Rap Hip-Hop Timeline 1990-1999

DJ Kool Herc and Run-D.M.C.
Rap Hip-Hop Timeline:
Pg 1: 1970-1989  • Pg 2: 1990-1999  • Pg 3: 2000-2004

Criteria: The history of Rap/Hip-Hop year by year from it's beginnings at the block parties in New York City, through it's diversification of styles and genres to the present day. This page covers the third decade from 1990 to the end of 1999.

Rap Hip-Hop Timeline 1990-1999

  • Ice Cube takes his new crew, Da Lench Mob to New York and records his solo debut with production from The Bomb Squad, Public Enemy's team of producers. The album, "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted," is praised by the hip-hop community as a classic and sets Cube on the road to solo super stardom.

  • Yet another addition to the (ever-growing) Native Tongues family, Queens-based A Tribe Called Quest release their debut album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm." Building on the template established by the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and, most notably, De La Soul; the group is praised for it's intelligently quirky lyrics and inventive musical style.

  • M.C. Hammer continues his pop-rap reign with his two Grammy nominations, a new Saturday morning cartoon, and an action figure. Despite all of his commercial success; there is a growing backlash against his image and music among rap fans and artists.

  • Salt-N-Pepa release their third album, "Blacks Magic." The album receives the strongest reviews of their career.

  • After shooting his cousin and leading police on a high-speed chase, Slick Rick is captured and taken to prison. Def Jam head Russell Simmons bails Rick out in time to finish his second album, "The Ruler's Back," but Rick is eventually sentenced to five years in prison on charges of attempted murder.

  • Will Smith aka The Fresh Prince is tapped to star in a new sitcom, dubbed "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

  • Run-D.M.C. release their fifth album, "Back From Hell." It barely goes gold with no notable hit singles. The group takes a break from recording.

  • After an Atlanta-based DJ plays the song 'Ice, Ice Baby' by accident; the track becomes a hit for Miami-based White rapper Vanilla Ice. Though Ice is derided as a fake, his debut album, "To The Extreme" goes on to sell over seven million copies.

  • Popular rapper Heavy D. convinces Andre Harrell, the president of Uptown Records (Heavy D's label), to take on a young college student/dancer named Sean Combs as an intern.

Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted album cover
A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Rolling Stone magazine cover with M.C. Hammer
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air cast
  • Gilbert O'Sullivan successfully sues comedic rapper Biz Markie; claiming that Biz's single, 'Alone Again,' uses a sample of O'Sullivan's song 'Alone Again (Naturally),' without consent. The lawsuit signals a turning point in hip-hop sampling; as artists can no longer build multi-layered sound collages out of multiple samples for fear of litigation.

  • Digital Underground follow their excellent debut album with an EP. "This Is An EP Release" has some of their strongest work to date and the hit single, 'Same Song' features a young, lesser-known member of the crew named Tupac Shakur.

  • Ice Cube stars in the gritty urban drama "Boyz N the Hood" Spotlighting the hard lives of young Black men in South Central Los Angeles, the film becomes a hit and a critical favorite.

  • A Tribe Called Quest releases their much-anticipated second album, "The Low End Theory." Praised by critics and fans, the group focuses on a leaner, more jazz-oriented approach and cements their place as the top alternative rap group.

  • After the success of A Tribe Called Quest's 'Low End Theory,' and De La Soul's sophomore effort, 'De La Soul Is Dead,' alternative rap begins a short two-year period of dominance on the strength of debuts by Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Del the Funkee Homosapien, P.M. Dawn, the Pharcyde, and Gangstarr.

  • N.W.A release their second full-length album, the inflammatory and excessively offensive "Efil4zaggin." Discarding the social commentary of their classic debut, the group instead focuses on over-the-top gangsterisms and hedonistic fantasies. Nevertheless, the album debuts at number one on the charts.

