General Summary

Hip-Hop music originated in the 1970s Bronx, New York, where DJs and MCs would turn and host music to create a new sound from original songs. By the 1990s, the Music Industry began to embrace and transform its musical tones and components, in which Hip-Hop/ Rap quickly came to the forefront of this new artistic expression. Musical Producers were beginning to utilize audio editing software and digital effects to promote new styles of Hip-Hop, incorporating Jazz and R&B samples within new singles to introduce a more unique and traditionally different sound. The impact of this new musical engineer technique transformed and influenced the delivery of Hip-Hop/Rap Artist. Many of these Artists began to express the hardships within their lives and their communities, labeling this form of Hip-Hop/Rap known as “hardcore” or “gangster” rap. Though this new artistic expression was highly favored and popularized in various communities, some viewed it to have a negative impact on society; legal actions began to be taken against Recording Artists who sampled original songs to produce their own. Additionally, many Radio Stations and other platforms began to refuse to play Hip-Hop music as it seemed to venture into more explicit and violent lyricism, creating the riff we see today of Hip-Hop Artists labeled as violent thugs.

Influential Artists

Tupac

Dr.Dre

Notorious Big

Snoop Dog

Ice Cube

2Pac was an iconic west coast hip hop band during the 90s. 2Pac boasts an outstanding 11 platinum albums to his name, with hits that committed and motivated the black community like “Keep Ya Head Up” . His music concentrated on political and social commentary at the time before it began to travel to more objects of his personal life and struggle. His beef with Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.) began in 1995 after he accused the artist of being behind him being shot multiple times. This is where his music targeted at the life of a thug and his personal conflicts took over his sound; his album All Eyez on Me boasts this new direction, with one of the most recognizable tracks being his diss song “Hit Em Up”. Sadly, 2Pac passed away in 1996 after being shot in Las Vegas, however his career in music is still wildy influential and continued to grow in popularity over the rest of the 90s.

Known as the “Master of Mixology”, Dr.Dre began his career as a DJ in Compton California and rose to fame with his group NWA. NWA was criticized heavily for their explicit and violent lyricism, many of their songs spiked controversy that even led to them receiving a letter from the FBI about the nature of their music. After disbanding, Dr. Dre went on to establish his record label ‘Death Row Records’ and went on to produce many other artists including himself. 

The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, was an influential East Coast rapper under Bad Boy Records. His hits included features from all areas of R&B and his music discussed the nature of his life dealing drugs and having to hustle to make it to his level of success. Many of his songs demonstrated a sense of vulnerability or his mentality on having the hustle to support his family; “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Big Poppa” show this range respectively. His beef with 2Pac was iconic in setting the West and East coasts against each other; Biggie’s song “Who Shot Ya?” was interpreted as mocking the incident that would occur to 2Pac that would begin their rivalry. Sadly, The Notorious B.I.G. would pass away in 1997 after being shot in a drive by. Two albums were released after his death, with the song “Long Kiss Goodnight” being the rounding call to end the feud between coasts. 

After debuting on Dr.Dre’s first solo album, Snoop Dogg’s career took off. His sound was heavily in line with Dr.Dre’s method of making hip hop with a funky flair, called G-funk. This sound would go on to define Snoop Dogg’s music career, making his sound iconic and recognizable to the rapper. His sound made a transition form the typical gangster rap into a smoother form, however, his final and most recent did not develop until the early 2000s. 

Characterized by his unapologetic attitude, Ice Cube was a massively influential artist of the late 90s. As a member of NWA, he participated in the ground-breaking drop of “Straight Outta Compton” which criticized the violence perpetuated in their city. The explicit and violent nature of their lyrics led to a lot of controversy and Ice Cube eventually split from the group and went on to be a solo act where his success continued to grow. Ice Cube boasted a critically acclaimed album “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” and went on to produce and create with artists outside of the hip hop genre to create a border spectrum of hip hop.

Popular Songs Within That Period

Shook Ones Part Two - Mob Deep

Dear Mama - Tupac

Triumph - Wu Tang Clan

Tha Crossroads - Bone Thugs N Harmony

“Shook Ones (Part II)” is the lead single from Mobb Deep’s 1995 album The Infamous. The narrative is told from the perspective of inner-city youths engaged in territorial warfare and struggling for financial gains. The song contains a pitched-down sample of “Jessica” by Herbie Hancock and “Kitty with the Bent Frame” by Quincy Jones. The drum break is sampled from “Dirty Feet” by Daly-Wilson Big Band. The Herbie Hancock sample was slowed down and the pitch was altered to create the beat in the song.

Dear Mama was released in 1995 and is a heartfelt tribute to 2Pac’s mother and one of his most celebrated and most famous songs. The song topped the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart for five weeks and also peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA on July 13, 1995. ”Dear Mama” has been consistently ranked among the best of its genre, appearing on numerous “greatest” lists. In 2009, the song was added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress, who deemed it a work that is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States. 

Triumph” is a song by American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, from their 1997 album Wu-Tang Forever. It was released as the lead single from the album in February 1997. The song does not have a chorus, instead, solely consists of an intro and interlude by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and verses from the other eight Wu-Tang members and associate (and future member) Cappadonna. It is the only Wu-Tang song featuring all members. The song received critical acclaim; Inspectah Deck’s verse particularly praised as one of the greatest verses in hip hop of all time (“I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses / Can’t define how I be dropping these mockeries / Lyrically perform armed robbery / Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me”)

Released as a single in 1996, and in this version not appearing on their album 1995 E. 1999 Eternal album, “Tha Crossroads” is the biggest selling single and Grammy-winning song by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The song is dedicated to the group’s mentor, the late gangsta rap icon Eazy-E, and other family members. The song was the highest-debuting rap single when it debuted at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, reaching number one the following week and staying there for eight consecutive weeks.