The Soundtracks of Skating

From 411 to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

What would skateboarding be without the music that goes with it? From the very first skate videos to the soundtracks of skating video games, music and skateboarding have gone hand-in-hand. But the music itself has changed, and the kinds of genres skateboarders ride to have changed along the way. 

80s: Punk Rock & Reggae

In the 80s, skateboarding was not the powerhouse it is today. Skateboarders were still seen as rebels, outcasts, and punks in many circles—not that they minded at all. The music that they rode to them reflected that rebel spirit. In a lot of the first skateboarding videos, the soundtracks were made by skateboarders themselves. Many of the most iconic skate-punk-rock bands of the 80s grew out of this skating-and-playing culture, including Black Flag, Descendents, and others.

These skate videos served as early exposure for many bands, including Sonic Youth—who showed up in skate videos years before they became a major success in the 90s.

Meanwhile, Reggae was also popular among skaters. The sun-drenched land of California, where skateboarding had its most popular rise, was perfect for the beats and laid-back vibe of reggae.

90s: Enter Hip-Hop

In the 90s, skateboarding’s sharp rise sort of disappeared for a time. Vert skating was less popular and skateboarders were seen as public nuisances. So which music did they turn to? The most controversial genre of the 90s and a ‘public nuisance’ in its own right — hip hop. 

In the same way that rappers were seen by the establishment as a dangerous influence on the nation’s youth, skateboarders were seen as good-for-nothing rebels who needed to start ‘acting like adults.’ What a bunch of bullsh*t, right?

Again, skaters didn’t mind this image. But the two became a natural fit, and each helped the other grow to mainstream success. Songs by the likes of Nas and Mobb Deep were super common in skate videos back in the 90s and continued into the early 2000’s.

Late 90s-00s: Return of the Classics

The late 90s into the early 2000s saw an interesting trend. As skateboarding reached new heights of success on the backs of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, shows like Jackass, and major personalities in skateboarding, the music of choice started to turn to classic rock and indie music.

Skateboarding became more fast-paced, so riders turned from the chill vibes of hip-hop to more aggressive, guitar-driven music. Classic bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were paired with indie masters like Modest Mouse for playlists that still left room for some punk and rap.

As music and skateboarding continue to go hand-in-hand, the question is— what are people going to ride to next?