Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's Take It Back To 1998

I was looking for music that was hot back in 1998 and came across this great article on I guess I never realized just how BIG 1998 was in the hip[-hop industry. I was just a high school teenager living in the moment and using my money from my $4.75 an hour after-school job to buy the records.

1998 was the year that took Jay-Z and made him mainstream with the release of "Hard Knock Life". Lauryn Hill was "The Queen" of female hip-hop artists with "The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill". Big Pun held it down for the Latino community and DMX took it us to the gritty, hardcore streets with his blazing anthems and hard hitting tracks, produced by Swizz Beatz. And we can't forget about Master P, Cash Money and Juvenile, and Outkast.

And, will there ever be a concert as hot as the "Hard Knock Life" Tour?!?!?!? Please sit back and reminise with me on the best year ever in hip-hop.....................

1998 was a time when there was no T.I. No 50 Cent dominating radio airplay. No “Yeaaaaaaaahs” from Jeezy. 1998 was a year after Biggie was gunned down and two years after ‘Pac. 1998 was a year before the Chronic 2001 and before Eminem and his Slim Shady soldiers ambushed the market. 1998 was ten years ago and a lot has changed in hip hop since then. Not only is ‘98 exactly ten years ago but it was also a fond year for me because it was the first year that I began become a “cd freak” as my girlfriend calls me. Personally, it’s been a lot of great cds and some good years in hip-hop since then, but I think ‘98 was the last great year.

Need support for this statement? The Class of ‘98 in itself was as thorough as they come. Not since the class of ‘94 had hip-hop seen so many stars drop debut albums in the same year. 1994 saw the debuts of Biggie, Outkast, Nas, and Snoop Dogg. In 1998 Hip Hop witnessed the debuts of DMX, Canibus, Big Pun, Noreaga and Cam’ron. DMX brought the gritty, no-holds barred street sound back to hip-hop which had been wearing thin since Puffy and his shiny suit season took over in ‘97. Canibus was the prince of the mixtapes and the cameo king long before today’s artists like Papoose and Saigon could lay claim to the throne. Canibus dropped a lackluster debut, with Can-I-bus, but his cameos on albums with artists such as Lost Boyz, LL Cool J, Common, and The Firm were unforgettable. Big Pun was the first Latin to go platinum off the strength of radio play like “Still Not a Player” and “You Came Up“, but his album was also the sickest of the year lyrically. Noreaga’s N.O.R.E. helped put the Neptunes on the map with “Superthug” and his album also did well with street bangers such as “N.O.R.E. “and “Banned From TV” . Cam also put out a stellar album for the streets with Confessions of Fire and his DipSet following is still strong to this day. There were undoubtedly others who dropped albums that year but these five were everywhere and were a prominent influence in the culture during the year.

Also, in the wake of deaths of Hip hop’s “Malcolm and Martin” Jay-Z took the throne as the King of New York and the man in the forefront of hip hop’s explosion to the mainstream. Sure, hip hop was big before, but after Hard Knock Life dropped Jay-Z along with the rest of the culture became HUGE. Before Hard Knock Life, Hova produced the classic Reasonable Doubt and the stellar In My Lifetime Vol. 1, but HKL was the album that really set him on fire as MTV, BET, and radio kept songs such as “Hard Knock Life,” “Can I Get a What“, and “Money Cash Hoes,” were in constant rotation.

However, not only was New York rap doing it big in ‘98, but the South was uprising too. Outkast went from superstars to legends when they dropped their five-mic critically acclaimed album, Aquemeni in ‘98. Aquemeni was an important album because it was the first five-mic album from The Source in a loooong while and it proved that Southern rap could earn respect too. Singles such as “Rosa Parks“, “Skew-It on the Barb-b” featuring Raekwon(one of the first North-South collaborations in the genre) lit the radio on fire and songs such as “Liberation” and “Aquemeni”sparked our soul. Juvenile of Cash Money Records fame also blew up all over the map when he dropped his album 400 Degreez and his lead single “Ha” had the whole country talking like Juvie. Master P and his No Limit soldiers were a BIG part of ‘98 as well. Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, and ‘P were everywhere as Southern rap started its takeover of the industry with the No Limit gold tank leading the way.

Soundscan sales were also great across the genre as all aforementioned artists such as Jay-Z, Juvenile, DMX, Big Pun, Outkast and others all went platinum or multi. Digital downloading wasn’t so big in this year and this was a time long ago when people actually went out to the store and purchased cds. Actually, many hip hop purists argue that fans shouldn’t care about Soundscan figures or sales. I agree, but you can’t help but have a Kool-aid grin on your face when one of your favorite artists releases an album of quality music and it sells a lot .

Lauryn Hill was one of these such artists undeniably the Queen of 1998, as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill set the world on fire selling over five million copies. Her album was so damn good that its singles rode into ‘99 and she constantly shared radio and TV time with her male counterparts. Hill even won a Grammy for Album of Year which was unprecedented for a hip-hop album, and truly she was a female artist who had something to talk about and did it very well.

Also, 1998 was a year when “backpackers” could be happy too. Gangstarr’s Moment of Truth was a stellar record, and Guru and DJ Premier further cemented their name as New York Legends. Mos Def and Talib Kweli released their Black Star album which is a timeless classic. Backpackers could also shed a tear as A Tribe Called Quest released The Love Movement which was their last album as a group. Although this album wasn’t necessarily as good as The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, it was still quality music, and is still better then most of the stuff that comes out today. Speaking of which, the aforementioned Hard Knock Life, Aquemeni, The Love Movement, and The Miseducation…. were all released not only in the same year, but the same month! This truly gave tight pocketed listeners a dilemma at the record store.

Please forgive me for being so nostalgic over ‘98 but since then I can’t think of a year that set the world on fire. Sure we’ve had great rappers here and there who’ve been forces artistically and commercially (Eminem, 50 Cent, Kanye) but not all debuting in the same year like the class of ’98. Also, I personally believe only a handful of truly classic albums have appeared since ‘98 (The Blueprint, Stillmatic, The Chronic, College Dropout, etc.). I’m not talking about albums that are “hot“, or albums that sell a lot of copies but albums such as Moment of Truth and Capital Punishment; are albums every hip-hop head must have and should be embarrassed to say that they don’t. Songs such as “Get At Me Dog “are songs that people can still talk about, play, and remember. Very rarely do songs come out nowadays that have that same effect.

Also ‘98 was a year when “lyrical” records could hit the radio and be successful. The dexterous flow of Big Pun (dead in the middle of Italy...) teamed with the gritty Fat Joe was displayed on “Deep Cover” and songs such as the rapid fire flow of “Jigga What” and Black Star’s “Definition” were radio mainstays. Songs like these rarely hit the radio nowadays as catchy hooks and club-ready beats dominate the radio.
For the most part women are endangered from the game nowadays, but back in ‘98 Lauryn Hill was Queen of the Universe and Lil Kim, Foxy, Missy, and Da Brat were always consistent.

In 2008, whole ten years later, hopefully hip hop music can return to a year like we had in ‘98. A lot of people are saying hip hop has died, and the South, waning sales, poor records etc. are at fault. However, ‘98 was a year when our music was all over the map and gritty street bangers and hip hop pop records were the rage. People actually bought records and everything was peachy keen. When will we return to such an era?

3 Stylish Folk With Something To Say:

Kisha said...

Wow that was dope!
And I still listening to The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill to this day. Classic album!!!!

babygirl said...

That was a great read and brought a tear to my eye. I am grateful to say that I was in the midst of it all in 98. I was 20yrs, single, had a steady, fly as crew and we dominated the club scene. I danced the night away to all these classics. Big pimpin was HUGE. I was there at the HARD KNOCK LIKE TOUR in Cali. DMX was HARD!!! I'm Puerto Rican and when Big Pun came out with not a player Niggas was flockin!! Oh the memories! Lauryn Hill she was AMAZING I just felt strong, and confident when listening to her records. 400 Degreez was the shit!! Lil wayne was killin back then! and Master P I loved that "I'm bout it" soundtrack. 98 was one of the best years of my life and this hip - hop era was trully amazing. Just wanted to share that!! Thanks for the article

I'm A Movement By Myself said...

You hit it dead on!!! Hip Hop has not seen a year like 1998. 90's Hip Hop period is my favorite of all time. Thank you for breaking it down so it can forever be broken:-)

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