’90s Hip-Hop Essentials

’90s Hip-Hop Essentials

Hip-hop in the ’90s went from the voice of the streets to the sound of America, taking over the charts, film, fashion and more. Dr. Dre’s 1992 solo debut The Chronic changed rap’s pulse: blaring drum loops were exchanged for lush low-rider funk; gangsta rap was now indistinguishable from pop. Though the spotlight moved to Los Angeles, New York rappers like Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Nas made a grimy strain of “boom bap” that was gritty, vividly bleak, and lyrically intricate. Regional sounds slowly infiltrated the airwaves, including E-40’s slick “mobb music” (the Bay Area), the rapid-fire “chop” of Bone Thugs (the Midwest), the boom of 8Ball & MJG (Memphis), the crawl of UGK (Houston), and, most notably, the left-field rap of Atlanta’s Outkast. By decade’s end, Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy empire monopolized the charts and New Orleans labels No Limit and Cash Money turned DIY hustle into uncompromising sensations.

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