I feel that 1995 was one of the, if not the, best worst years in the history of hip-hop. Traditionally, we'd look at just the Source Awards and its aftermath with regards to the aforementioned East Coast/West Coast beef and how that bloodied and sullied hip-hop for the worse forever. But, if we really want to get into it, bloodshed has been a part of humanity (not just rap culture, so silence that foolishness) before 1995 and, because of human nature, are still a part of humanity after 1995. And, yes, I'll get to the Source Awards, but not before a quick run-down of other happenings in 1995.
In 1995, we received classic upon classic upon classic. I'll highlight a few of the gems we were blessed with in this tumultuous time.
For instance, E 1999 Eternal, possibly the best (mainstream or otherwise) BTNH album was released. Featuring songs such as "Tha Crossroads" and "1st Of Tha Month," we got a deeper look at the Cleveland quartet/quintet and the impact that mentor Eazy-E's ailment and subsequent passing from AIDS complications had on them. Additionally, the album perfected the harmonic thuggishness we've come to see from the group. We got a look into what made them tick as artists and as people. We got a peep into the midwest, Cleveland in particular, and saw sides of the region previously inaccessible.
While Tha Pharcyde's second album didn't meet the sales numbers of its big brother, Labcabincalifornia released in November of 1995. It was, in some ways, the Take Care to Pharcyde's Bizarre Ride II Tha Pharcyde, in that it showcased some darker themes and expanded upon what made us want to listen to the group in the first place. Additionally, "Runnin'" is just one of those songs you can't help but love. Plus, y'know, a young man named Jay Dee handled some of the production on the album. Biased as I may be, you can't go wrong with Jay Dee/J Dilla/Dilla.
In 1995, we also saw the major-label debut of The Roots. Do I really need to explain why this one is monumental?
Oh, yeah. There were also albums put out by these guys named Mobb Deep and 2Pac.
Now, the Source Awards themselves? It was bonkers. I remember watching it in its entirety after the fact because, in 1995, that's what you had to do. But, I remember catching bits and pieces of what went down, like the "If you don't want an executive producer all in your songs, come to Death Row" bit. However, the part which got to me the most was OutKast's "the south got something to say" quip.
At that point, hip-hop was mostly dominated by East and West Coast artists. It wasn't until OutKast started receiving that mainstream buzz that people began to pay attention, and rightfully so, to the South. And from that, we got people revisiting the pimptastic adventures of UGK and 8Ball and MJG. We received the ride known as the "Cash Money/No Limit Era," when even the East and West were trying to keep up with the Pen and Pixel-laced labels. Three 6 started to receive love as artists outside of the "oh, these guys are just doing devil shit." Jay Z rose to prominence. Essentially, without this explosive event, hip-hop faced stagnation.
And I really wish that the deaths of 2Pac and Biggie could've been avoided, so please don't think I'm disregarding their place as legends to say "oh, look at the South and/or Jay Z." However, through this insanity, we received classic albums from both B.I.G. and Pac. And through their deaths, hip-hop was able to be reborn again, and move to another era. It's an unfortunate thing, though. These legends, these stalwarts of what you usually think about when you think "'90s rap," they had to be killed in order to take the genre to another place; their talents would've led to even more imitators then and now if they were still around to crank out classics.
But, that's another post for another time. And through the fire, a phoenix was born.