The 90s have long been considered to be a crucial period in hip hop’s evolution; artists from around the globe revolutionized it into an international genre.
The 2000s also witnessed an array of groundbreaking artists hailing from the South, challenging a culture whose values and aesthetics had been heavily shaped by West Coast gangsta rap. These songs demonstrated an alternative take on genre through an emphasis on production techniques that made use of soundwaves while still honoring cultural references.
1. “South Bronx” by BDP
“South Bronx” was released as the lead single from BDP’s debut album Criminal Minded in 1987 and quickly became one of their most renowned tracks, paying homage to New York City’s South Bronx section. Since its initial release, “South Bronx” has become an essential piece of hip-hop culture since.
This album’s realistic depiction of life on the streets, complete with images of firearms on its cover, helped establish the gangsta rap movement which would later blossom in the 1990s and also established BDP’s distinct style: long-winded rhymes coupled with harsh and sparse beats.
KRS-One was known as an educator. This focus was evident throughout his music, such as on By Any Means Necessary by Boogie Down Productions which explored social issues affecting black communities.
“South Bronx,” composed as an instrumental track, became a classic of its day and is widely considered one of the highlights of this album. Subsequently adapted into song format by the group.
Lyrically, its lyrics acknowledge pioneers of hip-hop such as Coke De La Rock and Kool Herc who organized early parties; then dives deeper into specific aspects of its roots and history such as its link with South Bronx neighborhoods.
At first glance, many associate gangsta rap with violent and drug-fuelled street culture; however, BDP’s early work proved otherwise. Their open discussion of poverty, crime, and violence helped dispel any stigma attached to gang activity within hip-hop that had previously plagued it for years.
2. “People Everyday” by Arrested Development
Arrested Development first made an impressionful statement when they burst onto the scene in 1992, during a distinct era in hip-hop music. While gangsta rap dominated charts at that time, Arrested Development stood out with their emphasis on spirituality and peace. Their debut album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life Of was an unparalleled success reaching number 10 on Billboard 200 chart.
At an important milestone for hip-hop culture, The Roots won a Grammy for Best New Artist – marking the first time any rapper was nominated and making hip-hop an official genre. Also, many awards voters acknowledged hip-hop for being something worthy of consideration at these ceremonies.
“3 Years,” their debut record, is considered an iconic work of its time. It explores African-Americans’ struggles and features songs about revolution, unity, and humanity.
“People Everyday”, “Mr. Wendal”, and “Tennessee” all proved immensely popular singles off of it; while the entire album won critical acclaim. Even more notable at the time was winning Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics poll.
Though no longer considered one of the greatest rap albums ever made, this classic is still an enjoyable listen for people interested in discovering a more thoughtful approach to rap music. Additionally, it serves as a wonderful introduction for kids into this form of expression while offering them positive messages about its history and impact on society. Finally, it shows how music can help raise awareness about social issues impacting Black communities around the world.
3. “Impeach the President” by Milk Dee
“Impeach the President” by The Honey Drippers was one of those records that elevated a drum break into an unforgettable rock anthem, making a lasting impactful statement about American democracy and politics at large. Although its original release wasn’t chart-busting, its bootleg version with replica yellow-and-red Alaga label remains amongst some of the rarest records worldwide.
In many ways, this track was the result of pure coincidence. It had initially been produced by Roy C. for MC Lyte’s producer Roy C. who taught one live drummer to lift the hi-hat at specific points along a given pattern – an early technique utilized by legendary hip-hop drummer Marley Marl as part of his early experiments in sample culture.
Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O and Audio Two’s Milk Dee later collaborated on producing it; upon hearing its beat they immediately recognized that something special had occurred.
Over time, it became one of the most widely sampled rap tracks of all time.
This song’s title refers to a debate over Richard Nixon’s impeachment and can be either supportive or condemnatory of him – regardless of your point of view on impeachment, this classic remains timeless.
Although its production may not be as complex as some of the songs on this list, this track stands out for being an outstanding example of sequential break beat. Horns, bass and synths come together with tight drumming to form an unforgettable “sequential break beat.” Funk-influenced production such as this was popular during rap’s golden age in the late ’70s.
“Impeach the President” stands as an iconic piece of rap music from its time. One of its first recordings to ever appear in a DJ set and one of the earliest examples of sampled beats being used within a rap track, “Impeach the President” remains revered today as one of its timeless classics.
4. “Deeper” by Boss
Boss was an eccentric Detroit rapper whose infectiously energetic style attracted the notice of major labels. Her debut album Born Gangstaz became an instant classic and earned the prestigious gold record award in 1993.
Boss was soon working with Coco Budda (ne Ricardo Royal) from Texas and Houston. Coco’s second album Deeper than Rap was an instantaneous success selling 158,000 copies its first week alone; featuring music produced by one of hip-hop’s biggest talents Rick Ross who continues to produce quality material that resonates with both seasoned hip-hop enthusiasts as well as newcomers alike.
“Deeper” stands out among the many songs produced for this genre as one of the most engaging and exhilarating recordings ever created in this style. Produced in collaboration with DJ Dj Q, “Deeper” will surely remain one of the enduring classics that people talk about for decades to come – no other production value can rival its epicness on Earth!
5. “The Kid” by Prodigy
Following the success of their self-titled debut album, Prodigy continued to innovate through singles that showcased their rock-inspired dance music; “Firestarter” in particular provided the platform for their breakthrough in America.
Maxim Reality was recruited as the band’s MC during performances, adding an intoxicating sense of psychedelic rhythm that fit their music far better than the heavy metal-influenced sounds found on previous releases. Maxim’s presence proved essential to their renaissance as a hip-hop act.
As a result, they became embroiled in a media-fuelled East Coast-West Coast rivalry with Tha Dogg Pound and Mobb Deep’s “New York, New York,” starting with their release. 2Pac then dissed them further by featuring their song in his outro of “Hit ‘Em Up,” dissing their lyrics directly.
As one of the most iconic electronica bands ever, their live performances and lyrical skills made them one of the most influential bands around. Even today, their music still commands respect; just take a look at their recent tour, “Audio Virus”, where they revived classic songs “Colours,” “Run With the Wolves,” and “Thunder.”
Though he passed away recently, Prodigy remains one of the enduring figures in hip-hop history. Throughout his career, Prodigy often presented himself as fully transparent; speaking without filter or concern about putting on airs; and providing lyrics which touched every corner of culture as a whole. From solo work to performing with groups like Black Star or as one of many guest rappers at festivals – Prodigy was among one of most talented to ever pick up the mic.