Just because the rap universe took a few steps toward materialism and shiny suits, does not mean that Hip-Hop was not fully represented and in motion. The labels dominating Hip-Hop were shifting and artists were definitely becoming more open-minded. For the first time your favorite rapper wasnt afraid to test the commercial imits. For some reason (thanks Pac), almost every rapper wanted to release a double CD. Unfortunately Hip-Hop was growing more egotistical and soon wed tragically lose two of our most influential and promising MCs and artists. Soon enough their peers were either expressing homage to them or new artists were jacking their style. It seemed after years of successful rap groups came the emergence of the solo artist, along with the decline of the "shared" limelight. The solo careers of Big Pun, Jay-Z, DMX, Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes are only a few of the milestones that diversified the Hip-Hop scene.Reflecting back on the first time you heard Reasonable Doubt, The Score, or All Eyez on Me, or any other album that is forever etched in your mind, brings a sense of timeless nostalgia. In a last spin before we hit the 00s, we look back at 1996 to 1999.1996 High school friends Brian Brater and Jarret Meyer establish Rawkus Records. February 13, 1996 All Eyez On Me, one of the most anticipated Hip-Hop albums thrusts Tupac further into the limelight proving no one can blend street poetry, party anthems, vengefulness, and hope into an album like Pac. California Love, I Aint Mad Atcha, and How Do You Want It were a few of the big hits. February 13, 1996 - The Fugees, second album, The Score, multiplies their fanbase and gains them notoriety with monster hits like Ready or Not, Fu-gee-la and Killing Me Softly . Special attention is shed on the lyricist/songstress, Lauryn Hill (now Ms. Hill to you). [The Fugees "Fu-Gee-La"] In 1996 Roc-A-Fella Records is created by Damon Dash, Kareem Biggs Burke and Shawn Jay-Z Carter. March 26, 1996 With the animated video for Woo Ha!! Got You All in Check, Busta Rhymes breaks through with his solo debut, The Coming. May 20, 1996 After seven years of making us laugh we say goodbye to Will, Carlton, Uncle Phil and the rest of the family as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air airs its final show. June 1, 1996 Chris Rocks HBO comedy special, Bring the Pain certifies him as one of the funniest comedians of the 90s; Rock brought everyone to tears as he joked about everything from race, marriage, to the underlying difference between n****s and black people (the success eventually leads to his HBO show). June 18, 1996 - Duck Down Record's Heltah Skeltah drops their debut, Nocturnal. June 25, 1996 - Jay-Z releases his debut album Reasonable Doubt. July 2, 1996 The box office smash, Independence Day, skyrockets the acting career of Will Smith. Akinyele shows no inhibitions with his Put In Your Mouth EP. Although it certainly wasnt on radio rotation, Akinyeles Put in Your Mouth became an instant underground hit for its candid sexual lyrics. In 1996, Georgetown Hoya draft pick Allen Iverson was chosen to play for the Philadelphia 76ers. Although the aspiring rapper never released an album hes widely been criticized for his Hip-Hop image on and off court. July 2, 1996 - Nas drops It Was Written. Though it features If I Ruled the World with Lauryn Hill and production from Dr. Dre, the album disappoints many who expected Illmatic Part 2. Going down as one of the most viscious diss songs of all time, Tupac releases Hit Em up which spews accusations against Bad Boy Entertainment and makes other claims such as sleeping with Biggie wife, Faith Evans. July 29, 1996 Port Arthur, TX pioneers UGK drop their classic Ridin Dirty. August 27, 1996 - Outkast releases, ATLiens. Intrinsically different from the pimp, hustler chronicles of their debut album, ATLiens is still praised for its innovation and lyrical content. September 24, 1996 - The Roots release Illadelph Halflife which boasts smooth rhymes and jazzy beats. The video for What They Do poked fun at the standard materialistic formula for Hip-Hop videos. Danyel Smith becomes the first female Editor-in-Chief at VIBE magazine. After four years, Dr. Dre leaves Death Row Records and founds Aftermath Entertainment. September 7, 1996 In what many would say was a self-fulfilling prophecy, Tupac Shakur is tragically gunned down in Las Vegas following a Mike Tyson boxing match. His manager, Suge Knight was also in the car and suffers minor injuries; the rapper succumbs to gun shot wounds on September 13th. October 15, 1996 - Xzibit releases his debut album, At The Speed of Life. October 22, 1996 M.O.P. drops their sophomore effort Firing Squad which features production from DJ Premier. October 29, 1996 Wu-Tang dart thrower Ghostface Killah releases his own classic debut, Iron Man. Most give up trying to keep up with his Wallaby colors. [Ghostface Killah "Daytona 500"] November 5, 1996 Tupacs The Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory, which he recorded under the name