Early '90s HipHop

East Coast vs. west coast

Biggie Smalls

California Love

“Juicy” by Biggie Smalls was released in 1994. It was one of his hit songs on his first studio album titled Ready to Die and produced by Puff Daddy, also known as P. Diddy. In the song, Biggie raps about rags to riches story as he talks about going from his poor childhood to the lavish lifestyle that he grew up to lived. The beat behind “Juicy” was sampled from the song “Juicy Fruit” by the group Mtume. It is a very catchy song with a simple beat that allows you to simply vibe and enjoy. Biggie Smalls is also one of the best East Coast rappers during the ’90s.

“California Love” by Tupac was released in 1995 after he got out of prison. The song features Dr. Dre as they show love to their West Coast state California. “California Love” has a nice upbeat rhythm to it that makes you easily fall in love with the West Coast sound. It also gives a little taste and education on the geography of widely known areas in California. This song was one of his widely known songs along with others like How Do U Want It and  Keep Ya Head Up. Tupac was one of the greatest West Coast rappers and influenced many rappers after him and would have continued to be a top artist had he not been killed in 1996.

East Coast

One Love

Temperature is Rising
Mobb Deep

This song is Nas rapping a series of letters he wrote to his incarcerated friends, updating them on events happening in their neighborhood and the outside world. The song was sampled from The Heath Brothers’s “Smilin’ Billy Suite Pt. II” and features Q-Tip. “One Love” was the final single released from “Illmatic” Nas’ debut studio album. The third verse of this song was the basis of a scene in the movie “Belly” starring Nas and DMX. Nas, in the song, mentions the names of the people/person he is writing to in prison. Or in the case of the song, those he wishes to receive the letter. This song is another example of how when Hip-Hop started to become more widespread, most rappers were storytellers. Nas, in my opinion, is one of the best artists at telling a story in his music. One of the reasons I love this song is because it tells a story, as stated before, and is also accompanied by a catchy beat.

Mobb Deep was a hip-hop duo of Prodigy and Havoc from Queens, New York. The duo released “Temperature Rising” in 1995. Mobb Deep mostly rapped about their life experiences, and with this song, it is no different. Prodigy revealed in his autobiography years later that the song was a true story about “a little murder situation” with Havoc’s brother. The song was a reminder for his brother to keep his head up and that everything would be alright.  In the 90s, when hip-hop was getting traction, rappers rapped about what they saw and what they were around, and most of the time, it was violence.

Women Empowerment

Queen Latifah

Fa All Y'all
Da Brat

Queen Latifah released “U.N.I.T.Y” off her Black Reign album in 1993. The song features an appealing chorus, chanting the letters of the title and the Queen’s seamless flow, full of control and confidence. She calls out the use of slurs against women, violation of their bodies, and how misogyny permeates hip-hop culture. Queen believes this can only be remedied through solidarity between Black women and men.

“U.N.I.T.Y” is an easy listen and enjoyable, as well. Queen Latifah chronicles her verses effortlessly, using a firm tone to emphasize her message. Queen’s lyrics embody the feelings of anger most Black women hold against those who limit their existence, and most importantly the need to defend themselves.

Da Brat reveals who she makes music for on “Fa All Y’all” and that her listeners play her songs for a serving of funky lyrics and beats. Off her debut album, “Funkdafied” she simultaneously introduces and endorses her rap abilities through a strong influence of funk by interpolating the oath to a court of law but to funk. Da Brat states that she appeals to a range of activities and people. 

The song showcases Da Brats’ decided purpose which is just to enjoy life’s pleasures. Her lyrics are full of wordplay and her voice adds a distinct style that is both mellowing and provoking.

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