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A Brief History of Hip-Hop: The 1990s

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1990s fashion

Sadly, this was the was the fashion of the time

In the late 1980s, gangsta rap was becoming the popular, go-to genre for hip-hop artists. With the emergence of N.W.A. and Ice-T, hip-hop was once again going through another shift in lyrical tonality and content. The 1990s is where gangsta rap would flourish and expanded even further. It would also become the decade that would instill listeners with more knowledgeable, complex consciousness and the decade where personas would bleed into real life and cause a great tragedy.

Up until around the time of N.W.A. hip-hop was mainly an East coast thing, mainly New York, but more on coasts later. While N.W.A. was emerging with gangsta rap Public Enemy was bringing hip-hop to mainstream popular culture, which was both a blessing and ironic. 1989 saw the release of Fight The Power, an anti-establishment song that poked at Elvis Presley and John Wayne.


At this point in time black radio stations were resistant to playing rap and hip-hop. However, MC Hammer released his first single in January earning mainstream success. You Can’t Touch This gained mainstream attention was even the first hip-hop album to go diamond. The other album to earn mainstream attention was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. With The Chronic brought forth another subgenre of hip-hop titled G-funk.

Also around this time the music was beginning to spread throughout other parts of the world. Though Haiti had been developing hip-hop since the 1980s, hip-hop had spread over to the Dominican Republic creating merenrap, a cross between rap and merengue. Hip-hop wasn’t limited to specific countries, instead it spread to unlikely one like: Israel, Palestine, Serbia, and Bosnia. Hip-hop was becoming the world’s music and with that came the culture as well. Even Asia adopted b-boying.


The biggest event during the 1990s was the rivalry in the states between the East coast and West coast. The rivalry pitted two acquaintances against each other with many artists choosing sides and others in the middle. The famous beef between The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur was at the forefront of rivalry but it wasn’t the causation. Tim Dog, a Bronx rapper released a diss track in 1991 entitled F*ck Compton after the emergence of West coast rappers.


That diss track eventually spun into the biggest and most devastating occurrence in the music industry. The rivalry caused the death of both Pac and Biggie; their deaths remain largely unsolved to this day.

Today, hip-hop has calmed down since the rivalry and has evolved even further. Subgenres were beginning to cultivate into one another creating new blends. In the past, music would sound like the area it was hailing from. Now that the music is blending together hip-hop sounds like one unified genre. What’s your favorite genre of hip-hop?

Jonathan Silva is a graduate and current student at Full Sail University going for his Master's Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing for film blogs like Get The Big Picture or listening to music, he's either watching movies or playing video games. His love for all things entertainment shine through in his writing.