Hip Hop Music From the 90s

The 90s was a time of East Coast-West Coast rivalry and innovation in production techniques and musical influences, from neo soul to nu metal music – this list of 90s hip hop music features some of its key tracks from this decade.

This track from LL Cool J is an outstanding example of rapper/producer collaboration and stands as proof of his legendary ability to engage the masses.

Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagon

Kool Keith reached his post-Ultramagnetic MCs peak with 1996’s Dr. Octagonecologyst album, featuring off-kilter lyrics with production that suggested an acid trip gone bad. World champion turntablist DJ Q-Bert’s skilled scratches set the scene for Keith to explore preposterous and often prurient prose over beats that pulled from sources as diverse as Bartok and Pachelbel, Orson Welles’ interpretation of War of the Worlds, and The Jetsons; making this album instantly an instant classic.

Over two decades later, it remains strangely unique in a music landscape where genres are increasingly fragmented and homogenous. This achievement speaks volumes for Keith and producer Dan Nakamura (known by his stage name Automator). Together they collaborated on several albums – Keith’s First Come, First Served and Dr. Dooom 2 among them – but Moosebumps: An Exploration into Modern Day Horripilation marks their first reunion since they started this project together.

This resulted in a dark, haunting collection that features growling synthesizers, discordant whines, robotic beeps and bloops, and dissonant vocals from Keith. Although its mood may be grim, however; its lyrics offer glimpses into what may be going on beneath the surface; upon repeated listens Keith’s unique wordplay shows up as subliminal frames cut from film reels revealing hidden frames within frames cut into film reels – with five previously unreleased songs helping expand on this narrative Moosebumps! The deluxe edition also comes equipped with five previously unreleased songs to expand on this narrative!

The Hot Boys’ “We On Fire”

This classic is beloved for multiple reasons. Not only is it an iconic 90s party song, but also showcases how hip hop in the 1990s could draw influence from Black music of past generations to create something completely fresh and original. Additionally, its use of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” as a sample illustrates that this new genre was conversing with Black music from past decades in order to remain relevant today.

Will Smith first found fame as part of Nice & Smooth, his longtime musical duo with friends since childhood since childhood. Their hit summer anthem with smooth bar delivery by both members, with cadences and flow patterns constantly shifting, made this hit an enormous success in the 1990s. Furthermore, its beat perfectly displays how producers at that time used guitar loops and melodies to add texture and hookiness into their productions.

Windy City MC Erule employed an altogether unique style when rapping about his pursuit of women in this early 90’s track from Windy City. He combined fast vocal style, funk samples, and an eerie synth to give it an almost otherworldly sound that made this track truly unforgettable.

After this song, The Hot Boys would become well-known for their lifestyle of celebrity hood celebrityhood and all its trappings; but “We On Fire” showcases that they also had a more playful side to their music that provided an ideal juxtaposition to their more serious lyrics.

LL Cool J’s classic album included one of its highlights – his tribute to his favorite weed strain. This catchy chorus and catchy synth/funk samples give this track an timeless quality; further proving how this new rap genre made waves by emphasizing more humorous elements than dark and violent themes.

Group Home’s “Livin’ Proof”

In the 1990s, three regions defined hip hop: New York, the West Coast and Atlanta. Producers like Gang Starr were at the forefront of boom bap music with tight drum-kick and snare patterns, gritty urban narratives and unparalleled lyrical dexterity; then on the West Coast came funk influences and social commentary like Public Enemy’s “911 is a Joke” from Fear of a Black Planet album by Public Enemy that attacked Hollywood exploitation, systemic police brutality as well as sociopolitical issues like these; while Georgia produced greats such as Big Boi and Andre 3000 who plotted creative musical futures from Rico Wade’s mother’s basement.

Livin’ Proof is an iconic golden-age hip hop track. It blends street life with dreamlike nostalgia for an uncertain past, while being produced with minimal synths allowing Lil’ Dap and Melachi The Nutcracker of Group Home (Lil’ Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker) to rap their verses without reference to current surroundings.

Busta Rhymes’ voice propelled him into stardom with its tongue-twisting flow and playful delivery; at this same time Cypress Hill began its breakthrough as it introduced gospel-influenced soul sounds into their distinctive g-funk soundscape.

DJ Premier’s beat is an ideal complement to the aggressiveness of this track’s MCs. His deliberate use of sloppy rhyming, an apparent nod to city living that this beat encapsulates, created an album destined to become classic status. Unlike Pete Rock who gave good beats to less-than-stellar performers (though this was somewhat true at that time). Instead, Premier made sure his great beats complemented some of the greatest performers available at that time – as witnessed here!

W.C.’s “Pay Ya Dues”

The 1990s marked an era of groundbreaking innovation within hip hop music: new production techniques, musical influences from different genres and artists whose art combined humor with socially conscious subject matter. Many of the best hip hop songs produced during this era incorporated samples from past generations and updated them for modern hip hop, making the 90s an unparalleled period for groundbreaking innovation within this art form.

Rapper W.C.’s blistering indictment of studio gangsters and thug-posturers who pursue fame without paying their dues ranks among the most significant hip hop songs of our time. Set against an atmospheric beat reminiscent of Prince’s drumming cassette recording, his late MC serves up an anthem for fair play that defends culture against those seeking to exploit it for financial gain.

Raekwon’s classic album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx features Wu-Tang Clan members as featured MCs; Raekwon himself can be heard rhyming over its mellowing beat, providing one of the greatest hip hop tracks from the 90s.

Lil Kim’s debut big hit displayed her effortless lyricism and swagger, setting the foundation for what would become one of the most influential female rappers ever. Its video depicted two riders riding up and down escalators at World Trade Center towers was one of its most iconic images from that era.

Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) were an example of underground hip hop artists finding mainstream success through unconventional themes. Their song “Definition” featured pleas against violence promoted by so many rappers, and found an audience which helped propel Rawkus Records into indie darling status. Furthermore, its sample from Aretha Franklin’s 1965 hit “Everyday People” demonstrated how hip hop could still speak about Black music from previous generations.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”

Biggie’s gritty lyrics were softened by producer Lil Wayne’s smooth production to produce this seductive track, showing how the genre was evolving during the 90s. Other non-rappers even dabbled with it; Katy Perry even included rapper Juicy J in one song called “7/11.”

Tupac Shakur’s tribute to mothers who raised children without fathers reminds us how blessed our families are, making this track from his classic album Ready To Die essential listening for hip hop enthusiasts.

Stevie J and Puff Daddy helped The Notorious B.I.G make his hit single “Mo Money Mo Problems,” an example of hip hop being used as a medium to discuss social issues through song.

This song’s title pays homage to rap music’s entrance into mainstream culture, serving as an anthem for young people trying to navigate city life while remaining true to themselves and their beliefs. Furthermore, its music video should not be missed by fans of rap.

This LL Cool J anthem captures the aura of a hardened hood legend and was one of his biggest hits of his era. It served as the ideal soundtrack to Spike Lee’s 1989 movie Do The Right Thing with its use of samples and potency of message resonating deeply within its structure; today its presence reminds us how potency the genre was back then as well as continuing popularity today; its remastered version premiered May 21, 2021, what would have been LL’s 49th birthday had he been alive to experience its premiere then.