Makaveli, is released and comes off as one of his most mature introspective albums to date. November 6, 1996 F. Gary Grays film, Set It Off about four female companions who decide to take matters into their own hands by becoming gun-wielding bank robbers is released, the film starred, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, and Blair Underwood. November 12, 1996 - Lil Kim drops her highly anticipated debut album, the raunchy Hardcore. November 19, 1996 - Teenage rapping vixen from Brooklyn named Foxy Brown drops her debut Ill Na Na. December 10, 1996 Redman drops his third album Muddy Waters. Reggie Noble is still a better rapper than you. December 30, 1996 Two Queens natives calling themselves, Capone-n-Noreaga (CNN) drop The War Report re-emphasizing a hardcore street tone to east coast rap.1997 January 28, 1997 - Camp Lo releases their fresh debut, Uptown Saturday Night. DJ Beni B establishes ABB Records. March 5, 1997 Rhyme and Reason, a documentary based on Hip-Hop and its rise to popularity is released and features Method Man, Biggie, Sean Puffy Combs, Dr. Dre and more. March 9, 1997 Another great one is lost when The Notorious B.I.G is shot and killed in Los Angeles. His double album ironically entitled, Life After Death was released 16 days later. July 2, 1997 - It would have seemed like Will Smith had a love for aliens as he once again stars in a science fiction hit, Men In Black. The soundtrack featured the radio friendly, Men in Black track by Big Willie himself. Russell Simmons' HBO show, Def Comedy Jam, ends after five years. February 1997 Before there was Chapelles Show, there was The Chris Rock Show which aired short comedic rants from Chris Rock and hilarious skits from 97-99 on HBO. May 1, 1997 After five years of tuning in to see the ridiculous antics of Martin, the show is canceled. Rumors surrounding the cancellation include sexual harassment claims from Lawrences co-star, Tisha Campbell, and also alleged drug usage which affected his acting. LL Cool Js drops 4,3,2,1 featuring DMX, Method Man, Redman and Canibus a standout from his Phenomenon album receives high praise and controversy; the songs original lyrics Which LL interpreted as a diss from Canibus sparks beef between the legendary rapper, and the verbally skilled newcomer.[Canibus "Second Round K.O."] A year after his death, two motion picture films starring the late Tupac Shakur are released, Gridlocked and Gang Related. Gone but not forgotten, two Biggie tribute songs are released, the Grammy nominated, Ill Be Missing You, with Puff Daddy and Faith Evans and the Loxs and Lil Kims, Well Always Love Big Poppa All eyes are on Sean Combs as releases Puff Daddy and the Family's No Way Out album. [Puff Daddy & The Family "It's All About The Benjamins"] Despite the immense success with The Score, The Fugees announce they are parting ways. May 20, 1997 - KRS-OnesI Got Next becomes his most successful solo album with Step into a World as one of the years biggest singles. June 3, 1997 - Wu-Tang Clan re-ups again to finally drop their sophomore album, Wu-Tang Forever. June 24, 1997 Chi-town verbal cyclone Twista known for his lightspeed rhymes releases what at the time was his most successful album, Adrenaline Rush. June 24, 1997 - Wyclef Jean releases his eclectic solo debut The Carnival. Hip-Hop fans now have another publication to choose from when XXL Magazine hits stands. July 15, 1997 - Missy Misdemeanor Elliot debuts with Supa Dupa Fly, quickly climbing up the charts attracting many fans with her unique, and up-tempo songs and creative music videos like The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), and Sock It to Me. July 28, 1997 - Company Flow releases their long awaited debut, Funcrusher Plus.[Company Flow "End to End Burners"] August 5, 1997 - Bone Thugs-N-Harmony release the double album, The Art of War, a creatively crafted effort; ironically the group worked both with Tupac and Biggie before both of their deaths. September 16, 1997 EPMD reunite to release, Back in Business, September 16, 1997 Riding off the success of his 96 album, Busta Rhymes When Disaster Strikes becomes an even bigger hit thanks to Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See and Dangerous. October 21, 1997 - The Firm, a short-lived rap group with Nas, AZ, Nature, and Foxy Brown release, The Firm: The Album. October 28, 1997 Under the wing of super producer, Sean Combs, Mase, a charismatic babyfaced rapper debuts the top selling album, Harlem World. November 9, 1997 It seemed like a long time coming when rapping pioneer, Rakim, finally released his first solo album, The 18th Letter featuring production by DJ Premier and Pete Rock. November 11, 1997 Mystikal drops Unpredictable, which features The Man Right Chea. November 24, 1997 R U Still Down? (Remember Me) becomes the first (but certainly not the last) Tupac album released after his death that was created using unreleased material. November 25, 1997 Will Smiths first solo album, Big Willie Style is released; the album was a commercial success thanks