The Year In Hip Hop: 1994

Introduction by @TrueGodImmortal

1994. Another classic year in hip hop to cover. With hip hop in the 90's, each year had a different feel to it. 1994 was like the rising of the East Coast and New York in many ways after Dre and Snoop had put Death Row in the driver's seat the previous 2 years it seemed. Today, the team gathers to talk about 1994 and everything that came from that year, artist and album wise. Let's get right into it.

1994 is a classic year. Duh, right? But, let's look at who dropped a project that year. We had OutKast's debut, BTNH's debut (as BTNH), Biggie, Digable Planets, UGK--fuck it, just about anyone you wanted/needed to drop a project in 1994 from that era? They did it and did it well. If we're still talking about these projects twenty-two years later, it may be true what "they" say in that "they don't make 'em like this anymore."

I would normally focus on BTNH  or UGK because Pimp C is king. But let's go a different route. Hammer. Yep, within this 1994 homage, we're doing a WIRTB. Why? Because 1994.

Hammer'd been a couple years removed from "Stop, Hammertime!" and such. It shows. So, what does a rap act in the mid-1990s do if they've fallen off from their late-80s/early-90s success? They do what Brand Nubian did and go "gangsta." And Hammer's 1994 The Funky Headhunter followed this path to...WTF results.

So, was it really that bad? What do you think? It's MC Hammer, who, one year later, went back to being family-friendly, rapping about "Pumps and a Bump" (seeing Hammer in a Speedo is a sight you probably can't unsee; plus some would argue that we got the meme "Pants on the Ground" from it). Also, through the production of this album, kind of, we got Deion Sanders' debut album. So...think about that for a second.

Bringing it back to the good parts of 1994, listen to those. Keep those in your memory. Wash out the stink of The Funky Headhunter or any other fails from the year. And by all means, stay away from the fails; they'll taint your memory.

Every time I tell someone that 1994 is my favorite year in Hip hop, it's almost always followed by "why? It's not even that great" and I'm dumbfounded. 1994 was an EXCEPTIONAL year in hip hop. This is easily and by far the best year to me. Let me tell you why: this is the only year that was pivotal and groundbreaking, not to mention this was the year that true legends made their debuts. Let me break this down.

Who knew 2 friends from Atlanta were cooking up something that would take the genre by storm. Outkast would emerge with "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik".  Now I know there were rap duos before Outkast that were amazing, but the reason why these two are legends is because with this album came an entirely different approach to rap. Big Boi and Andre pushed the envelope, redefined the norm and did in the most stylish and organic way. They incorporated soul-sounds, drums, singing, southern flavor as these two reinvented the sound and easily became pioneers in this regard. "Players Ball", "Crumblin Erb", actually all the songs are examples of this. This was an epic album and the first of many in their catalog.

Illmatic. Another debut and another groundbreaking release. Although this isn't my absolute favorite in Nas' catalog, I can recognize that it is a solid classic. The reason? This is the album that set the standard and would be used as the bar. Short tracklist, solid lyrics, story after story and an instant classic. Fast forward 22 years to present day and we STILL quote the lyrics found here, rappers still make failed attempts at replicating its greatness and it is STILL the topic of hip hop debates worldwide. This is ten tracks of pure genius, excellence and perfection. Indisputable.

How did hip hop fans get so lucky this year because we got yet another classic debut with BIG's  "Ready To Die". I can never do this album justice with words, but my feeble attempt is that this was the album that reinvented "gangster rap" and east coast sound. BIG's approach was different than Nas', he gave us songs like "Juicy" and "Big Poppa" as well as "Suicidal Thoughts" and "Everyday Struggle" to show versatility and range. From serious, dark lyrics to bangers, this album had it all and showed that you can incorporate real life struggles with real life fun. BIG became a powerhouse after this and an all time hip hop legend. Such a gem!!

Common. MANY try to be this man and none will ever come close. This year Common gave us his second album with "Resurrection". Why was this album such a big deal? Because Common was one of the first rappers to make a song about the true and genuine love of hip hop as a culture and the decline thereof. "I Used to Love H.E.R" was witty and clever and a testament to appreciating the purity of the art. Common also continued to give us elevated, intellectual and thought provoking songs throughout this album as "Book of Life" and "Nuthin to Do" are other examples. This album also gave us all time great tracks and lyrics and much like the others I've spoken about, are still relevant decades later.