  • Vanilla Ice's film, "Cool As Ice" premieres to poor reviews and even worse box office returns. He is also criticized for fabricating his entire life story in interviews. To add insult to injury; he's also successfully sued by David Bowie and Queen, who claim that he used the bassline from their hit 'Under Pressure,' for his hit, 'Ice Ice Baby.' In only a short ten months, Vanilla Ice's fame has fizzled out.

  • A video showing four L.A. police officers brutally beating a Black man named Rodney King is played at news stations all over the country. Several rappers contend that this has been happening for years in inner cities and call for change.

  • M.C. Hammer releases his third proper album, "2 Legit To Quit." Although the title cut is a sizeable hit; the album fails to match the across-the-board success of it's predecessor as the backlash against 'pop-rap' has Hammer losing his (already limited) credibility among rap fans and the general public.

  • Dr. Dre; citing a dispute over finances with Eazy-E and Ruthless Records; quits N.W.A. Dre is still under contract to Ruthless; and hires gangster-turned-businessman Marion "Suge" Knight to get him out of his deal with the record label. With Dre departing for a solo career, N.W.A. officially split.

  • Sean Combs, still only 20 years old, is promoted to A&R at Uptown Records and executive produces hit albums for Father MC and Heavy D.

  • Alternative rap group Main Source release their debut, the critically acclaimed "Breaking Atoms." While it doesn't sell very well, the group becomes among hip-hop's most respected, and the single, 'Live At the Bar-B-Q' features a memorable verse by a seventeen-year-old Queens rapper named Nas.

Biz Markie

Boyz N the Hood movie poster

Cool As Ice movie poster

Rodney King video

Main Source - Breaking Atoms album cover
  • 2Pac Shakur, former roadie, dancer, and second-string MC for Digital Underground, releases his debut album, "2Pacalypse Now." It immediately incites controversy for it's content; particular lyrics regarding police officers. Vice President Dan Quayle even calls for a ban of the album during his campaign for re-election. Shakur's visibility is also raised by a star-making performance in the gritty urban drama "Juice".

  • Body Count; Ice-T's new rap-metal band, release their debut album. The song 'Cop Killa' ignites a fire storm of controversy for it's lyrics about killing police officers. After nationwide protests from law enforcement officials, Time-Warner pressures Ice-T to pull the song from the album and eventually sells it's share of Interscope Records, the distributor.

  • With "Paul's Boutique" obtaining cult-classic status in the years following it's release; the Beastie Boys third album, "Check Your Head," becomes a smash hit, debuting in the Top Ten and returning the Boys to the charts for the first time since their debut album - although with a much different sound.

  • After producing a successful album for R&B singer Mary J. Blige and remixing several other hits for artist such as Jodeci and Heavy D., Sean "Puffy" Combs is fired from Uptown after a dispute with label head Andre Harrell.

  • Eric B. & Rakim release their fourth album, "Don't Sweat the Technique." The album is critically acclaimed; but the duo split almost immediately after it's release. Eric B. continues to produce for other rappers, (with mixed results), while Rakim, arguably the most celebrated MC in rap up to this point; goes into seclusion.

  • After the acquittal of the officers accused of beating Rodney King, South Central Los Angeles erupts in violent street riots. After the two-day mayhem, rappers such as Ice-T and Chuck D. of Public Enemy are called upon to provide insight.

  • Dr. Dre and Suge Knight form a partnership and create Death Row Records. Their first project is a song for the soundtrack to a police drama called "Deep Cover". The song features a young rapper from Long Beach named Snoop Doggy Dogg.

  • Dr. Dre releases his solo debut, "The Chronic." With it's heavy emphasis on deep rolling bass and funk grooves--it takes hard-core gangsta rap into more accessible, radio-friendly territory and becomes the biggest rap album of the year behind the huge single, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang." Dre's new sound--dubbed 'G-Funk'--reinvents the entire West Coast rap scene, and signals the beginning of a West Coast-dominated rap charts.