to songs like Miami, Gettin Jiggy Wit it and Just the Two of Us. Interscope drops Death Row Records and severs all ties. Death Row CEO, Suge Knight is sentenced to four years in prison1998 January 1998 - After four years, New York Undercover, a FOX police drama which drew many urban viewers for its Hip-Hop influence and raw reality ends. January 13, 1998 Money, Power & Respect, the impressive debut album from rap group The Lox is released. January 16, 1998 Half Baked, now a cult classic film starring Dave Chappelle, hits theaters. AllHipHop.com is founded by Grouchy Greg Watkins, and Chuck Jigsaw Creekmur and would become the top site for all Hip-Hop related news, interviews and all aspects of the Hip-Hop industry. In 1998 Def Jam was bought out by Universal Music Group. Its reported Russell Simmons received 100 million for his portion of the company. April 8, 1998 - The Players Club, written and directed by Ice Cube featuring a cast of Lisa Raye, Bernie Mac, and Jamie Foxx is released. May 12, 1998 Jay-Zs Streets Is Watching, a 60 minute film featuring his unreleased music videos hits the streets. May 19, 1998 Its Dark and Hell is Hot, the successful debut album from Earl "DMX" Simmons is released. June 2, 1998 - Master P who releases the multi-platinum double CD, The Last Don while at the same time shaping the careers of Mystikal, Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder and Mia X, among others, on No Limit Records. June 16, 1998 With his partner Capone incarcerated, Noreaga drops his dope debut N.O.R.E. What what![Noreaga "Superthug"] June 30, 1998 - Def Squad, comprised of Erick Sermon, Redman and Keith Murray update the classic Hip-Hop song, Rappers Delight, for their album effort El Niño. June 30, 1998 - The Black Eyed Peas release Behind The Front; no Fergie in sight... July 21, 1998 - Cam'Ron drops his debut album, Confessions Of Fire. Hip-Hop invades Forbes magazine as Russell Simmons, Puff Daddy and Master P, all appear on the Top Money Makers in Entertainment list in 1998. August 4, 1998 - After signing to Master P's No Limit Records, Snoop Dogg releases Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told. August 25, 1998 - Known as the album heard around the world, Lauryn Hill releases the acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, where the lyrical muse weaves immaculate rhymes and sophisticated vocals with sublime instrementation. September 8, 1998 Chris Tucker stars alongside Jackie Chan in the thrilling cop comedy, Rush Hour; the soundtrack featured the Jay-Z radio hit, Can I Get A... featuring Ja Rule and Amil. Spike Lees movie, He Got Game starring Denzel Washington and NBA star, Ray Allen as an estranged father and son pair bonded by basketball debuts in theaters. September 29, 1998 - OutKast releases the vibrant, highly acclaimed, Aquemini, which also grants the duo a five mic rating in The Source magazine. September 29, 1998 - Jay-Zs Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life is the album that introduces him to the mainstream circle earning the rapper five million in sales. Civil rights figure, Rosa Parks files a lawsuit against Outkast and LaFace Records for the song, Rose Parks which she claims uses her name inappropriately, though the lyrics dont mention Parks name directly. Eventually in 2004 the case was dismissed with no ruling. Coming straight from, the N.O, Cash Money signs a lucrative 100 million dollar deal with Universal making way for the careers of Juvenile, B.G, Baby and Lil Wayne. October 25, 1998 - Xzibit releases 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, which features "What U See Is What U Get." [Xzibit "What U See Is What U Get"] Sean John, a sportswear clothing line developed by Sean Diddy Combs is revealed. A little known rapper at the time, 50 Cent releases the single, How to Rob where he takes jabs at some of Hip-Hops most successful artists. August 25, 1998 - Ignoring the safe route Mos Def and Talib Kweli as Black Star release their self-titled debut album which featured thought-provoking, well versed lyricism with thumping beats. September 1998 Blaze Magazine, a Hip-Hop magazine and "spin-off" of Vibe Magazine launches. September 8, 1998 Canibus drops his debut Can-I-Bus? The album is panned by critics, Canibus blames Wyclef. September 28, 1998 - A Tribe Called Quest calls it quits after their final CD, The Love Movement. September 28, 1998 Blackout! the brainchild album of Method Man and Redman is released. [Method Man & Redman "Da Rockwilder"] October 7, 1998 Slam an intense drama about a relentless MC who must use his talents and wits to escape the bleak realities of his life is released. It stars Saul Williams. November 4, 1998 Belly, a film starring Nas, DMX, T-Boz of TLC, and Method Man comes out exploring the fast life of hustlers. November 10, 1998 Pete Rock drops his first solo endeavor Soul Survivor. Aspiring producers are still biting his steez. November 9, 1999 400 Degreez from Cash Moneys Juvenile is released, the album builds up to hit #9 on the Billboard 200 with Ha and Back that Azz Up. December 22, 1998 DMX drops his second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood becoming the second rapper after Tupac to have two number one albums in the same year. Big Punishers album Capital Punishment debuts launching his successful recording career; hed become the first solo Latino rapper to have a platinum selling album.1999 January 1999 - MF DOOM drops Operation: Doomsday on Bobbito Garcia's Fondle 'Em Records. February 1999 - Big L, an MC widely recognized and loved in the
