With classics by Biggie, Nas, OutKast and Scarface as proof, we’re stamping 1994 as the greatest year in rap, when hip-hop became whole. Argue us

'94 Week: Why 1994 Is Hip-Hop's Greatest Year Ever

’94 Til Infinity

We’re stamping 1994 as the greatest year in rap, when hip-hop became whole. Argue us

Many rap heads consider 1988 to be hip-hop’s zenith. The Reagan-Bush years brought us protest rap, intrepid street reportage and madcap experimentation; Rakim and Big Daddy Kane tangoed for the title of best rapper alive while Slick Rick narrated the greatest story ever told. But hip-hop at the time was marred by inequality of opportunity. Coastal rappers were disproportionately publicized, no doubt benefiting from their proximity to Viacom and other mainstream bedrocks. MCs from fly-over country, meanwhile, were left to toil in largely thankless obscurity. How many Tri-State rap heads deigned to acknowledge Kilo Ali? Regionalism was a self-defeating habit of coastal elites at the time: Outsiders were assumed to be intellectually and morally deficient for reasons as superficial as their diction or zip code. To wit, Miami bass impresario Uncle Luke was dismissed as an oversexed ne’er-do-well, and Houston hellions the Geto Boys were initially shunned by New York power circles. This exclusionist attitude created a gaping paucity of diversity. An exorbitant number of classic hip-hop albums came out over the next half-decade, but the genre remained incorrigibly shackled to the laws of geography. There were about three options for the discerning hip-hop listener: jazz-informed boom-bap, Bomb Squad-style anarcho-rap and G-funk hiss. Then came 1994—a year that marked a shift in priorities. Within this 365, hip-hop began to democratize, bringing with it a full flourishing of musicality to the genre. And for this reason, ’94 is pound-for-pound the strongest year in rap’s history books. 1994 has always been synonymous with Nas’s bellwether debut, Illmatic, which was justly mythologized as a boxcutter rap classic. Far from the syringe-strewn staircases of Queensbridge, though, a day of reckoning had dawned. Twenty years ago, a hookier, more melodically inclined generation of rappers—including the Bay Area’s E-40 and Spice 1, Port Arthur’s UGK and Memphis’s Triple Six Mafia—had ascended upon the rapscape. These artists put a premium on gratifying, latch-able melodies and groovy homegrown funk. And hip-hop perked up considerably. Gone were the samey, narcoleptic breakbeats. Even the New York set learned to have fun: Redman’s Dare Iz a Darkside is colorfully musical, and with Gang Starr’s Hard to Earn, vinyl aficionado DJ Premier pushed his sample material in adventurous new directions. Meanwhile the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die has an addictive and approachable R&B sheen. In 1988, Biggie might have been labeled traitorous for shouting out the Texas imprint Rap-A-Lot, as he did without consequence on Craig Mack’s ’94 posse cut “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix).” Prior to ’94, you’d rarely hear about black poverty outside of New York or L.A. This changed with the advent of hip-hop multiculturalism. The Coup’s Genocide & Juice and OutKast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik pontificated on hardships unique to Oakland and Atlanta, respectively. Credit Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Creepin’ on Ah Come Up for exposing the degradations of life in the post-industrial Midwest. Common’s Resurrection is most famous for the relationship post-mortem “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” where Com metaphorically voices his dismay at the supposed dilution of hip-hop. The song longs for a time when hip-hop was just “a few New York niggas… in the park.” But only when the old guard began to welcome Southerners, Midwesterners and others into its company did the genre experience a true golden age. Democratization allowed for input from the funkier elsewheres of America. 1994 will be remembered as the year when hip-hop embraced pluralism and unfettered creativity blossomed like a wildflower patch in every walk of American life. —M.T. Richards

From the Web

More on Vibe

VIBE / Nick Rice

Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

Continue Reading
VIBE/ Nick Rice

18 Best Latinx Albums Of 2018

A number of artists from the scope of latinidad contributed to making 2018 another rich year in music. If hip-hop is the world's most consumed genre, latin pop, reggaeton, latin trap, flamenco and more of the subgenres of Latinx music rested in between.

This includes J Balvin being one of the most streamed artists on Spotify, Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy scoring stellar Grammy nominations, the rising appeal of Harlem rapper Melii, the return of Wisin Y Yandel and Bad Bunny sprinkling the gift that is Latin trap on your getting ready playlists.

But there were also artists who took big risks like Kali Uchis' coy yet forward voice in R&B, Jessie Reyez's dynamic voice and collaborations with the likes of Eminem and many more.

Check out our favorite albums from the best and brightest Latinx artists of the year below.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

Continue Reading
Nick Rice

25 Best Hip-Hop and R&B Music Videos Of 2018

Hip-hop has taken full advantage of visual platforms like YouTube. Keeping the same energy as the days of Rap City: Tha Basement and Direct Effect, music videos are back and bigger than ever.

Hip-hop’s landscape has changed radically since the golden age of music videos. Artists from all different walks of life are roaming the field, constantly raising the bar for music videos. From the trippy aesthetics of new generation rappers like Trippie Redd and Smokepurrp, hilarious efforts of Blac Youngsta and the regal aesthetics from Beyonce and Jay-Z, 2018 has been filled with amazing music videos.

VIBE took a look at these visuals and assembled a collection of the finest hip-hop and R&B music videos of the year. The videos below display the meaningful connection that a director created with an artist that enables the two to capture the emotion and feelings the artist laid down on wax. In no specific order, take a look at the 25 best hip-hop and R&B music videos of 2018.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

Continue Reading

Top Stories