The Influence of Late 90's Hip Hop


The 80s period of hip-hop was known for being a period of innovation and reinvention of the genre. The innovation of rappers such as Run DMC and LL Cool J advanced the genre through elements such as faster rhythm and heavier use of drum beats. However, the 90s ushered in a commercial period of hip-hop, with artists such as Lauryn Hill, Nas, and Jay-Z at the forefront, leading hip-hop to its peak as a top-selling genre. 



Artist Jay Z aimed through his music to highlight societal disadvantages faced by African American people. Through his lyrics of songs like ‘The Story of O.J’ , ‘Can I Live, and ‘The Hard Knock Life’, he focused on the reality of being black in America. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he had front row seats of racial injustice in the form of many things including police brutality, drug violence, and gang violence. Though he is notable for his raps, his style is different from gangsta style rappers like Jay Z and Biggie. His inclusion of vocals and repeated chorus put a more R&B type of tone into his music. Even so, his music has still remained a staple in late 90’s hip hop. 



Lauryn Hill diversified Hip- Hop. In the late 80s to early 90s gangster rap was dominant and r&b was its own separate genre. She helped blur those Lines and became the reason why versatile hip-hop artists like Drake self-admittedly exist. Singing and rapping were always similar but she merged them identifying both as “hip-hop” .She poured her feelings into her hip hop album.Where many young girls could identify with real struggles women faced in the 1990s.  Miseducation tackles love lost and love found, distrust, pregnancy, and self-actualization.


Rapper Nas is known as an expressive storyteller as it relates to inner-city street life. He was born in New York and dropped out of school in the eighth grade. Hip-hop eventually became his outlet, and he reached his breakthrough in 1992. He had a string of successful albums throughout the 90s, including his debut album, Illmatic, which drew acclaim for its narrative about city life, and his 1996 album It Was Written, which introduced him to a wider audience and established his commercial appeal. He maintained this commercial appeal with his 1999 album I Am. His extensive discography has proven to have longevity, quality, and critical acclaim that few have been able to match. His albums have been discussed as some of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made, have inspired countless newcomers, and established him as one of the most brilliant storytellers of his time.   


Each of these artists: Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, and Nas, had an immeasurable impact on hip-hop and the music industry as a whole. They created some of the most influential records in rap history and matured the form that their predecessors had created in the 80s. They continued the rise of rap that late 90s artists had ushered in. Artists like them are why the 90s are considered the golden age of hip hop, and why the late 90s saw a flourishing commercial period. They were pioneers in  leading the genre to the style/form that is still prevalent today.