Spoiler alert: this article contains extreme 90s nostalgia. But this time we are not going to express our appreciation for the best 90s makeup trends. Why? Because there is one thing that rivals the unique blast from the past the top fashion and makeup trends of the 90s offer: music. This homage is dedicated to all 90s musicians who shaped that decade with their memorable songs. Arguably, the 90s was a decade filled with immensely talented singers and songwriters with one common characteristic. They were all absolutely unafraid of expressing their thoughts, feelings, and occasional anger through memorable lyrics that still get blasted on repeat.
Best 90’s Songs, Albums and Artists
The 80s might have been the era when hip-hop managed to establish itself as a dominant force in black music, the 90s artists took the underground hip hop scene and turned it into the popular genre that it is to this day. Even though hip hop has always been focused on detailing the lives of people in the most violent districts, with artists rapping about severe real-life hardships like injustice and police violence in their neighborhoods and across the country, many 90’s hip hop artists manage to become mainstream superstars. During this era, hip hop stepped out of the suburbs and conquered the whole entire world.
However, the road to the top was not in any way easy. During the first years of the 90’s decade, NWA’s 1988 Straight Outta Compton album which presented details of street violence in a very explicit and forward way, resulted in radio stations’ attempt to start boycotting the hip-hop scene’s most vocal and aggressive artists. “Fuck Tha Police” and its message serve as an indication of what is to come with the following LA. Riots that occurred in 1992 after the trial of Rodney King. The group’s personal experiences with police brutality turned into powerful lyrics such as “not the other color so police think, they have the authority to kill a minority.”
Despite the previous controversies, NWA’s 1991 release Efil4zaggin painted a rather different scene. The album was widely successful beyond the urban neighborhoods with thousands of new fans enjoying NWA’s music. As a result, this was the first hip hop album to climb at the top of Billboard 200.
During the first few years of the decade, many more classics were released like Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet, Main Source’s Breaking Atoms, and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low-End Theory. Furthermore, De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead album became one of the first to receive a five-mic rating in the Hip hop magazine The Source.
Public Enemy was set to revitalize the whole hip-hop genre, with Chuck D describing 90s hip hop as “rap music is the invisible TV station that Black America never had” making it clear that Public Enemy wished to address the concerns and issues of black people in America. In fact, 1990’s Fear of a Black Planet leads the way to their later induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Even though widely popular, WNA’s artists began their solo careers after Ice Cube‘s early departure. The artist’s first two records, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate, were praised for their political and social commentary.
Dr. Dre’s solo career arguably shaped the history of hip hop by selling millions of records worldwide which resulted in him winning six Grammy Awards. His first solo single ‘Deep Cover’ in 1992, featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg introduced a fresh sound in gangsta rap, G-funk. A few months after that, Snoop Dogg’s 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, entered the Billboard charts at No.1. Even though most gangsta rappers were very aggressive in their tracks, Snoop Dog’s calm and mellow flow managed to get the point across with no increase in volume.
2Pac quickly climbed to the top of the decade’s most successful hip hop artists’ list with his first solo album Me Against The World 1995 released while he was still in prison. The album reached No.1 on Billboard charts. After introducing hip hop’s first double-album All Eyez On Me established 2Pac as one of the most successful artists of the genre by climbing once again at No.1 with 566,000 copies sold within the first week. With socially conscious lyrics and the ability to lay out a story with just a single verse, 2Pac’s music captures the anger and frustration of millions of people who are living with the constant feeling of being trapped.
A few days before the end of this iconic decade, Dr. Dre who was now in charge of Aftermath Entertainment, introduced a new Detroit-based rapper, Eminem. Eminem’s first album in 1999, The Marshall Mathers LP was yet another example of how hip hop was dominating the entire world. This first album also marked the beginning of Eminem’s career which later led him to gain the title of the top-selling artist in music.
Other Popular Genres In the 90's
In 1992 Whitney Houston’s appearance in “The Bodyguard”, which featured a new arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” stayed at number one for 14 weeks. Her performance dominated the Grammy’s with Houston winning the awards for album of the year, the record of the year, and best female pop vocal performance.
The seemingly unknown British singer Mark Morrison entered the music industry with some of the most memorable tunes of the decade. His song “Return of the Mack“, became a No. 1 in several European countries in 1996. One year later, Morisson was also No.2 in the United States.
Dionne Farris’s alternative/soul rhythm made her one of the few alternative rock singers in the 90s. “I know” gained worldwide recognition topping the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 for 10 weeks. Farris’ first album reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Brandy’s first studio album Somethin’ for the People received a lot of success. Her street-like breezy hip-hop edge quickly gained her a Grammy Award in 1999 for Best R&B Performance for her song ‘The Boy is Mine’.