underground for his clever manipulation of rhymes is shot and killed
near his home in Harlem. February 1999 Although nominated for awards, Jay-Z boycotts the 1999 Grammys stating that the award show unfairly ignores certain Hip-Hop artists and awards only mainstream names. February 23, 1999 - Backed by Dr. Dre, Eminems debut album The Slim Shady LP sells millions instantly gaining the Detroit rapper recognition with his off the wall humor, skilled lyrics and potent delivery. The Roots release Things Fall Apart which earns them far more recognition on the charts and in the music industry, eventually winning them a Grammy for You Got Me. March 28, 1999 Freaky Tah of the Lost Boyz is shot and killed after leaving a hotel in Queens. April 6, 1999 - Nas releases his third LP, I Am
Although it seems a little light for some it goes platinum and Nas recovers from the tepid reception of It Was Written. April 20, 1999 Mase reveals to the world and Hot 97s Funkmaster Flex that he is hanging up his mic and retiring to focus on religion (he releases his sophomore album, Double Up, on June 15th). April 25, 1999 - Roger Troutman best known for the classic 80s hit, Computer Love and who popularized the vocoder electronic sound that has been sampled by many artists was shot and killed in an apparent murder-suicide where his brother Larry shot Roger and later himself. May 20, 1999 - The brother comedy tag team, Shawn and Marlon Wayans WB hit show, The Wayans Bros., ends May 25, 1999 Slick Ricks The Art of Storytelling reminds everyone of his lyrical prowess when he drops his first album since his prison release; the album reached #1 on R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Nass second single off, I Am, Hate Me Now becomes controversial for the crucifixion scene of the music video. Originally Puff Daddy/Diddy is nailed to a cross but it is eventually decided that Nas will be in the crucifixion scene; the story spirals when the wrong version is sent to MTV for a video premier and Puffy consequently visits Steve Stoute, Nas then manager, and hits him in the head with a champagne bottle. Puffy is sued and the suit is eventually settled out of court. Joe Clair and Big Lez leave BETs Rap City and are replaced by Big Tigger; the show also becomes Rap City: Tha Basement Fat Joe, Mack 10, Ice Cube, Big Pun, MC Eiht, appear in Thicker Than Water, a survival film about two rival gang leaders who are trying to become music producers. The Hard Knock Life Tour with Jay-Z, DMX, Redman and Method Man, revitalizes the idea of the Hip-Hop tour Dr. Dre finally graces Hip-Hop with the multi-platinum follow up to 1992s The Chronic, The Chronic 2001. He manages to stay true his west coast roots with well produced beats, hard rhymes, hit singles and a heavy array of guest appearances. April 8, 1999 - The self-proclaimed pitbull in a skirt, Eve drops Let There Be Eve
.The First Lady of Ruff Ryders. Armed with a futuristic sound, The Neptunes start infesting the airwaves with recognizable songs like Kelis Caught Out There, Mases Lookin at Me, Noreagas Superthug, and Ol Dirty Bastards Got Your Money. Examining the experience as a female fan of the male dominated genre of Hip-Hop Joan Morgans book, When Chickenheads Come to Roost: My Life as a Hip-Hop Feminist, hits bookshelves. June 1, 1999 Off the heels of his Holla success, Ja Rule releases, Venni, Vetti Vecci becoming a top selling artist for Irv Gottis Murder Inc. Not too much singing on this album... October 12, 1999 Mos Def drops his Rawkus debut Black On Both Sides. October 19, 1999 Pharoahe Monch releases Internal Affairs. November 2, 1999 Lil Wayne releases his solo debut, Tha Block Is Hot. November 23, 1999 On the heels of his hit single Vivrant Thing, Q-Tip drops his solo debut Amplified, which features production from J Dilla/Jay Dee. Tip hasnt dropped an album since
December 1999 - Lance Un Rivera was stabbed in the chest at Q-Tips album release party. At the time Jay-Z was wanted for questioning, where he denied any involvement; he later pleading guilty, receiving a three years probation. December 21, 1999 DMX releases his third album, ...And Then There was X. December 27, 1999 - Sean Combs and then, girlfriend Jennifer Lopez are at a midtown Manhattan nightspot Club New York when shootings allegedly take place between Combs group and another group; the two later face gun charges but are later acquitted. Not the case for rapper Shyne. December 29, 1999 Jay-Zs drops fourth studio album, Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter.