Hip Hop In 1990
Written By grYmes
As we enter the 90’s, we see the rap landscape begin to change for Hip Hop in 1990. The 80’s acts were still making noise even if most of em knowingly or not were taking their last gasp of relevance. We saw one big comeback (but don’t call it that). As well as pop/rap taking it’s grim stranglehold on the top of the charts. Meanwhile a new crop of MC’s & groups were emerging to take charge. All led by a Compton kingpin who migrated out East & created a banger of a solo debut.
Top 10 Albums
Funky Technician- Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth
A founding member of the Diggin’ the Crates Crew & a future producer of dope songs on other artists classics. Lord Fineese was no slouch on the mic. His most celebrated work was his debut with the homie Mike Smooth. Fineese’s main focus is battle rhymes which is always good. Tho by Hip Hop In 1990 was a tad on the one-dimentional side. The beats on this however more than make up for that, with Showbiz (from Showbiz & AG), Diamond D & DJ Premier splitting production duties. Giving as good a backdrop as it gets for a NY spitter. It’s an often overlooked album that heavily influenced your favorite MC’s from the mid to late 90’s.
Wanted: Dead or Alive- Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
The successful solo debut a year earlier saw G Rap at his most battle rap ready. This time around tho he would dive deeper into his street hustler persona. Weaving tales of the drug trade & hard lessons of a New York outlaw. “Streets of New York” would influence a future Queens MC’s NY state of mind. While diverse material such as “Talk Like Sex”, “Rikers Island” & “Erase Racism” showcase just how relate-able G Rap was. While there might be some filler, it still surpasses his debut in many ways. Shrugging off that sophomore slump.
Business as Usual- EPMD
After the success of their first two joints, EPMD struck a big money deal with Def Jam & began work on their highly anticipated major label debut. The first three tracks are like a hard hitting Mike Tyson combo. “I’m Mad” & “Hardcore” are bangers. The latter featuring a fresh faced individual by the name of Redman. “Rampage” features LL Cool J with a verse fit for a GOAT. From here however we get a mixed bag of solid tracks & some let downs. The production also is not on par with their earlier work. It’s still one of the best albums in Hip Hop in 1990, despite the fact that this was the start of the end of their glory days.
By the end of the 80’s LL Cool J was firmly a star in music. However after a series of moves including the lackluster Walking with a Panther album. Many started to feel he had creatively fell off. It all came to ahead with Momma Said Knock You Out. A response to all who doubted him & his ability to be one of the best to ever do it. With classic singles (title track, “Around the Way Girl”, “Boomin System”) as well as vicious diss songs like “To Da Break of Dawn” (serving it to Ice-T, Hammer & Kool Moe Dee). LL still had some cheesiness to him on some commercial aimed joints, but it was no question he needed this album to reaffirm his status. To date it’s his most successful project ever commercially & critically.
Edutainment- Boogie Down Productions
Still going strong was BDP, spreading knowledge which still ruled supreme over nearly everyone. Edutainment is exactly what you get. A ill history lesson from one of the dopest MC’s ever. KRS-One expands on his past lesson plans. Touching everything from Uncle Toms to rap “Beef”, the police & the “Homeless” . Only a MC nicknamed “the Techa” could have a civil rights leader like Stokely Carmichael featured in nearly all his skits on his rap album. A good look for what he was trying to do. I’ll admit this album isn’t as accessible as past ones, meaning very few hard hitting battle raps or single oriented songs. It is however music with a message. It must of worked, it went gold shortly after it dropped. Proving KRS-One to still be a major factor in Hip Hop in 1990.
One for All- Brand Nubian
One of the four albums in this lists top five to get five mics from The Source (back when it meant something). Brand Nubian comprises of Sadat X, Grand Pumba & the often outspoken Lord Jamar. Their debut is one of the most celebrated conscious rap albums ever. With production that harken’s back to the sound of a few years ago with break beats & James Brown samples. The lyrical content was superb. Mixing Five Percenter teachings along with some witty wordplay. In a lot of ways the album took everything De La Soul did in their debut & streamlined it, as well as gave it a bit of an edge. It’s all you can ask for in a great debut. Sadly Grand Pumba would leave after a disagreement & this would be the peak of the groups career. While they would gain some commercial success with the single “Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down”, they wouldn’t come close to the lightening in a bottle that was this album.
Fear of a Black Planet- Public Enemy
After dropping one of the most important rap albums ever two years earlier, PE has blown up. “Fight the Power” was the anthem in ‘89. Keeping the group at the forefront of the rap spotlight. Their third album wouldn’t disappoint. The Bomb Squad once again took production up a level. Chuck D once again takes charge on the mic. Diving into black social issues & our portrayal in the public at large. Flava Flav even had a silly ass yet thought provoking single in “911 is a Joke”. “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an underrated pose cut featuring Big Daddy Kane & Ice Cube (fitting these brothas would be on it). It’s an album that shows we take two steps forward, yet somehow still fall three steps back. Success never got to Chuck D’s head & it’s proven with another borderline classic in his hands.
Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em- Eric B. & Rakim
The god MC is back after a two year hiatus. With his lethal pen & Eric B. by his side. Rakim’s flow is switched up some. A more deeper, aggressive tone is felt throughout this album & in the R’s voice. Which separates him from the rest of his peers once again. Most of the production came from Paul C, who was killed in ‘89 & was finished by his then unknown protégé Large Professor. “In the Ghetto” is probably my favorite Rakim song. The harsh vibes on it & Rakim’s cadence leave you hanging on his every word. It’s like that for most of the album. The title track is about as close to a hard hitting Rakim single we get like the ones in the past. What lacks in singles it makes up for in pure lyricism. It’s a near flawless album that helped launch a producers career & continued to add to Rakim’s legacy. Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em is easily one of the best albums in Hip Hop in 1990.
Peoples Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm- A Tribe Called Quest
After about two years of anticipation thanks to features in both the Jungle Brothers & De La’s debuts.. Tribe finally drops their debut LP. It was everything it needed to be & then some. Laid back production with Ali’s unique sampling style. Mixed with Q-Tip’s clever delivery & lyrics. Phife would add a line here or there but it was clearly Q-Tip’s show (for now). Tribe took topics we herd before & showed a different approach. In Hip Hop in 1990 they were Hip Hop’s “Every Man”. Rather it be looking for a fat booty (“Bonita Applebum”) or the worst of worst feeling of leaving your wallet somewhere (“I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”). They took the ordinary & made it ill with a smooth melody to match. For me it the weakest of their three early 90’s gems, but it’s a great foundation that will lead to even better things for the collective.
Things took a major turn at the end of 1989, when Ice Cube left NWA due to payment issues with Jerry Heller & Eazy-E. He immediately started on his solo debut & dropped a classic. Going out East for production from the Bomb Squad & Dr. Dre’s cuz Sir Jinx. Cube doesn’t mince words for anyone & it shows clearly throughout this album. Taking to task any and all who contribute to the racism & oppression rampant in Compton (& the black community at large). “Endangered Species” is a prophecy of the LA Riots that would become reality a few short years later. Controversy just seemed to follow Cube everywhere justified or not. He was “the N*gga Ya Love to Hate” for some but no matter what he was “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” MC. Head & shoulders above his NWA brotheren as his violence with a message style reigned above all. By many, this is considered the best album of Hip Hop in 1990.
Top 10 Albums In Hip Hop In 1990
- Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
- Eric B & Rakim – Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em
- A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm
- Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
- LL Cool J – Momma Said Knock You Out
- Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth
- Brand Nubian – One For All
- Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment
- EPMD – Business As Usual
- Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted Dead or Alive