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1995: A Hip-Hop Excursion Ten Years Back

feat_stickyfingaz

A plethora of albums and singles were released in 1995, a year of diverse sounds and rhymes. AllHipHop.com assembled some of those songs, albums and artists for older fans to recall an arguable better year than 2005 and younger fans can get acquainted with some Hip-Hop they weren’t exposed to as youth. For those that were there, 1995 was a helluva year. Read and hear about it all here (clicks the links)! -Houston Williams

THE ALBUMS

Artist: Raekwon featuring Ghostface Killah

Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Original Release Date: August 1, 1995

Think of them as the cocked and squeezed [pause] Hip-Hop hood version of Batman & Robin, except they favor colorful Versace robes and Lo wear over snug superhero attire. But the true star may have been the RZA’s flawless sound barrage of soul jarring samples that made Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, a truly cinematic experience for the ears. From the menacing “Incarcerated Scarfaces” to the silky, Nas assisted “Verbal Intercourse”, the purple tape’s coke raps are often imitated but still can’t be touched, and ten years later it’s still tasty like marble cake. "Ice Cream." – Aqua Boogie

Artist: Dogg Pound

Album: Dogg Food

Original Release Date: October 31, 1995

Dat N***a Daz and Kurupt entered the game with a mouthful to say. After three years backing up Snoop, this debut, mixed by Dr. Dre, showed a new, futuristic spin on G-Funk production, and censor challenging lyrics. Though "New York, New York" is heavily remembered for its subtle coastal declaration of war, fiery moments such as "Respect" and "So Much Style" is not to be missed. All in all, this album is the final chapter in the Death Row years before 2pac. A decade and a reunion later, fans still yearn for the follow-up to the piss-and-vinegar debut. – Paine

Artist: Onyx

Album: All We Got Iz Us

Original Release Date: October 24, 1995

All We Got Iz Us was Onyx’s anticipated return to rap after ushering the "Mad Face Invasion" via their debut, 1993’s Bacdafucup. What fans received was a dose of reality that they may not have been prepared to digest. Ignoring the radio, Sticky Fingaz, Fredro and Soncee feverishly rhymed about the New World Order, societal ills and completely captured the jagged grit of New York City. Joints like "Walk In New York," "All We Got Is Us (Evil Streets)," "2 Wrongs," and "Betta Off Dead" were hauntingly aggressive. The now-classic album, in theory, could have propelled the trio into the upper echelon, but was commercially ignored, despite backing by Def Jam Records. With Sticky maintaining as lyrical leader, Fredro moving as a producer, and Soncee anchoring, this effort is one that deserves a slot in every rap fan’s collection. – Houston Williams

Artist: Big L

Album: Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous

Original Release Date: March 28, 1995

Like KMD’s "Sweet Premium Wine", this debut aged well compared to its small, but cult success a decade ago. Harlem’s Big L packed one of the wittiest albums ever recorded under the tutelage of D.I.T.C.’s Lord Finesse and Buckwild. "Da Graveyard" remains one of the most lethal posse cuts in rap history, as Big L’s first and best album show his phenomenal abilities at such an early age. Slept-on classic. – Paine

Artist: Mobb Deep

Album: The Infamous

Original Release Date: April 25, 1995

Hav and P made it look easy. They set the streets on fire with the timeless anthem "Shook Ones Pt. 2" and followed it up with another banger in "Survival Of The Fittest." Though the demeanor may of switched, the duo also matured a great deal going into the sophomore album. Havoc used this opportunity to become one of the baddest producers on the planet, with eerie organ chops and pounding bass. The Infamous shaped the New York streets and brought the Dunn Language to life. Queensbridge had another classic to place next to Illmatic.- Martin A. Berrios

Artist: 2Pac

Album: Me Against the World

Original Release Date: February 27, 1995

Arguably Tupac’s most adult, wisest album. Released while ‘Pac was in prison, this album featured the timeless smash, "Dear Mama". His acclaimed love song, "Temptations" also appeared, as well as a tribute to early Hip-Hop records and influences, "Old School". This album aligned ‘Pac with former mentor Shock G, as well as Notorious B.I.G. and Miles Davis producer, Easy Mo Bee. The following year, ‘Pac would release an album that fired more singles and controversy, All Eyez on Me, though Me Against the World is quite comparatively, Hip-Hop’s answer to What’s Going On? – Paine

Artist: Redman

Album: Dare Iz A Darkside

Original Release Date: November 22, 1994

Redman departed from his own blunted, yet animated style displayed on Whut? Thee Album for an excursion into the galaxy called Dare Iz A Darkside. Although this album actually dropped in 1994, it deserves mention, because it impacted 1995 tremendously. Of the Newark, New Jersey native’s catalogue, Dare is the most experimental, as it highlighted Reggie Noble as a demented conceptualist and organic producer. In hindsight, only Red’s most dedicated fans got it. The album ranged from the drugged out funk of "Da Journee" to the light-hearted "Can’t Wait" to the utter gall exemplified with "We Run N.Y." With this one, Red not only dared to be dark; he had the audacity to defy conventions of the average Hip-Hop. – Houston Williams

