The Year In Hip Hop: 1995

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-There are some years in hip hop that can be seen as underrated. In the 90's, we tend to champion years like 1994, 1996, 1998 and perhaps 1992(we'll get to that one later) as the top years in hip hop during the decade, but one of the most slept on years in hip hop history remains 1995. From the albums released to the start of the East Coast vs West Coast beef to the iconic Andre 3000 statement of "The South Got Something To Say", there were so many great moments in 1995. Let's take a look.

1995 is honestly a year that I'm not too familiar with. I only know and listen to a few albums out of this year. It is a big year though with lots of releases, starting with Wu-Tang members GZA, ODB and Raekwon releasing solo albums. Goodie Mob released an album, Mobb Deep, 2Pac, E-40, Big L, Bone Thugs, Coolio, and Tha Dogg Pound. There's only a few albums that stand out to me. All 3 of the Wu-Tang members' solo albums, and Big L's albums are the only ones I really like from this year. Mad respect to 2Pac, but I don't like listening to his music. Let's start with Raekwon's album, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx". Amazing album, flow, beats, lyrics, features, and everything just makes it a complete album. Ghostface is featured on almost every track. ODB's debut, "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version", and if you know ODB you already know how this turned out.  This album was awesome, as his little singing/rapping thing he does is just great, along with awesome beats as always, just an overall great album.

“Any artist out there that wanna be an artist, stay a star, and won’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos, all on the records, dancing—come to Death Row!”

Who remembers this?! I do, albeit vaguely, and without realizing until later why this would be so incredibly significant. Those were Suge’s words at the Source Awards in ’95. This would be the year that the East-West coastal rivalry would be at its height. Tupac was in jail after being shot, Suge would (later) bail him out, Biggie, Puffy and Bad Boy were being “blamed”, the media was in a frenzy covering absolutely everything all the time and basically hip hop was a mess. However, what I do know is amidst this hoopla of drama, my favorites and some of the rap legends were getting ready to release some very very amazing albums that would easily be considered classics. This is always my favorite part, so lets take a look at what I consider to be unmatched albums that year!

I think it’s only appropriate to start off the best albums with none other than ‘Pac. This was the year of “Me Against The World”. Now this is widely considered a classic album, I don’t agree, but I will say it is great, definitely above average and of course noteworthy.  This was the album that gave the world “Dear Mama”, easily the most heartfelt rap song of all time, but this comes as no surprise because this album is just that, with Pac at his most emotionally raw, genuine and personable. The tracklist is reflective of that  “So Many Tears”, “Lord Knows” and “Young Niggaz” are perfect examples. Anyway you look at it, Tupac delivered his poetic ability, his lyrical ability and his heart on this album. Definitely a highlight in ’95.

The Wu!! 3, that’s right, THREE solo album releases that year, 2 of which I rank on my top 10 list of all times. Ol’ Dirty Bastard would release “Return of the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version”, which once again has been covered in detail by DAR, so I won’t go into detail, but I will say, it was a fantastic album and a true extension of “Enter the 36 Chambers” as ODB nailed it with this. A few months after ODB’s solo, Raekwon drops “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”, and this is my all time favorite hiphop album ever. It had everything, martial art movie clips, Rae’s brilliant lyrical ability and track after track of amazing beats and songs. This was the album that gave us “Wu-Gambinos”, “Incarcerated Scarfaces”, “Rainy Dayz”, “Verbal Intercourse”, “Ice Cream” and of course “Can It Be All So Simple”, and that’s really just a few. There was a nice incorporation of all the Wu members throughout and of course RZA on production (with a couple others) really made it a perfect masterpiece. (DAR also covered this album in a “vs.” piece so definitely give it a read). Needless to say, between ODB and Rae the fans were satisfied, but then RZA did it again, as GZA releases “Liquid Swords”, another classic and another perfect album with Wu style beats and this one, solely produced by RZA. Everything that went into production highlighted GZA’s amazing lyrical ability and flow. The fans were truly in awe. My personal favorites on this one are “Liquid Swords”, “Duel On The Mic”, “4th Chamber”, “Shadowboxin” and “B.I.B.L.E”. There is never enough I can say about the Wu members except that ’94-’95, the Clan was unstoppable and unmatched and truly were hip hop powerhouses.