Spin magazine Beastie Boys cover

Dr. Dre - The Chronic album cover
  • KRS-One, deciding on a change of approach, officially 'retires' the name Boogie Down Productions; subsequently releasing albums only as KRS-One.

  • A loose collective of Staten Island MCs calling themselves the Wu-Tang Clan release their first single, 'Protect Ya Neck.' It becomes an underground hit, making anticipation for the nine-man crew's debut album extremely high.

  • 2Pac releases his second album, "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." Almost as inflammatory as his debut, it also showcases a sensitive, thoughtful side to the rapper. The single, "Keep Ya Head Up" is especially praised as a love letter to Black women, and becomes his biggest hit to date.

  • Run-D.M.C. make an unexpected return to the charts with their acclaimed comeback album, "Down With the King."

  • Sean "Puffy" Combs begins running his own label, called Bad Boy Entertainment, out of his apartment. The company grows rapidly, and Combs soon signs two up-and-coming MCs, former EPMD roadie Craig Mack and a former drug dealer from Brooklyn named Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G.

  • Dr. Dre protege Snoop Doggy Dogg releases his highly-anticipated solo debut, "DoggyStyle" for Death Row Records. The album is a monstrous hit, becoming the first debut album to enter the Billboard chart at #1. Unfortunately, Snoop is implicated in the shooting death of a Long Beach man and is charged with second-degree murder. Surprisingly, this does nothing to slow his skyrocketing popularity.

  • Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, "Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers," is released to critical acclaim but moderate sales. After the single, 'C.R.E.A.M.' is released, the album begins a steady climb up the charts; beginning a new age for hard-core, gritty East Coast hip-hop.

  • 2Pac is arrested on charges of assault and battery after he attacks director Allen Hughes on the set of the film "Menace II Society".

  • MC Lyte releases her first hardcore rap album in four years (after a brief foray into more pop-friendly territory.) Her hit single, 'Ruffneck,' becomes the first rap single by a female artist to go gold and is nominated for a Grammy.

  • Craig Mack releases, "Funk Da World;" the first album to be released by fledgling Bad Boy Entertainment. It eventually goes gold.

  • Continuing their string of brilliant albums, 'A Tribe Called Quest' releases "Midnight Marauders," which spawns their biggest hit to date, the infectious single 'Award Tour.'

  • 2Pac is charged in the shooting of two off-duty police officers in Atlanta, GA. The charges would later be dismissed. He also lands a second high-profile film role, starring in John Singleton's urban romance "Poetic Justice". He follows that with yet another starring turn in the basketball drama "Above the Rim".

  • Queen Latifah releases the uplifting respect anthem, 'U.N.I.T.Y.,' which wins a Grammy; and her third album, "Black Reign," becomes the first gold album for a solo female MC.

  • C. Deloris Tucker, Dionne Warwick, and several other high-profile moral activists call for a boycott against gangsta-rap artists such as 2Pac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Doggy Dogg, citing the lyrics of much of their music to be violent and misogynistic.

  • Salt-N-Pepa release their fourth album, "Very Necessary." It goes on to become the best-selling rap album of all time by a female artist.

  • After six years and four critically-acclaimed albums, (and jump-starting the career of close friend Redman); EPMD, underground rap's most respected group--announce that they are going their seperate ways.

Sean Puffy Combs

Snoop Doggy Dogg mug shot

MC Lyte - Ain't No Other album cover

Rolling Stone magazine cover with Dr.Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg
  • Arista chief Clive Davis signs Bad Boy Entertainment to a subsidiary/distribution deal. Puffy Combs begins work on the Notorious B.I.G.'s debut album.

  • Queens rapper Nas finally releases his solo debut, "Illmatic." It instantly becomes one of the most critically-acclaimed rap albums of all time, with Nas' clever wordplay and verbal skill being favorably compared to Rakim's best work.

  • Snoop Doggy Dogg releases the short film/soundtrack, "Murder Was the Case". With it's graphic storytelling about a man being sentenced for murder uncomfortably close to Snoop's real-life legal woes, many critics blast the rapper for exploiting the unfortunate circumstances.