Artist: Ol Dirty Bastard

Album: Return to the 36 Chambers

Original Release Date: March 28, 1995

What? You thought he was waxing nonsensical? Stupid, he was Unique Ason, keeping planets in orbit. Take the time to wrap your perception around the gravity of darts like "Brooklyn Zoo" or "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and you’re witness to near genius at the off-kilter, drunken monk flow. His time was too short on this earth, yet there is no father, brother or any other kin to his style! Baby, come on – baby, baby, come on! – Aqua Boogie

Artist: Goodie Mob

Album: Soul Food

Original Release Date: November 7, 1995

This album is definitive in Atlanta’s role in Hip-Hop history. This compassionate album dealt with societal problems "Fighting" as well as Southern pride, "Dirty South" and the title cut. Organized Noize handled the production which would shine well into the following year’s ATLiens chapter. This was the birth of the Dungeon Family, and showed this foursome in a light that they’ve forever tried to keep burning. Soul Food gave Georgia a proud Hip-Hop identity, and previewed what was surely on the way. – Paine

Artist: Smif-N-Wessun

Album: Dah Shinin

Original Release: January 10, 1995

Smif’N’Wessun: 1995 marked the heyday of this Brooklyn duo who ushered in a unique sound with their moody, bass-heavy beats courtesy of Black Moon’s DJ Evil Dee and Mr. Walt. Best known in ’95 for the street hits "Bucktown" and "Sound Bwoy Burriel", their debut album, Dah Shinin’ was reflective of the gritty East New York street life. A few years later, Tek and Steele would reinvent themselves as the Cocoa Brovas and make some noise with the hot joint "Black Trump" featuring Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon the Chef. Ten years later though, they returned to their firearm moniker, still releasing albums with Duck Down. It is this debut that is forever endeared by the Hip-Hop masses as an end-to-end "stomp ‘em out" album. – Danielle Stolich

Artist: LL Cool J

Album: Mr. Smith

Original Release: November 21, 1995

After the misfired 14 Shots To The Dome, LL needed a comeback. He did just that with Mr. Smith.Though the album broke LL from long-time producer, Marley Marl, it was a crucial reinvention. L was able to keep the ladies loving him with "Hey Lover" and the monster hit "Doin’ It." Sultry videos drew men and women into his sphere of lyrical sex. The "Loungin’ Remix" remains one of the rawest LL video moments in history. He also sealed the deal with the "I Shot Ya Remix." The posse cut was harder than concrete and steel mixed – so much that LL tried to recreate it two years later on "4,3,2,1" and couldn’t come close. – Martin A. Berrios

Artist: The Roots

Album: Do You Want More!?

Original Release Date: January 17, 1995

Though they’ve since shuffled their line up more times than Larry Brown, Cool Papa Quest on sticks, Scott Storch on keys, Hub on bottom, Black Thought at work, Rahzel on the beatbox and Malik B chasing cattle in the steeple is The Roots at their finest (Okayplayers…insert hate here). The made “Proceed” into a mantra for neophyte MC’s and rocked frikkin bagpipes on the title track. Check your credits, while most were clones, this band’s co-sign, no matter how inadvertent, helped Jill Scott, Eve and that Mack from Sigel Street eventually get down. Not bad for a Hip-Hop band. – Aqua Boogie

THE SINGLES

"Sprinkle Me" – E-40 featuring Suga T [produced by Mike Mosely]

This Bay area classic introduced the word to 40 Fonzerelli’s slang editorial, as well as his monstrous hustle. That hustle was eloquently sprinkled on the listener with blood-sister from The Click Suga T chimin’ in hers, "E, they tryin’ to test your testicles…" This song impressed 2Pac enough to solicit E-40 and Mike Mosely in going into his album the following year. Before Jive Records was blowing bubblegum, it was straight Sik-Wid-It. – Paine

"Keep Their Heads Ringin’"- Dr. Dre [produced by Dr. Dre]

Aside from "California Love", this was Dre’s parting shot from Death Row. A rare solo verse, using Boogie Down Productions samples and truck-thumpin’ bass, this remains one of Andre Young’s finest lyrical moments. Assisted on the boards by Sam Sneed of K-Solo fame, this was a crucial piece to Friday’s film success. – Paine

"Sugar Hill" – AZ [produced by L.E.S.]

