The Year In Hip-Hop: 1999

In 1999...

Today, we start a new series on the site where we discuss a particular year in hip hop or R&B, and reflect on the greatness that was that year or the mediocre year in music that it presented. Today, our year of choice is 1999. Let's get started.

1999 was a critical year for Hip Hop. There was so much variety in the genre and it was almost overwhelming. Looking back, that year was one of the best of the 90's for music. From Silkk the Shocker to Project Pat to Eve, there was so much to choose from.

Hip Hop had evolved so much in that decade. 1999 gave us albums like Tha Block is Hot, The Anthology, Nastradamus, Born Again¸ ….And Then There Was X, plus much more. It was a time that this generation was really coming into its own and beginning to appreciate and claim which music was the best representation.

I was 11 that year, but my ear for music far exceeded my age. One album that I probably shouldn’t have been listening to was The Slim Shady LP because of its raw content. However, Eminem made his mark as an artist that couldn’t be duplicated and you can only respect that.

On a completely different side of the spectrum, The Roots dropped Things Fall Apart with the hit “You Got Me.” The group’s fourth album brought a sound that would extend through the 2000s. That sort of neo-soul, open mic type of feel became extremely popular and this was the key that opened the door.

Missy Elliott blessed the Hip Hop world with her second album Da Real World in 1999. She made an avenue of her own coupled with producer Timbaland. The album had features with Eminem, Aaliyah, Redman, Nicole Wray, Lil Kim, Da Brat, and more. My favorite track has to be “Hot Boyz.” This was one project that can be easily seen as a classic.

Speaking of Hot Boys, the Cash Money group dropped Guerilla Warfare with the single “I Need a Hot Girl.” It was released in July and certified platinum in November of the same year. These New Orleans natives can claim this album as their most successful one.

History often repeats itself because there’s nothing new under the sun. I believe Hip Hop is slowly getting its authenticity back. It’s just wearing different clothes. But 1999 is one of the best years in Hip Hop for my generation. Period.

1999, a big year in Hip-Hop. Eminem, Dr. Dre, Mos Def, MF Doom, Nas, RZA, Mobb Deep, Method Man & Redman, Kurupt, the late Biggie Smalls, and all sorts of other rappers released fantastic albums that year. This year is one of my favorites in hip-hop, it's the year that Eminem broke out with the album The Slim Shady LP, the year that Dre finally followed up the classical G-Funk album, The Chronic with 2001 or 'The Chronic 2" as some call it. With features from Em, Snoop, X, MC Ren, D.O.C. Hittman, and the great Nate Dogg, it was solid. Forgot About Dre, The Next Episode, Still D.R.E., are all memorable songs from this album. The Slim Shady LP however, is my favorite album from that year from my favorite rapper. Although 'Infinite' was technically his debut album, some would say The Slim Shady LP was his real debut album. This album is complete, it tells stories, gives what everyone wants lyrically, and just is a great album. Throughout Em's career, he raised hell with through his music and this album started it all. Doomsday, Black On Both Sides, Soundbombing II, all great albums that were released in 1999.

I'm going to be honest, when people mention 1999 and hip-hop in the same sentence, I think of 4 projects. They are Mos Def's amazing Black On Both Sides, Mobb Deep's Murda Muzik, Dr. Dre's 2001 and Method Man & Redman's classic Blackout! album. 1999 seems like an end of an era to me, according to many people my age, it's basically the last year in which old school hip-hop came out. The highest selling hip-hop album that year was DMX's And Then There Was X followed by 2001, Biggie's posthumous Born Again and then Nas' I Am. Honestly speaking, I haven't listened to too much of what came out in 99 and of the music that I did, Mos Def's album is the only project I can really discuss in detail. I think I can call 1999 as the year before mainstream hip-hop shifted its production formulas to the digital platform and less live sounding instrumentals. After 2000 so much bad music, production wise, started to come out, in my opinion. Not to dodge the fact that a lot of great music came out as well, but quality in general dropped. All in all, it was still a great year for hip-hop. To me, mainly because Mos Def released BOBS in that year.

I think it's safe to say that 90's in Hip Hop will always and forever be the greatest decade in the entire genre. It was just year after year of solid albums being dropped by the legends we know and (still) love. Creeping up to the very last year of the decade, Hip Hop fans weren't disappointed. 1999 had some very memorable releases and some that would go on to rank among the greatest.

It took me a while to really figure the best but here you have it and I think you'll agree...

Jay Z's Vol. 3 Life and Times of S. Carter dropped just before the end of the year and fans were not disappointed. This album had some solid tracks on it, "Big Pimpin'" would go on to be #18 on Billboard's top 100 songs. It would be Jay's most commercially successful track at the time and rank on Rolling Stone's top 500 greatest songs of all time. Not to mention Timbaland had a hand in production and UGK was featured, so we knew it would be great off top. Vol. 3 was fairly well received because it followed the trilogy well and still gave the fans the lyrical ability we love to hear from Jay and had a good mix of bangers, depth of lyrics and great beats. This album was definitely a highlight.

