By Rashad D. Grove
(AllHipHop Opinion) The scene of rap music was changing in 1998. There were shifts taking place that would signal that Hip-Hop was about to undergo a transformation. After the tragic losses of both 2Pac and The Notorious BIG in 1997, there were veterans and up and comers who were seeking to claim their rightful seat at the table. As Hip-Hop music was preparing to become a global force and the new singular expression of pop culture, September 29th, 1998 was game changer for the culture.
September 29th, 1998 is greatest day in the history of Hip-Hop. It was the culmination of an incredible year of album releases that would come to define Hip-Hop as a national culture with new, diverse voices from across the country, collapsing all the regional boundaries that were in place. The day featured albums that would coincide with the changes that were happening in Hip-Hop that we still feel today.
Marcy Projects own Jay-Z dropped Vol 2 Hard Knock Life with his eyes set on finally cracking into the mainstream. The dynamic duo from Atlanta, Outkast, had high hopes of taking their music to another level with alternative experimentation on Aquemini. Since their breakup almost 8 years before, all the original members of Brand Nubian reunited to release Foundation. Master’s P’s No Limit Records continued their dominance in the game from their base in New Orleans and released the compilation Mean Green. Two underground lyricists from Brooklyn collaborated to release Most Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star. Lastly, one of the most acclaimed groups in Hip-Hip history, A Tribe Called Quest gifted to the public their “swan song,” The Love Movement. Noted photographer Gordon Parks captures the essence of the day with his photo in Harlem, a day of unity, with a plethora of Hip-Hop artists that graced the pages of the XXL magazine.
The quality and quantity of music that was released on September 29th is mind-blowing. Hip-Hop was crossing boundaries to give the culture a brand-new national identity. This moment ushered in Hip-Hop as suitable not only in the underground for purists but acceptable to the mass-market, for better or for worse. On this day, artists from New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans dropped albums on the same day, a foreshadowing of Hip-Hop’s growing influence outside of its birthplace.
20 years later, September 29th, 1998 is still a day that holds much significance. Jay-Z took his first foray into the realm of pop culture and became a global superstar eventually selling 5 million records. Outkast produced another magnum opus, the best album in their diverse cannon, and it gave even more credibility to the growing Atlanta Hip-Hop scene. Black Star was a landmark project and because of it, both Mos Def and Talib Kweli would enjoy high levels of success as solo artist. Brand Nubian reintroduced themselves to a new audience and their single "Don't Let It Go to Your Head" peaked at number 54 on the Hot 100 becoming group's highest-charting song. No Limit’s compilation Mean Green proved to be a success eventually going platinum. A Love Movement, the fifth and final album by A Tribe Called Quest went gold selling of 500,000 units.
There has never been a day quite like it since. It spoke to the different areas of the country where innovative expressions of Hip-Hop were emerging, new voices were making a name for themselves, veteran emcees were making comebacks, and a legendary group were riding off into sunset.
The day reflected the entire year, one of the best ever in Hip-Hop. It was an indication of how the culture was changing and the way how music was consumed was forever altered.
Without the technological advantages of streaming, these moments of going to record stores to purchase a CD, reading the albums reviews in the various publications, were the equivalent of a social media event today. The surprise factor of releasing music at any time on the numerous streaming platforms today has replaced the anticipation of waiting for Tuesdays to come to purchase the latest music. Because of the fast pace of music today, we no longer have the luxury of sitting with the albums and appreciating the work that was created.
On September 29th, 1998, Hip-Hop proved it could be culturally significant and commercially viable. It was a launching pad for all the artists who released music on that day. Five great bodies of work all released on the same day was a feat that is unlikely to be repeated.
As we look back, you won’t find a more monumental day for the culture that we’ve come to love. This day ushered Hip-Hop into new millennium. On this day Hip-Hop asserted itself as the greatest genre of music.