1994: Hip Hop's Finest Hour
1Xtra heads back 20 years to hip hop's finest year.
Nick Bright celebrates 20 years since the release of Nas' seminal debut album Illmatic by taking us back to 1994, the year from which it came.
With brand new interviews from the likes of COMMON, Pharoahe Moch, No ID, Akil the MC, Vince Staples, Dead Prez, Hattie Collins, Trevor Nelson and Nas himself, along with archive material from 1994, Nick takes us on a whirlwind journey through one of the greatest and most pivotal years in the history of the genre - to many, the final year of hip-hop's Golden Era. Not only was it a year when the two centres of the rap world, New York and LA, reached their zeniths, but also the year hip-hop broke out beyond these two cities, tearing down boundries and stereotypes along the way.
We look at how with the rise of a new generation of young rappers from New York including Nas, Jay Z, Wu Tang Clan, The Beastie Boys and The Notorious B.I.G were spearheading a Hardcore Hip-Hop renaissance at a time when West Coast hip-hop appeared to dominate. While rappers such as Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Coolio and Warren G were storming the charts and picking up awards, the establishment were doing everything in their power to curb the rise of 'Gangsta-Rap' and the violent messages it seemingly promoted.
Beyond this East-West dynamic Atlanta's Outkast released their debut album, creating a new soulful Southern Rap sound infused with refreshingly positive lyrics. In Chicago Common Sense released his classic Alt-Rap album Resurrection, taking its cues from the Jazz-rap of A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets and creating a scene in a city where Hip-Hop was almost non-existant. DaBrat was also from Illinois and was the first ever solo female rapper to go platinum with her debut Funkdafied. She, along with the likes of Aaliyah, TLC and Queen Latifah were showing the hip-hop community and the wider world that there was nothing inherently sexist about the genre.
We also ask, if this really was the pinnacle of Hip-Hop's Golden Era, why then did it come to an end? How did US hip-hop change after 1994? Has the music got better of worse? And how long a shadow do the artists and sounds from 1994 cast on the current generation of hip-hop artists 20 years later?