The 90s is considered as the golden age of hip-hop. This was a time when hip-hop was spreading like wildfire, and there was no other genre that could come close to it. Every street and neighborhood had the likes of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G, and Snoop Dogg banging on stereos. It was an era full of talent and excellence.
These rappers would inspire the contemporary batch of rappers with their lyrics and rapping abilities. Furthermore, these rappers could successfully express themselves and connect deeply with their fans, which helped them shape their legacy. Let us take a ride back into history to remember some of the best rappers in the game.
In the 90s, there was no other rapper cooler than Snoop Dogg. Even today, Snoop Dogg is widely adored by fans globally, but back in the 90s, he was respected. Snoop’s career started with ‘Doggystyle’ in 1993, which was an essential hip-hop album crafted and masterminded by Dr. Dre and executed to perfection by Snoop Dogg.
After the death of Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg did not want to get involved in the Suge Knight’s drama. He shifted to Master P’s No limit Records. Although Snoop Dogg was a west coast rapper, it would create a huge problem today if a rapper was to shift to a southern rap label, but regardless, it was a risky move back in the day. Even though the albums made by Snoop Dogg at No Limit Records were of not the same quality and popularity as of Doggystyle, but Snoop was still considered as the ‘Doggfather’ to anyone who enjoyed hip-hop in the 1990s.
Although we do not get to see much of Common today, if you ask from the 90s hip-hop fans, they will tell you what we are talking about. Common was undoubtedly one of the most popular rappers back in the day. He began his career during the 90s when he was only 22 years old and rapped under the alias Common Sense. Common positioned and marketed himself as a street poet, rapping about the despair of hoods in his early tracks. Then, later in 1996, he battled the fierce and most feared Ice Cube and emerged unscathed.
Common was, no doubt, a master in storytelling. He would pick on complicated subjects such as love and relationships when hip-hop was all about masculinity, drugs, sex, cars, etc. Common’s body of work from the stellar Resurrection to many other hits would make him one of the greatest rappers alive during the 90s.
Busta Rhymes was a star before even the biggest record deals, such as Cash Money Records, existed. Chris Brown was someone who helped Busta Rhymes connect with the newer and younger fans, but the world already knew who Busta was. Therefore an introduction was not required. In the 90s, Busta was on fire and released several hits such as ‘Woo Hah,’ ‘Get You All in Check’ and ‘Dangerous.’
In addition to that his career-defining album ‘When disaster strikes’ along with his Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling album E.L.E also helped him create a reputation in hip-hop. Even though Busta had been consistent with the hits, he has never been able to win a Grammy.
Lauryn Hill was one of the artists who was born way ahead of her time. Back then, there was no glitz and glamour of the Grammys, and Lauryn Hill was already a proven lyricist. She was a prominent group member of the Fugees, L’Boogie established herself as a group member who was the most compelling storyteller, singer, and a rapper. Hill was excellent with combining jaw-dropping lyricism with social commentary, which became a key ingredient in the success of the album, ‘The Score’ in 1996 by the Fugees.
Then in 1998, Lauryn Hill stepped ahead with her solo album ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ She would take on different subjects in her songs while her songwriting ability improved and flourished from song to song. The subjects she chose included spirituality or stroking sexuality without exploiting it. The Miseducation album went on to achieve five Grammy awards and even earned induction to the National Recording History.
If you have been following and have been a fan of hip-hop, you shall know that it is obsessed with loyalty. It is like a religion in this game. Jay-z, in that perspective, has consistently provided fuel to the argument about his regal status. In that sense, you could strongly argue that Jay-Z’s reign has been the longest even after hanging up his retirement boots after The Black album. His fans are still there and always prefer to see him as a rapper who once dominated the game.
Jay-Z brought something new to the rap game. His blueprint album was Mafioso rap but not just any Mafioso rap. His rap had a soul. He was a tough gangster who sometimes bled. On the one hand, Jay-Z would flex his Lexus while on the other hand, he would talk about his ‘Regrets.’ Regardless, his hits were coming in, and the cash register was continuously ringing.
If you want to go pound for pound, then there was no one better than 2Pac. 2Pac was already a legend when he was born. His craftsmanship could be seen in storytelling. Ask anyone, and they will swear by the fact that he was the best storyteller in history. Tupac’s rap became famous during the 90s when he talked about gang wars, drug addiction, and preggo teens, etc. Tupac not only influenced hip-hop music but helped it shape as well. In the 90s, you could see Tupac with his bandana attire, highlighting his thug persona. His death was marked as one of the biggest moments in history, his legacy is still remembered to this day
Notorious B.I.G is not the best rapper of the 90s, but he is surely the closest one. Notorious B.I.G had a very unlikely story. When he released his debut album ‘Ready to die,’ he said he was under extreme pressure. Big was both trying to juggle rap and hustle to ensure that his family had a positive future as well. However, six months earlier, another rapper named Nas had dropped a brilliant album and had everyone talking. Therefore, Biggie knew that he would have to deliver a stellar album if he wanted to become a part of the conversation.
Remarkably, Biggie stayed focused enough to craft and deliver an album that was a sprawling masterpiece. Then, he took a step further and joined hands with Puff Daddy, who helped him perfect the one-part rap, one-part R&B formula, which is very relevant and popular today. Biggie took some time off and wanted to make sure that his crew and its leading lady Lil Kim could enter the same promising land. Once he returned, Biggie recorded another album ‘Life after death’, which would be his final album following his murder in 1997.
Concluding, the era of the 1990s was all about originality and loyalty. It was not about being rich or wealthy; it was about being the best lyricist and a storyteller. Even though the rap game was bound to experience a change with time, the 90s are still considered the best hip-hop era ever.