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1990s - From conscious rap to gangsta rap


2 Live Crew’s As Nasty as They Wanna Be, controversial for its explicit lyrics, is banned for sale in the state of Florida. The group is arrested on charges of lewdness after a concert in Miami. Sparking debates over free speech and hip-hop, the group is later found not guilty.

N.W.A.’s Ice Cube releases his debut solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.

Hip-hop meets Hollywood when Will Smith, the Fresh Prince, stars in his own sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

“The Humpty Dance,” by California group Digital Underground, becomes a platinum hit.


When a video recording of four white Los Angeles police officers beating a black man named Rodney King is nationally broadcast, hip-hop artists speak out against police brutality.

Alternative rap ascends in popularity with groups such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Gang Starr, the Pharcyde and Arrested Development.

Starring Ice Cube and portraying the lives of young black men in South Central L.A., Boyz N the Hood hits movie theaters nationwide.

Rapper Biz Markie is successfully sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan for sampling O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” in his single “Alone Again.” This watershed lawsuit sets a legal precedence for sampling in hip-hop.


Protests and riots ensue in Los Angeles after the police officers who beat Rodney King are acquitted. Ice-T and Public Enemy’s Chuck D are asked to comment to the media as hip-hop artists become, for better or worse, spokespeople for African American communities.

Protests from law enforcement officers force Time Warner to pull Ice-T’s new group Body Count’s song “Cop Killa” from its album.

West Coast gangsta rap starts to rule hip-hop with Dr. Dre’s solo album The Chronic, featuring the wildly popular single “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.”

Dr. Dre and Suge Knight form Death Row Records, with a recording featuring the up-and-coming rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.


Staten Island’s the Wu Tang Clan release their popular debut, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, reinvigorating the East Coast rap scene with their single “C.R.E.A.M.”

Salt-N-Pepa’s Very Necessary is the best-selling album of all time by a female artist.

Snoop Doggy Dogg’s long-anticipated DoggyStyle becomes the first debut album to enter the Billboard charts at number one, as Snoop is charged with second-degree murder.

Sean “Puffy” Combs starts Bad Boy Entertainment, a record label run out of his apartment.


Atlanta’s Outkast releases its first album, marking a move away from coast-centric hip-hop.

Notorious B.I.G.’s album Ready to Die features the single “Big Poppa” and garners publicity for Bad Boy Entertainment. Suge Knight insults Puffy on stage at the Source Awards, publicly sparking East versus West Coast tension between Bad Boy and Death Row Records.


After going public with his HIV status, N.W.A.’s Eazy-E dies of AIDS at the age of 31.

Rapper Tupac signs on with Death Row after Suge Knight pays Tupac’s bail.

Queen Latifah receives a Grammy for her hit single “U.N.I.T.Y.”


“The Score,” the Fugees’ second release, combines hip-hop with R&B and reggae influences and becomes a bestseller.

Foxy Brown and Lil Kim release debut albums with lyrics promoting female sexuality.

After leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, a car containing Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur is shot at. Tupac dies from his wounds days later, on September 13.


The so-called East-versus-West Coast feud is stepped up on March 9, when Notorious B.I.G. is shot and killed in a drive-by shooting after leaving a party for the Soul Train Music Awards in L.A.

Days after his death, the Notorious B.I.G.’s album Life After Death is released and becomes the best-selling hip-hop album of all time.

Rapper Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott releases her acclaimed debut, Supa Dupa Fly.


No Limit label owner Master P releases Ghetto D, sparking opportunities for New Orleans gangsta rappers.

Jay-Z’s popularity skyrockets with the release of his third album, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life.

Puerto Rican rapper Big Punisher releases his debut, Capital Punishment, and is the first Hispanic MC with a platinum album.

Eminem’s The Slim Shady is released on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label and fast becomes a Billboard chart-topper.

Forbes magazine’s “Top Moneymakers in Entertainment” list includes Russell Simmons, Master P and Puff Daddy. Puffy’s new clothing label and restaurant chain further cement his status as a hip-hop celeb.

White rock outfits such as Korn and Limp Bizkit combine rap with aggro rock to mainstream radio success.


Ex-Fugees member Lauryn Hill releases her first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, winning five Grammy awards.

Black Star, featuring Talib Kweli and Mos Def, release its debut album, marking a resurgence of conscious lyrics and alternative rap.

Southern-based record labels such as Cash Money Records and artists including Ludacris, Juvenile, Lil Wayne and the Hypnotized Mindz Camp signal the rise in the Dirty South’s reign in hip-hop.

Puff Daddy and his girlfriend Jennifer Lopez tussle with patrons at a New Year’s Eve club party. When shooting ensues, they flee the scene and are later arrested for aggravated assault.

#BlackPower #blackleaders #1990s

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