By Victoria Merlino
It’s July, which calls for the three S’s: sun, sand and surf. There’s only one problem: what tunes are you going to blast when one of your friends gives you precious access to their bluetooth speaker? Have no fear, the Eagle is here to share our five favorite hometown acts so you don’t look like a tool at Rockaway Beach this summer.
The Queen(s) rapper herself was raised in South Jamaica, even receiving a key to the city from Borough President Melinda Katz in 2017 for her achievements in music. Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj, got her start singing backup for other aspiring artists before catching famed rapper Lil Wayne’s eye and ascending through the New York rap underground with her flashy, quick verses and her signature offbeat lyrics in the late 2000s. After signing with Wayne’s label Young Money, Minaj proved herself the “Queen of Rap,” raking in chart-topping hits like “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun Li” ever since.
The “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” songstress grew up in Ozone Park, getting expelled from Richmond Hill High School, waiting tables and working in a thrift store until she caught her big break. Though Lauper is best known as a campy ‘80’s icon, belting era classics like “Time After Time” and “True Colors,” she’s also had a prosperous career beyond her pop queen persona. She scored six Tony awards, including best musical and best score, as a first-time composer for the Broadway show “Kinky Boots,” and is an outspoken LGBTQ rights advocate.
With a matching set of scowls, long hair and leather jackets, four kids from Forest Hills High School shattered the rock world forever. Tommy, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone — none of which were actually related or were actually named Ramone — would go on to form one of the most recognizable punk bands ever in the Ramones. The raw power of songs like “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” appealed to disaffected youth of the ‘70s and ‘80s, even as the band suffered rifts between its core members and shuffled its lineup. Be sure to check out the band’s seminal ode one of Queens’ favorite summer spots, “Rockaway Beach.”
The “Illmatic” rapper breathes rarified air as one of the greatest rappers of all time, with songs like “N.Y. State of Mind” shaking the establishment upon its release in 1994. Nas, born Nasir Jones, was raised in the Queensbridge Houses, and though he may have climbed up the charts in the music world, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. In 2018, he hosted a listening party of his latest album in Queensbridge Park, complete with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and a crowd of adoring fans.
The Hollis rap trio broke barriers with their 1986 collaboration with Aerosmith, “Walk This Way,” a blend of hip-hop and rock that pushed rap even more into the mainstream. Run DMC, created by Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, saw a number of highs and lows throughout its lifespan, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the tragic murder of Jam Master Jay in 2002. The group had a street named after them in Hollis in 2009 to honor their musical contributions at large.