The popularity of hip-hop began to rise in the early 90s and continues to this day. The stage was split between the East Coast with acts like the Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie, Nas, Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, Big Pun, and Gang Starr.
The West coast introduced listeners to Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and 2 Pac. At the same time, the South inserted themselves into the discussion with the likes of Outkast and Three 6 Mafia with the crunk sound emphasizing the beats and music rather than the lyrics. Alternative hip-hop also found a home in the mainstream with A Tribe Called Quest and Black Eyed Peas.
In honor of Hip-Hop History Month, we’re revisiting some of the genre’s most influential acts of each decade. While there are many, and we mean many, to choose from, here are just a few that quickly came to mind. Check them out below.
The Notorious BIG / 2Pac
We grouped these two legendary acts because although both stories deserve their own moment, their impact on hip-hop during their careers and well after their deaths is far better told together.
Biggie rose to prominence in New York’s rap scene with help from hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. Together the pair released some of the hottest and most influential records in hip-hop history, including “Juicy” and “Hypnotize,” proving Eas Cost still reigned supreme, bringing gritty lyrics backed by blockbuster productions.
However, at the same time, West Coast was gearing up for a potential takeover led by rapper and poet 2Pac, with other acts like Snoop Dogg, NWA, and more. Though his career was short, it was productive. The Cali-based emcee released songs and appeared in cult classic films, including Juice and Poetic Justice.
Lauryn Hill / The Fugees
The argument is always made that as a solo artist, Lauryn Hill’s discography may need some filling. However, the impact of her only album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, proves that after decades her talent is not up for debate. As 1/3 of the legendary rap trio, The Fugees, with Wyclef Jean and Pras, Lauryn positioned herself as a formidable opponent for any male emcee brave enough to challenge her lyrically.
Her musical career includes a total of three projects, including her debut album, Blunted on Reality, and the critically acclaimed The Score, released in 1996, eight Grammy Award wins, and much more.
Legendary West Coast rapper Ice Cube got his start in the 80s as a member of the iconic group N.W.A before making his debut as a solo artist at the height of the 90s with the release of his debut album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, serving as one of the era’s most defining albums in hip hop. His second and third albums, Death Certificate and The Predator, released a year apart, both saw commercial success.
Like LL Cool J, Ice saw how expansive hip hop was and brought some of the art to television with the creation of the classic cult franchise Friday. He’s also made a lucrative career in acting, starring in films including Boyz n the Hood and Ride Along.