Family is everything, and blood inherently creates an inseparable bond between relatives. In that regard, Hip-hop artists are no different than the rest of us, and many waves of cousins, brothers, sisters, and parents have shared success in the rap game. Yet sometimes it’s difficult to discern who’s actually related, and who’s simply a close friend or mentor that has earned the title of “cousin” or “uncle.” For the purpose of this family tree, blood or marriage are the only determining factors of relation.

Nepotism has propelled families into entire eras of success in every imaginable profession. From politicians to painters, ministers to bankers, the family hook-up is a tradition as old as blood itself. Hip-hop is not immune to this tradition. Rev Run got his first shot at success because of the efforts of his brother, Russell Simmons. Step-brothers Dr. Dre and Warren G simultaneously crafted West Coast classics. Willow and Jaden Smith are the result of exceptionally talented parents. Even Migos share a family bond: Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle, and Offset and Quavo are cousins.

Tracing hip-hop lineage throughout the last forty years was an ambitious task. Each generation spawned another branch, and the roots of true relations were mired by speculation and mythology. Once proper lineage was traced, however, one thing became evident. Each era deserved its own segment, in order to maintain a sense of context; chronicling the relationship between Pete Rock and Heavy D seemed light-years away from the relationship between Playboi Carti and UNO. Because of the disparity in generations, our hip-hop family tree has been split into four segments: The Old School, The Golden Age, The Millennium, and The New School.

Some relatives remained successful throughout several eras, but the time period in which they first reached commercial success is where they will be classified.As you’ll soon discover, each era has reigning families, such as the Miller Family in the nineties, that helped usher in a new sound. Conversely, there are also family members that only enjoyed moderate success under the vast commercial shadow of their relative.

The first era we will explore is The Old School. The actual Old School, not that throwback Ja Rule record that your local DJ calls an “Old School Jam.” We’re thinking B-Boys, ghetto blasters, and block parties. A time where the commercial potential of hip-hop was only recognized by a few brilliant individuals. The basic formulas of rap were pioneered during this time, although unrefined; the verse/chorus/verse structure was untamed, with rappers running well over the sixteen-bar paradigm of modern rap.

The complications of intellectual properties, merchandising, publishing, and mechanical rights forced DJs into a supporting role in the early nineties, but in the Old School, the DJ reigned supreme. Like the Wild-West, honor and dignity superseded rules and regulations; the skills of a DJ and his MC were more important than owning businesses and yacht parties. Although hip-hop started in the early seventies, it wasn’t until late in the decade that commercial success was first ascertained. Still, here are some of the families that were present from the jump, flourishing alongside the genre of hip-hop.

Stay tuned for part two.