports both got their start in Canada in 1984. Aired on CBC's The National on Nov. 2, 1984.

Last week, CBC Arts told readers about 299 Queen Street West, a new film that "chronicles the origins and heyday" of the country's erstwhile music station.

Shortly after MuchMusic started broadcasting in 1984, the CBC's Michael McIvor reported it was a "tight, lean business" that would make money within a year. Sports channel TSN, meanwhile, might take five years to be profitable.

"With the new specialty channels, pay TV looks healthier today than it has in a long time," said McIvor. According to the Globe and Mail, TSN earned $118 million for the broadcast year in 2021 and MuchMusic became a TikTok channel.

Fruits of their labour 

Small company, big step for technology in 1993

30 years ago
Duration 1:21
A Waterloo, Ont. company called Research in Motion makes a big splash in communications. Aired June 27, 1993 on CBC's Venture.

A new movie called, appropriately enough, BlackBerry, "outlines the rise and fall of the BlackBerry," according to CBC News. The film's trailer opens with a pitch asking the listener to "picture a cellphone and an email machine all in one thing."

No date in the trailer is given for said pitch, but the company that made the BlackBerry, Research in Motion of Waterloo, Ont., was working on such a device when CBC's Venture introduced it in 1993 in a story on communications tech.

"Right now you'll find that personal communicators are mostly dreamware — a promise of what's to come," said reporter Deborah Lamb. "Soon, all of these products could merge together, reshaping whole industries."

Fantastic journeys

toronto transit map dream from 1982
A map from 1982 outlines a bold plan for transit development in Toronto. (CBC Archives)

There must be a storage unit somewhere filled with scrapped plans for public transit in Toronto. As CBC News recently reported, SmartTrack, a former mayor's 2014 pledge on the issue, could be joining the heap.

Holy holidays

Three religious holidays converge in 1991

32 years ago
Duration 2:02
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Christian Easter and Jewish Passover all happen at the same time. Aired March 29, 1991 on CBLT Newshour.

Three of the world's major religions observe holidays at the same time in 2023. Easter and Passover will happen during the holy month of Ramadan — an alignment that, CBC found, filled mosques on Good Friday in 1991

When in Ottawa...

woman skating in cp photo
Hillary Clinton skates on Rideau Canal in Ottawa, in this Feb. 24, 1995, file photo. (Denis Paquin/The Associated Press)

Skating on the Rideau Canal, as Hillary Clinton did on a visit to Ottawa in 1995, wasn't in the cards for Jill Biden last week. But she and fellow political wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau still honoured a Canadian winter tradition: they visited a curling club

Malls and rats

Rat poison warning sign
A pest control officer nails up a warning after distributing rat poison outside an Alberta building. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

Episode 1 of the new season of the CBC podcast The Secret Life of Canada concerns dead malls. (Come on, we know you had a favourite mall.) This season the podcast will also explore why Newfoundland took ages to join Canada and why Alberta is anti-rat.

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