Everybody has a different definition of what the golden age of hip-hop was. Some say it was the 1980s, while others say it was the 1990s. The ’80s undoubtedly provided some exciting sounds and saw the genre diversify for the first time. However, in the 1990s, a second wave of creativity occurred. It is fair to say that since the turn of the millennium, the culture has been shouldered by specific individuals instead of collectively. However, one could easily cite the ’90s as hip-hop’s golden age.
The decade saw California build upon the foundation laid down by Ice-T and N.W.A. in the 1980s. Dr Dre effectively ran LA during the ’90s, and with the help of those around him, 213, Tha Dogg Pound, 2pac and Snoop Dogg, an unstoppable empire was built. As a result of Rakim’s lyrical pioneering in the late ’80s, MCs now had more scope for complexity within their rhymes which meant the nursery rhyme structure of the late ’70s was gone.
The ’90s also saw new talent emerge from New York too. In Harlem, Diddy was working his way through the ranks of Uptown Records, eventually forming the iconic Bad Boy Entertainment. In the Bronx, Ruff Ryders were moulding Swizz Beatz and DMX, and in Brooklyn, you had Dame Dash and Jay-Z hustling CDs and units of vinyl with Roc-A-Fella. Both cities were overflowing with talent.
However, it was more than just these two hubs that were thriving. In Philadelphia, The Roots were running the show. In the south, following in the footsteps of the Geto Boys, UGK was making a name for themselves. Broadly the ’90s saw hip-hop expand again, this time further than before. With so much creative energy and music being produced, we selected the 25 must-hear classics from the 1990s. You can take a look at our picks below.
25 hip-hop classics from 1990s:
- ‘Black Trump’ – Cocoa Brovaz (Smif-N-Wessun)
- ‘Lost Ones’ – Lauryn Hill
- ‘The Next Movement’ – The Roots ft DJ Jazzy Jeff & Jazzyfatnastees)
- ‘Love Language’ – Talib Kweli ft Les Nubians
- ‘ Nas Is Coming’ – Nas ft Dr Dre
- ‘Do For Love’ – 2pac
- ‘Electric Relaxation’ – Tribe Called Quest
- ‘Aquemini’ – OutKast
- ‘Coolie High’ – Camp Lo
- ‘Runnin’ – The Pharcyde
- ‘Nuthin But A G Thang’ – Dr Dre ft Snoop Dogg
- ‘I’m Not A Player’ – Big Pun
- ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ – The Wu-Tang Clan
- ‘Xxplosive’ – Dr Dre ft Hittman, Six-Two, Nate Dogg & Kurupt
- ‘Renee’ – Lost Boyz
- ‘Dead Presidents II’ – Jay-Z
- ‘California Love’ 2pac ft Dr Dre
- ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ – Nas
- ‘Regulate’ – Warren G ft Nate Dogg
- ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ – Lauryn Hill
- ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ – Ol’ Dirty Bastard
- ‘Hypnotize’ – The Notorious B.I.G.
- ‘ I Got 5 On It’ – Luniz ft Michael Marshall
- ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone’ – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
- ‘Who Am I (What’s My Name?)’ – Snoop Dogg