October of 1999, Tribe released The Anthology. This is easily my most favorite album released that year. Tribe did us all a favor and compiled their best, most legendary and classic tracks on one 17 track perfect little album. This was destined to be a favorite because you have all the crowd pleaser songs from their full catalogue. "Bonita Applebum", "Oh My God", "Electric Relaxation", "Scenario", "Can I Kick it?"...I mean I could go on and on. And just when you think it's already as good as it can get, they added Tip's "Vivrant Thing". I would be shocked if this didn't make everyone's cut that year. It's a flawless joint and an absolutely brilliant way to release a "greatest hits" album...I absolutely love the route they took with this. Anthology is truly the best title for this!

This genius Nas released two albums, one in April and one 7 months later in November. It's with good reason he's one of my all time favorites. "I Am..." (April 1999) would go on to be one of my favorite Nas albums because it's well put together. The storytelling in this is excellent ("Small World"), as with songs like "NY State of Mind Pt 2"- the beat against his lyrics and flow are just flawless. I absolutely love that he gives us another one after Illmatic. He partners with DMX to add a whole different feel on "Life Is What You Make it" and he doesn't stop there...Nas goes on to do a tribute track to 'Pac and BIG in "We Will Survive"...the track is a tear jerker for me and I appreciate this the most. This album has very few skippable tracks and is jam packed with gems. "I Am..." was definitely a highlight.

Nastradamus for me isn't the best album Nas has released and probably one of my least favorites, but considering he gave us a nearly perfect album just months prior, I give him a pass on this one. Nastradamus has some good tracks for sure, but none that truly stick out for me. As usual, Nas' flow and lyrics are great, but this album just didn't have enough heart for me.

I only picked 4 albums from 1999, but the year had PLENTY that are noteworthy. We were given a pretty solid amount of hip hop albums to satisfy our thirst as fans. I can't leave without at least mentioning the other artists that released dope albums: The RZA, GZA, Raekwon, U-God, Warren G , The Roots, Pharoahe Monch, Dr. Dre, Mos Def, EPMD and Red and Meth all gave us something and all had a hand in making 1999 a very successful and standout year in the genre.


The year I started over...sorta.

It was the year I first met True, but it was also the year I started getting more into more modern hip-hop. I mean, I was always into rap, but I was an old-school head at heart. One of the things that got me listening to more modern stuff was probably Timbo beats. Without those futuristic sounds, I probably wouldn't have left the pre-Shiny Suit Era until...well, when the Neptunes made it big, but that's beside the point.

1999 saw the rise of DMX, Jay Z, and more. It also saw a pretty polarizing album in Amplified, Q-Tip's solo debut. Like, it wasn't full on boombap Tip and Dilla, but it wasn't flat out mainstream wackiness, either. It felt almost like a parody of the times, but done so in a way that it still made its marks.

Those marks being that Tip could still spit, Dilla was a BEAST now and forever, and that "Vibrant Thing" would get stuck in everyone's head while making conscious rap fun. I think that's why Amplified stuck out to me. It, for the first time in a couple years, it made conscious rap and the like fun. It wasn't just black fists and underground beats. It captured, to a degree, what made me like the ATCQs, the Brand Nubians--hell, even the Public Enemies of the older days.

DMX dropped ...And Then There Was X which, while it featured one of the funniest DMX songs in "What These Bitches Want?," was a solid follow-up to X's first two albums. "Party Up," even with its diss record history, has become a staple of "goofy folks party" movies/scenes in movies (for better or worse). Meanwhile, the album was one of the most cohesive DMX albums.

1999 killed the shiny suits. So, thank you 1999.

1999. Ah. The memories. The year I met Apollo and Speed, the year that I watched Cash Money dominate like damn near no other. Ah, yes. 1999. DMX was on top of the world, Jay-Z was on top of the world, there was balance throughout the world of hip hop too, as Mos Def and The Roots would release classic albums that year as well. It seemed as if 1999 was one of the last years for tremendous balance in hip hop. Everyone was a lyricist in their own right. Different levels of lyricism, but everyone was dope, even the commercial artists were solid. A lot of albums dropped in 1999 that I enjoyed, one of which I think is incredibly slept on, which is the Pharoahe Monch album "Internal Affairs". The album is  solid body of work, as is Nas' "I Am" album, but it tends to go overlooked because it wasn't on the level of his first two classics.

Mobb Deep would release a near classic in Murda Muzik, while Mos Def and The Roots respectively dropped "Black on Both Sides" and "Things Fall Apart". I believe there's something to be said about a year where you have DMX, Jay, Mos, Roots, Monch, Mobb, and many east coast favorites dropping jewels, while Dr. Dre put out an album after a 7 year hiatus, Snoop attempted to get the feel back, and Eminem got introduced to the world. 50 Cent had his first moment in hip hop really with the controversial "How To Rob", and there were plenty of other artists who would release solid projects and songs, like Kurupt and Raekwon.

My favorite project of that year personally?? It would be between Mos Def's album and The Roots, with Dr. Dre's year ending 2001 album a distant third. There's so many to choose from however, that you can't go wrong with any of these albums truthfully. What are your memories of 1999 in hip hop? Reflect with us and post your comments below.



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