With each era comes a new sound and a wave of exciting artists. However, some decades have proven to be more critical than others, and the 1990s was undeniably one of the most impactful decades hip-hop ever saw. The ’80s saw the emergence of various subgenres. However, they remained very localised and failed to spread nationwide. On the contrary, the ’90s introduced a vast array of fresh and compelling sounds that perked the ears of hip-hop fans worldwide and shifted the culture’s power dynamics.
Although the ’80s saw the beginning of something in Los Angeles, the emergent sound was centralised. Shouldered on by N.W.A. alone, gangsta rap was popular but began to fade with the dissipation of the Compton collective. However, the 1990s saw somewhat of a revival of the genre, with Dr Dre uprooting it and spearheading a far more unique sonic.
However, although Dr Dre and his Death Row entourage were a formidable force and an integral part of the culture during this decade, the label and its roster were far from alone concerning pioneering. As a result of Rakim’s lyrical pioneering in the late ’80s, MCs had more scope for complexity within their rhymes. New York capitalised on this, producing some of the best lyricists hip-hop has ever seen. The East Coast, more broadly, began exploring the realms of intricacy to a significant extent.
LA and New York, respectively, were hip-hop hubs during the ’90s. However, it was more than just these two cities that thrived. In Philadelphia, The Roots were running the show by employing the lyricism of Rakim and the jazz-hop style of A Tribe Called Quest. In the south, following in the footsteps of the Geto Boys, UGK was making a name for themselves.
Aside from these huge names and movements, other hyper-localised underground scenes were emerging, such as hyphy in the Bay Area of California, Miami Bass music in Florida and the undervalued and overlooked New Orleans bounce scene. All of the aforementioned brought something new and intriguing to the melting pot of hip-hop, and (outside of the East Coast versus West Coast beef) artists were collaborating and fusing sounds.
Broadly the ’90s saw hip-hop expand again, but this time further than before. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, artists and African-Americans needed to be more business savvy. However, following the success of Def Jam in the late 1980s, artists and aspiring executives had a blueprint. This led to an influx of independent hip-hop labels in the ’90s. From Death Row and Slip-n-Slide to Bad Boy and Ruff Ryders Entertainment, the DIY mentality and dynamism of the late 1980s gripped the culture and put the power in the hands of the artists.
So many legendary artists emerged during the 1990s, and too many beloved projects were released. However, in this article, we’re going to reflect on the decade by highlighting every number-one album of the 1990s.
Every number one hip-hop album of the 1990s:
- MC Hammer, Please Don’t Hurt ‘Em, (1990)
- Vanilla Ice, To the Extreme, (1990)
- N.W.A., Niggaz4Life, (1991)
- Kriss Kross, Totally Krossed Out, (1992)
- Ice Cube, The Predator, (1992)
- Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle, (1993)
- Beastie Boys, Ill Communication, (1994)
- 2Pac, Me Against The World, (1995)
- Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E 1999 Eternal, (1995)
- Tha Dogg Pound, Dogg Food, (1995)
- 2Pac, All Eyez On Me, (1996)
- Fugees, The Score, (1996)
- Nas, It Was Written, (1996)
- A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes and Life, (1996)
- 2Pac, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, (1996)
- Various Artists, Gridlock’d Soundtrack, (1997)
- The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death, (1997)
- Puff Daddy and the Family, No Way Out, (1997)
- Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Forever, (1997)
- Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, The Art of War, (1997)
- Master P, Ghetto D, (1997)
- The Firm, The Firm, (1997)
- Ma$e, Harlem World, (1997)
- DMX, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, (1997)
- Master P, MP tha Last Don, (1998)
- Beastie Boys, Hello Nasty, (1998)
- Snoop Doggy Dogg, The Game Is to Be Sold Not Told, (1998)
- Jay-Z, Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, (1998)
- DMX, Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood, (1998)
- Silkk Da Shocker, Made Man, (1999)
- Foxy Brown, Chyna Doll, (1999)
- Nas, I Am, (1999)
- Ruff Ryders, Ryde or Die Vol. 1, (1999)
- Eve, Ruff Ryders First Lady, (1999)
- The Notorious B.I.G., Born Again, (1999)