  • "southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," the debut album from Atlanta-based rap duo Outkast signals a shift from hip-hop's bi-coastal grip. Loose and funky with clever lyrics and insightful subject-matter, the group becomes a cult favorite among hip-hop enthusiasts.

  • Adding to a seemingly endless string of legal charges, 2Pac is charged with sexual assault by a female fan in New York City.

  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony; a new Cleveland-based rap group discovered by Eazy-E; release an EP called "Creepin' On Ah Come-up." Their sound is a combination of rapid-fire speed-rapping and vocal harmonizing and the single, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" becomes a moderate hit.

  • Notorious B.I.G., after cameo appearances on several popular singles, finally releases "Ready to Die," his debut album for Bad Boy. It spawns two hit singles, 'Juicy' and 'Big Poppa;' one hit remix, 'One More Chance', and returns the East Coast to the top of the charts after a two-year absence. It also elevates Puffy Combs' Bad Boy label to the top of hip-hop.

Nas - Illmatic album cover

Outkast - southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album cover

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
  • 2Pac is shot in what appears to be a robbery outside of a New York recording studio only days after being found guilty of sexual assault. He checks himself out of the hospital and appears in court in a wheelchair for his sentencing. He immediately accuses the Notorious B.I.G. (a former friend), and Puffy Combs for orchestrating the attack. Nonetheless, he begins serving his five-year prison term.

  • Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z releases the underground single, 'In My Lifetime.' With his clever wordplay and quick delivery, he quickly becomes a word-of-mouth sensation in New York.

  • Eccentric Wu-Tang Clan member, Ol' Dirty Bastard gains notoriety by picking up food stamps in a limousine while appearing on MTV. He is promptly arrested.

  • 2Pac releases his third album, "Me Against the World" while still in prison. It's more thoughtful and introspective approach earns him the biggest critical praise of his career and his legend grows among hip-hop fans as he showcases his more tortured and self-conscious side.

  • At the Source Awards, Suge Knight publicly insults Sean "Puffy" Combs on stage; adding fuel to the ever-growing tensions between the East Coast and West Coast, but particularly his L.A. based Death Row Records and Combs' New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment.

  • While filming the video for the song 'New York, New York,' members of the Death Row Records group Tha Dogg Pound are shot at.

  • Eazy-E, gangsta rap icon and cofounder of N.W.A, announces that he has full-blown AIDS. After only a few days at Cedar-Sinai hospital for treatment, he dies from pneumonia.

  • Notorious B.I.G. signs his proteges, the Junior M.A.F.I.A. to the small Untertainment Label. Their debut album, "Conspiracy" is a moderate hit and provides a showcase for a young female rapper named Lil Kim.

  • Will Smith stars in the buddy-cop action film "Bad Boys". It becomes one of the biggest hits of the year.

  • Chicago-bred female rapper Da Brat releases her debut album, "Funkdafied." It becomes the first album by a solo female rapper to go platinum.

  • Bad Boy Entertainment's empire continues to grow with platinum-selling R&B albums by Faith Evans and the girl-group Total.

  • Snoop Doggy Dogg is acquitted of second-degree murder charges.

  • At the end of the year, Suge Knight bails 2Pac out of prison and immediately signs the embattled rapper to Death Row Records. With Knight's hatred of Sean "Puffy" Combs and 2Pac's belief that the Notorious B.I.G. conspired against him; the conflict between Death Row and Bad Boy Entertainment intensifies.


  • 2Pac releases his fourth album, "All Eyez On Me," hip-hop's first double-disc of all-original material and his first album for Death Row Records. It becomes a hit and raises the rap star's profile even higher.

  • Underground sensation Jay-Z begins a budding friendship with the Notorious B.I.G. and releases his first two mainstream singles, 'Dead Presidents' and 'Ain't No N*gga.' Both are moderate hits and help build anticipation for his debut album.

  • Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony release, 'The Crossroads,' the second single from their critically-acclaimed 1995 album, "E. 1999-Eternal." With it's heartfelt lyrics and funereal production, it becomes a huge hit and is nominated for a Grammy.

  • Alternative rap group The Fugees release their second album, "The Score." A stirring mix of reggae, rap, and soul; the album is one of the most acclaimed of the year and the group members, (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras) are thrust into the national spotlight.

  • 2Pac releases the inflammatory b-side single, 'Hit 'Em Up.' Dissing the Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Entertainment; he also claims to have had sex with B.I.G.'s estranged wife, Bad Boy ingenue Faith Evans.

  • Nas finally releases "It Was Written," his follow-up to the landmark "Illmatic." With the lyrical focus shifting from street poetry to a glamourized criminal lifestyle; and the production becoming more slick and accessible; he is bashed by hip-hop purists for selling out to a pop audience.

  • Dr. Dre abruptly announces he's leaving Death Row Records. Declaring that gangsta rap is a 'dead' genre, he goes on to form a new label, Aftermath Entertainment.

  • Will Smith stars in the action-sci fi flick "Independence Day", raising his profile as an A-list celebrity in Hollywood.

  • Jay-Z's debut album, "Reasonable Doubt" is released to much praise from critics. Despite all of the accolades, it barely makes a dent on the charts.

  • After leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, NV; a car carrying Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur is riddled with gunfire. Though Suge only suffers minor injuries, 2Pac--after fighting for his life for seven days in a hospital--dies from his wounds. The hip-hop nation goes into shock and mourning for the fallen rapper.

  • Southern rap duo Outkast release their second album, "ATLiens." It is critically acclaimed for it's positive outlook, progressive lyrics and a more futuristic production style.

  • The Notorious B.I.G. is almost killed in a car accident in New Jersey. With his leg partially shattered, he is forced to walk with a cane.

  • Eminem, a White rapper from Detroit, releases his debut album, "Infinite," on a small indie label. Despite displaying a flair for clever, witty rhymes; the album goes unnoticed by fans and critics.

  • A Tribe Called Quest release their fourth album, "Beats, Rhymes, & Life." For the first time in their storied career, the trio is bashed for releasing a half-hearted album.

  • Two debuts by two new female rappers, B.I.G. protege Lil Kim and ingenue Foxy Brown--albums that feature a heavy emphasis on sex and materialism--signal a change in direction for female MCs in hip-hop.


Dr. Dre

  • After a year of critical acclaim, The Fugees announce that they are going their seperate ways; citing creative differences. Wyclef Jean almost immediately begins work on his solo debut.

  • After leaving the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles, the Notorious B.I.G. is shot and killed in a drive-by shooting that eerily resembles what happened to 2Pac six months earlier. With the twin murders of two of it's biggest stars, the hip-hop nation is forced to take stock of itself and what it represents. B.I.G.'s second album, the prophetically titled "Life After Death," is released only a few days after his killing and becomes the best-selling rap album of all time.

  • Sean Combs, now calling himself 'Puff Daddy' releases two benefit singles as memoriam to the slain Notorious B.I.G.

  • The Wu-Tang Clan release their second album, the double LP "Wu-Tang Forever." It sells well; but fails to match the critical respect of the group's more acclaimed debut.

  • Suge Knight is sentenced to four years in prison for parole violation.

  • After writing and producing hits for MC Lyte and R&B groups Xscape and 702; female rap artist Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott releases her debut album, "Supa Dupa Fly." It is an artistic triumph and she is praised for her wit and quirky musical approach.

  • Puff Daddy makes his debut as an artist with "No Way Out." Spawning four top ten singles, the album becomes a monster hit and makes Puffy the biggest star on the Bad Boy label in the wake of B.I.G.'s murder.

