50 years of hip-hop through the decades: the ’90s

In celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, ABC Audio is breaking down each decade with important dates and memorable moments of the genre — with the “Golden Age” of the ’90s, the takeover of “hip-hop rap” and the birth of legendary artists credited for changing the game. 

Representing for the West Coast — Compton group N.W.A, formed by Eazy-EDr. DreArabian Prince and Ice Cube, sells nearly 1 million copies of N*****4Life, becoming the first hardcore rap album to score a Billboard 200 #1. Snoop Dogg‘s debut solo album, Doggystyle, sells more than 800,00 copies in its first week. Tupac Shakur, known for his unapologetic personality and poetic lyrical ability, is regarded by many as the greatest rapper of all time.   

Representing for the East Coast — Another G.O.A.T, Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G, reportedly sells upward of 20 million albums, including two posthumous projects. A group of friends from Queens form A Tribe Called Quest, solidifying jazz-rap as a subgenre. In 1994, Nasir “Nas” Jones releases Illmatic, his debut album, which many say is one of the greatest of all time.  

Representing for the Women — Salt-n-Peppa leave their mark as one of the first female rap groups. Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens earns her first Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1995. Known for her powerful voice and carefree rap style, Lil Kim‘s debut album, Hardcore, is her best selling. Lauryn Hill releases the critically acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in ’98, which earns 11 Grammy nods and five wins. 

Terms that defined the genre:

  • Lyricism
  • Hook
  • Sample

Songs of the ’90s:

Shook Ones, Pt. II” — Mobb Deep

C.R.E.A.M” — Wu-Tang Clan

Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” — DMX

Elevators (Me & You)” — Outkast

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