Another one of my favorites and easily one of the most underrated rappers ever, I would even go as far as to say he’s New York’s best kept secret who manages to stay under the radar, AZ. 1995 was the release of his debut “Doe Or Die”, although we would have first heard AZ on Nas’ Illmatic album, this was a whole entire album of great tracks. AZ is the “mini-Nas” to me as his storytelling abilities, flow and wordplay are quite similar. If you want to hear a side by side of the two, AZ made it easy for us, as the tracklist has Nas as a feature a couple times throughout: on the intro and then “Mo Money, Mo Murder, Mo Homicide” and “Gimme Yours”, also, he has Pete Rock on production, which was a fantastic decision. AZ also nails the samples, as we get Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, James Brown, come on, this album was destined for success and it was great. Often compared to Illmatic and OB4CL in some way, fans loved this!

I can never do this next rapper justice with words, but towards the end of the year, the lyrical genius and utter gem known as KRS-One would release his second solo album which is self-titled. This album has everything we love and know we can expect from him. He features Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, and Das EFX amongst others, so this one comes with a different approach, which is great. He still keeps his lyrical abilities intact. The elevated, forward thinking KRS is still laced in each track, but he throws DJ Premier on production for a couple tracks, “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”, “Wannabemceez”, which of course are amazing and he samples Isaac Hayes, Eric B & Rakim and even Prince I believe. No wonder the success of this album was good, as it only hit no. 19 on Billboard's Top 200 albums that year, but hit number 2 on the Hip hop album charts. KRS-One can do no wrong and whenever he releases an album, it’s guaranteed to be a dope year. I was not disappointed.

It doesn’t stop there, ’95 continued to impress. Other releases that year came from Bone Thugs with “E. 1999 Eternal” which was crazy, The Roots would release “Do you want more?!!?”, Big L, Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, LL Cool J all had this year was stacked and absolutely filled with brilliance and track after track of Hip hop greatness. It's no secret that '94 is the most integral year in hiphop, but '95 isn't far behind.

1995 yet again is one of the most incredible hip hop years ever. EVER!! So much great music released by tons of artists.  A very versatile year with classics that are still played and brought up to this day 21 years later. One of my favorite albums ever, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, was released this year. I wish this album got the attention The Big Picture got. It's so much better man. Everything about it was perfection. There's not one flaw in my opinion. Not one. Another album we got this year was OB4CL. The greatest album to ever be released by a Wu-Tang member. Fantastic production with some of the best lyricism I've ever heard. And how can we forget about Tupac Shakur's best album, Me Against The World? An album full of powerful messages with phenomenal production and of course great flow and lyricism displayed by Tupac himself. These 3 albums are the best albums of 1995, all perfect. Here are the most important albums of 1995:

Me Against The World
Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous 
Do You Want More?!!!??!
The Infamous 
E. 1999 Eternal
Doe or Die
Liquid Swords
Str8 Off Tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton 
Gangsta's Paradise
99 Ways to Die

Outro by @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, 1995 was simply a year of greatness. My personal favorite album from the year? Pac and Me Against The World. That album is easily his best and most focused album, and I still play it regularly, especially "Lord Knows", "Temptations", and "It Ain't Easy". My 2nd favorite album of the year personally? Goodie Mob with that classic Dungeon Family music in Soul Food, their debut album. We discussed this album before, but it's a classic. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved all the Wu albums this year, and I think OB4CL is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. I enjoy Liquid Swords a lot as well, and of course ODB came through with a great album as well. One album that hasn't been discussed as much by the rest of the team however that I love is Mobb Deep and The Infamous album. That album is top 5 on the year and truthfully another one of the greatest hip hop albums ever. Bone Thugs had a classic album release this year as well which pushed them to new heights, but another personal favorite of mine from this year comes from the West Coast collective The Pharcyde, and their classic LabCabinCalifornia album, which was their evolution from the previous "Bizarre Ride...." project. It remains one of my favorite albums to listen to still, and Dilla/Jay Dee providing his production to this album only made it greater.

Now, as popular as DJ Premier was during the 90's, a topic of conversation is that his best beats came on the Group Hoke album Living Proof, which was released in 1995 as well. Whether or not that's true, it's really all opinion. AZ put out Doe or Die, Big L made his debut, Mystikal put out an album as well, DJ Quik released Safe and Sound, not to mention the film Friday had a dope soundtrack. 8Ball and MJG dropped a heater, Junior Mafia released Conspiracy, and the list goes on and on. 1995 is a classic year in hip hop and sometimes it doesn't get the credit it deserves.



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