  • Snoop Doggy Dogg finally releases his second album, the lackluster "The Doggfather." After the album fails to sell, Snoop announces he is leaving the crumbling Death Row Records.

  • After starring in his third-straight summer blockbuster, "Men In Black"; Will Smith confirms his status as one of the biggest box-office draws of the 90s. In a somewhat surprising move, he also returns to music, releasing his first solo album, "Big Willie Style." Though lightweight, it becomes one of the best-selling albums of the year.

  • Ending a five-year period of seclusion that saw his reputation as a lyricist reach near-mythic proportions; Rakim finally makes his return with "The 18th Letter," his solo debut.

  • After operating in obscurity in the Deep South for almost a decade, New Orleans based rapper-entrepeneur Master P releases "Ghetto D." Derided by critics as an untalented hack; the album nonetheless becomes a hit and opens the floodgates for a wealth of New Orleans gangsta rap to hit the airwaves. Master P, as founder and CEO of the No Limit record label, unexpectedly becomes one of the most powerful men in hip-hop.

  • Picking up where the Notorious B.I.G. left off (at least commercially), new Bad Boy rapper Ma$e releases his debut album, "Harlem World." It is a smash and confirms Bad Boy's status as the (now undisputed) top label in rap.

  • Def Jam Records signs Jay-Z and releases popular albums by rappers Redman, Method Man, and Foxy Brown; signalling a return to form for Russell Simmons and rap's longest-running label.

  • Simmons also signs a newly-reformed EPMD and DMX,  an intense MC from Yonkers. Jay-Z releases his second album, "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1." It sells much better than his debut, but critics deride it as a flaky attempt to reach a crossover audience.

  • Afeni Shakur, mother of the slain 2Pac Shakur; releases "R U Still Down (Remember Me)," a double-album of unreleased material the rapper recorded prior to his death. It is the beginning of a flood of songs, compilations and albums from the deceased rap star's vaults.

Wyclef Jean

The Notorious B.I.G.

Suge Knight

Will Smith - Big Willie Style

R U Still Down (Remember Me) - 2Pac album
  • DMX makes his debut with "It's Dark and Hell Is Hot" and intensely personal album of hard-core rap and poignant confessionals. It becomes a monster hit and signals a return of gritty, hard-core rap after a year of the more radio-friendly, Bad Boy-influenced party-rap.

  • Master P's No Limit Records continues to churn out one hit album after the other; even though critics and hip-hop purists scoff at the cheap production and lackluster artists on the label. Seeking to strike while he's hot, P also creates No Limit Films, No Limit Wireless, and his own Percy Miller Clothing Line.

  • Jay-Z's third album, "Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life," becomes his biggest-seller and restores some of his credibility in hip-hop circles. He immediately is heralded as the biggest rapper in hip-hop.

  • Lauryn Hill, formerly of the Fugees; releases her solo debut, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." With an emphasis on confessional songwriting and a powerful mix of rap, reggae, gospel, soul and folk, it becomes the most-acclaimed album of the year and thrusts Hill into international stardom.

  • "Aquemini;" the third outing for Atlanta rappers Outkast; is a startling leap forward for the group. Combining live instruments with thought-provoking and forward-thinking lyrics, as well as meshing hip-hop, country, soul, techno, and funk elements, the album follows Lauryn Hill's debut as one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, though it isn't as successful commercially.

  • After releasing their fifth album, "The Love Movement," A Tribe Called Quest abruptly announce their breakup. Lead rapper Q-Tip immediately embarks on a solo career.

  • Seeking a career rebirth, Snoop Dogg signs with Master P's No Limit label and rush-releases two lackluster albums.

  • With a chain of restaurants, ("Justin's"), a clothing line, ("Sean John"), and a celebrity girlfriend, (Jennifer Lopez), Puff Daddy becomes the most recognized man in hip-hop.

  • West Coast underground rapper C-Bo goes to jail as a judge claims his violent lyrics are a violation of his probation.

