Hip-hop as a music genre started way back in the late 80s with the likes of Slick Rick making it an art worthy of emulation. And commercialization. With the advent of hip-hop as a mainstream genre in the 90s (’95 was a pivotal year for the art), black culture was pushed beyond borders with the likes (and craft) of Pac, Biggie, Dre, Diddy, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Rakim, Eazy-E and a host of other talents too numerous to mention. In a sense, hip-hop moved the black culture and its attendant struggles from the inner city streets into the faces of white America with a host of topics ranging from politically charged raps to ghetto living. For this, their stars were revered and received an almost god-like status with their people.
So, what does that mean to someone on the other side of the world being born right about then? Growing up as a “90s baby“, I never really understood what the hip-hop was all about because I had the most protective parents anyone would wish for. There was this perception right around that time about hip-hop being written by and for the uneducated and morally decadent folks in society. A slightly myopic view but hey, it’s not their fault after the well-publicized murders of Biggie and Pac due to a perceived rivalry and the borderline misogynistic and violence filled lyrics of some artistes.
But with the advent of technology (thank God for the Internet and cloud storage), one can transport himself/herself back in time, so to speak, to listen to and understand the music that shaped the ever-changing hip-hop scene we know now back in the day when hip-hop was an aesthetic, every bit as serious and worth cherishing.
Here’s a list of classics from the early 90s to 2000s I listened to that helped shape my understanding and appreciation of hip-hop, not just as a craft but an intricate form of art:
1. A Tribe Called Quest: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
2. A Tribe Called Quest’s ’91 classic The Low End Theory
3. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic released in 1992
4. Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 benchmark debut Enter The Wu-Tang [36 Chambers]
5. Snoop Doggy Dogg: Doggystyle (1993)
6. 1994’s Illmatic by Nas
7. Resurrection (1994) by Common Sense [now known as Common]
8. The Notorious B.I.G.: Ready To Die (1994)
9. 2Pac: Me Against The World (1995)
10. Fugees: The Score (1996)
11. Jay-Z’s 1996 Reasonable Doubt
12. Liquid Swords by Genius/GZA, released in ’95
13. Nas’s 1996 It Was Written
14. OutKast: ATLiens (1996)
15. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
16. DMX: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)
17. 2001, an album by Dr. Dre released in 1999
18. Mos Def: Black On Both Sides (1999)
19. Eminem: The Slim Shady LP (1999)
20. Eminem’s 2000 Marshall Mathers LP
What are your top hip-hop albums of the 90s? Feel free to add yours in the “Comments”.