Still feeding off the momentum of '93, when the hip hop world was blessed with the debut album of one of the greatest rap groups of all time. '94 proved to be a continuation of that with Method Man's release of his solo debut "Tical". DAR has already covered this album extensively, but why I'm mentioning it again here is because this was the first solo release of any Wu member and pivotal because it would start the releases of other members. Not to mention, this album was fantastic and had a solid tracklist. Also, to note, RZA (and Prince Paul) also produced and released "6 Feet Deep" by Gravediggaz. This was also a debut and brought a dark, deathly and grim edge to a Wu-Tang style. No other group brought this approach and it was definitely not for everyone. The rap styles, songs, lyrics and Wu affiliation made them noteworthy to any Wu-Tang fan and would give them enough drive to release a second album 3 years later. I personally loved the album.

I can't even hear the word "regulate" without thinking about Warren G. '94 was also the year Warren G would bless us with "Regulate..G Funk Era", which he produced himself and was very appropriately titled. He gives us a fantastic feel good album that truly embodies what "g funk" is. Warren G features Nate on here (amongst others) and the pair easily become fan-favorites worldwide. This laid the groundwork for many other upcoming albums of his and solidified the sound we could expect in other albums. Such a West Coast gem!

There are so many more albums and artists that were making projects this year and many of them continued with the importance of the year; Bone Thugs released "Creepin' On Ah Come Up", Slick Rick released "Behind Bars", The Roots had "From The Ground Up"... you get the point. The '90's truly gave us the best of the best, but without 1994, the '90's wouldn't have the reputability it does today. New styles, new concepts, new artists, fresh gave us everything! Any fan of rap HAS to give credit and recognition to the debuts and releases that happened in this year.

1994, another year full of some classics. You got albums from a bunch of big names like Nas, Outkast, Biggie, Gang Starr, Method Man, Warren G, Redman, Coolio, and more. My favorites from this year is Nas' Illmatic, Biggie's, Ready To Die, and Warren G's Regulate G Funk Era. Illmatic I don't even have to talk about, as that shit is just a perfect album. His storytelling, flowing, beats, wordplay, lyrics, just anything you can think of, it's amazing. Definitely a 10/10. Nasty Nas takes the best album in that year. Next is Ready To Die. Biggie is one of the best rappers to step in the game. His voice and his delivery is just amazing. This album starts with his birth and ends with his death and everything between is the life of the notorious gangster. "REGULATORRRRS"! Warren G's album is great honestly with some weak lyrics, but the production features and the G-Funk beats make up for that. No matter who you are, there's a song or two that everyone knows and/or loves off this album.

1994 is one of the greatest years ever for hip hop and to me is the greatest ever. 2 classic albums we all know about were released that year, and finally New York rap was taking off, as west coast at the time was slacking. Illmatic & Ready To Die are both two of my favorite albums ever, as we saw some of the best lyricism and production we'll ever see in hip hop. It is a very important year for hip hop because it produced two of the greatest rappers of all time and as well as one of the best producers ever. DJ Premier. The best to ever do it. Here are the most important albums of 1994.

Ready To Die 
Hard To Earn
Regulate... G Funk era
Resurrection (Common's album)

Hip Hop in 1994 was a part of that transition period. There was still a small hint of that 80s sound with a 90s blend. New artists continued to emerge with their own styles. Veterans kept putting out heat. Musically, it was a beautiful blend.

From the Beastie Boys to Nas, 1994 was a Hip Hop melting pot. We got work from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five as well as Big Daddy Kane. I was only 6 when these records were released, but I was always around music because of older cousins.

One project everybody could easily identify from 1994 is the Notorious B.I.G's debut album, Ready to Die. It was also the first release from Bad Boy Records and the only album Biggie Smalls would release while alive. His single "Juicy" still gets quoted word for word by Hip Hop fanatics everywhere.

When you hear "It was a clear black night, a clear white moon", you know it's because of Regulate by Warren G. The west coast native described his perception of gang life on that track. That album had a smoother approach to rap than other artists chose. Warren G was able to tell his story without going overboard. That's what made him cool to me.

After bouncing from the east coast to the west, this Georgia girl couldn't pass up an opportunity to discuss a southern classic. OutKast's debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, is a top ten project to me. Dismissing my bias, it's a solid compilation of sounds and lyrics. OutKast was just that in the music industry. With a war between east and west coast, the group stood on its own two feet. "Player's Ball" captured the essence of Atlanta that people were proud of. From there, they continued with a distinct style that separates them from the rest.

Outro by @TrueGodImmortal 
1994 is definitely a year that lives in hip hop history. With Outkast, Nas, Biggie, and more debuting, this year remains to be one of the greatest. No matter what your style of hip hop, 1994 had something for everyone. Have any thoughts about 1994 in hip hop? Post them below in the comments section.



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