  • Upstart New Orleans label Cash Money Records signs a 100M distribution deal with Universal and releases albums from Juvenile, Lil Wayne and B.G. confirming the 'Dirty' South as hip-hop's new second coast.

  • Rap-rock explodes into the mainstream as albums by Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Kid Rock sell huge numbers; confirming the influence of hip-hop in general--(and Run-D.M.C. in particular)--on an entire generation.

  • After appearing on the song '4, 3, 2, 1' with LL Cool J; young up-and-comer Canibus releases '2nd Round K.O.,' a scathing dis of the legendary rapper. LL responds with 'The Ripper's Back.' returning some of the street credibility to his career after a string of MOR-pop hits.

  • DMX abruptly releases his sophomore album, "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood." He becomes the first rap artist to have two number one albums in the same year.

  • Puff Daddy, Russell Simmons, and Master P all appear on Forbes' Top Moneymakers in Entertainment of 1998.

  • Big Punisher, a Puerto-Rican MC from the Bronx; releases his debut album, "Capital Punishment," and becomes the first Hispanic solo rapper to have a platinum-selling album.

DMX - It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album cover

Sean John lable
  • Nas releases his third album, "I Am...," to mixed reviews and mediocre sales; as does it's rushed follow-up "Nastradamus," furthering the Queensbridge rapper's slide into relative obscurity.

  • With the continuing multi platinum success of Cash Money Records out of New Orleans; and hit albums by Atlanta-based Ludacris, and the Hypnotized Mindz Camp from Memphis; the South eclipses the now-stagnant West Coast in overall popularity.

  • Jay-Z, DMX, Redman, and Method embark on the "Hard Knock Life Tour," hip-hop's first successful major tour in more than a decade.

  • Lauryn Hill's debut album wins five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year; the first hip-hop album to do so.

  • Now signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, Eminem makes his major label debut with "The Slim Shady LP." The album and debut single, "My Name Is," announce the darkly comical rapper as a star in the rap world. Incidently, the rapper garners both praise for his wit and creativity and derision for the album's misogyny and vulgarity.

  • Mos Def and Talib Kweli, collectively known as Black Star; release their eponymous debut. With their thoughtful, intelligent lyrics and laid-back approach, the album; along with Mos Def's solo debut, "Black On Both Sides;" ushers in a return of conscious alternative rap.

  • Slick Rick releases "The Art of Storytelling," his first album since being released from prison two years earlier. It is critically praised as a return-to-form for the MC.

  • Puff Daddy releases "Forever." It fails to make the success of his debut, and disappears from the charts quickly. To add insult to injury, Ma$e, the biggest star on his Bad Boy label (next to himself, of course); leaves rap music behind to pursue religious ministry.

  • Eve, a brash young female rapper from DMX's Ruff Ryders posse; releases her debut album "Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders First Lady." A hard-core lyricist in the MC Lyte mold; she marks a welcome departure from the money-and-sex obsessed rhymes of most of her female contemporaries.

  • Underground sensation Big L is shot and killed just blocks away from his home.

  • After touring successfully for years, Run DMC return to recording after a six-year hiatus. The album,  "Crown Royal," is both a critical and commercial disappointment. Featuring little-to-no input from DMC, a bevy of guest stars and spawning only one moderate hit, it throws the future of legendary trio into doubt.

  • Dr. Dre finally releases a proper follow-up to his 1992 masterpiece, "The Chronic." "2001" is a strong return to form for the producer/rapper, with guest appearances by his new protege, Eminem and a long-awaited reunion with hisold one, Snoop Dogg.

  • At a New Year's Eve party at club New York, Puff Daddy and his girlfriend, actress/singer Jennifer Lopez get into an altercation with some patrons that turns into a shoot out. After fleeing from the scene, they are arrested on charges of aggravated assault.

Nas - I Am... album cover

Time magazine cover featuring Lauryn Hill
Eminem - The Slim Shady LP

Slick Rick - The Art of Storytelling

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