A smooth opus to vivid dreams amidst harsh realities. AZ’s imagery was extremely sharp as he suggested that considering his goals compared to a drug high. To many, this is the same vibe that friend and collaborator, Nas wanted in on when he penned "If I Ruled the World" a year later. Whatever the case, this gem helped make AZ a household name, and ten years later – many of his dreams are probably realities. – Paine

"Gangsta’s Paradise" – Coolio featuring L.V. [produced by Doug Rasheed]

Former Maad Circle hype-man Coolio crossed over big with this Dangerous Minds soundtrack single. Though the hair made a statement, poignant lyrics revealed the tragedies of ill street blues dreams in this ballad. With an Aaron Neville-like frame, LV crooned over the hook to extract listener compassion. After going solo, 1995 was very much Coolio’s year, and he proved to be capable of being the life of the party and the funeral. – Paine

"Fast Life" – Kool G Rap featuring Nas [produced by Buckwild]

The young Nas collaborates with who many critics considered his greatest influence, Kool G Rap over the re-flipped Surface beat. The chemistry was strong as G Rap premiered his career without DJ Polo, and closed down his major label era with what many consider to be his most complete album. This single boated, "more rocks than Amedeus" and showed that it’s nothing to keep the lyricist torch burning bright in any part of Queens. – Paine

"Player’s Anthem" – Junior M.A.F.I.A. featuring Notorious B.I.G. [produced by Clark Kent]

As leftovers from Ready to Die still found listeners, Biggie dropped a gem on ‘em with his click. With club and frat boy appeal, this song freaked both sexes love of the chase. "Players Anthem" also had everyone feeling grown and sexy, and proud to show their wealth. The song ushered in the "baller" era, and reminded partygoers of what it meant to be fly. For those that were ballin’ on a budget in ’95, both Big and Kim were understanding. – Syreta J. Oglesby

"Labels" – GZA [produced by RZA]

Emphatically stating Tommy ain’t his boy, or De La Soul’s for that matter, is how Genius/GZA began his lyrical dance with record label names, most of them suspect. "Labels" was the precursor to his highly underestimated, but nevertheless classic Wu-solo Liquid Swords. With his cousin RZA providing a lyric-scape of grungy chords and gun clap snares, heads became record label experts while rhyming along. -Aqua Boogie

"Broken Language" – Smoothe Da Huster featuring Trigger Da Gambler [produced by DR Period]

Blood brothers Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger freaked ill imagery in this lyrical volleyball game of MC bravado. The Brownsville MC’s flipped words in new ways, and managed to secure a strong single in the tradition of G Rap and Tim Dog. Hard lyrics, a pounding beat from future "Ante Up" producer DR Period made this certified crack. Ten years later, now with Ice-T, Smoothe and Trigg stick to the same script. – Paine

"Whatchu Want" – Nine [produced by Rob Lewis]

A staple on BET’s Rap City, the video and sing-songy call-and-response chorus made this song a favorite among East Coast Hip-Hop heads. Shortly after the single’s release, Nine’s popularity waned. But for one year, everybody was spelling ‘murder’ backwards, and imitator’s vocal chords ain’t been right since. – Danielle Stolich

"Nod Factor" – Mad Skillz [produced by The Beatnuts]

Before Timbaland’s electro sonic blitzkriegs or the Neptunes bling sounds (sup Skateboard P?) a slight but deft rapper named Mad Skillz helped firmly establish VA on the rap radar. A nod must be given to the Beatnuts, who factored into the Richmond native’s success by expertly snipping Johnny Guitar Watson’s "Superman Lover" into an uptempo neck pain inducer. The result was Skillz proving Virginia is for rappers too. – Aqua Boogie

"Supa Star" – Group Home [produced by DJ Premier]

Hate on. But Melachi the Nutcracker and Lil’ Dap were good for a verse, or two or even three, here or there. Besides, this is Premier on the beat people. Premier. Your favorite rapper AND producer’s favorite producer. Opening with a soul intro before it was fashionable, it launches into a staccato chopped synth romp outfitted with door knocking kicks that made it a soundtrack to the streets. –Aqua Boogie

"West Up" – WC and the Maad Circle feat. Ice Cube and Mack 10 [produced by Crazy Toones]

Believe it or not, at one time, it was fairly simple to determine what part of the map an artist was from. Aside from the dead-giveaway in the title, everything about this song, from the addicting hook to the references to Dayton rims and hydraulics, oozed Cali swagger. From WC and the Maad Circle’s sophomore release Curb Servin’ "West Up" brought Dub C and his future partners Ice Cube and Mack 10 together to create an anthem for the West Coast and prelude to future disses that Westside Connection would hurl at the east. – Bill Zimmerman

"I Got 5 On It" – Luniz [produced by Tone Capone]

Before Puffy raped the 80’s loops heavy, Yukmouth and Knumskull snagged The Timex Social Club’s hit bassline and smoked a jam than would make Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson get down. This tribute to bluntin’ on a budget remains the duo’s best work. Likewise, the unified Bay remix laid a blueprint for geographic posse cuts that the South lives by ten years later. – Paine

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