The Year In Hip Hop: 1991

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-Black Sheep. De La Soul. Tribe Called Quest. Ice Cube. Main Source. Scarface. 2Pac. Naughty By Nature. DJ Quik. Run DMC. Geto Boys. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. MC Lyte. Queen Latifah. Ice-T. The soundtracks to Boyz N The Hood and New Jack City. NWA. Public Enemy. The year 1991 is criminally underrated in hip hop, but it is one of the seminal years that began the golden era of the 90's. Hip hop was more group centered at the time, and every group delivered on the album front during this year. The list of classics and solid projects from 1991 are extensive, so today, the team gathered to talk 1991 and the music from the year. Let's get into it.

Anytime I think about a year of the 90’s in hip hop, my heart breaks a little. It’s a reminder that I didn’t appreciate it enough while I was living it. I think 1991 is one of those years, as it’s only through the evolution of the genre that I have deepened my appreciation for each and every album in the Golden Era.  Although ’91 quantitatively didn’t have that many releases that I gravitated to, what did hit the shelves that year was memorable. Here are the ones I think are worth mentioning.

The beginning of the year would see GZA release “Words from the Genius”, and as a Wu fan this is a pretty profound release. For those who know their chronology, Wu-Tang hadn’t even debuted in 1991, and in fact, they weren’t even formed at the time of this release. However, this was a little 15 track gem. At the time, GZA was signed to Cold Chillin Records and issues with the label created a messy situation with the album and its release. I attribute that to the lack of excitement surrounding it. Production-wise "Words From..." Is lackluster, as it doesn't even come close to what we would see in "Liquid Swords" or any album thereafter. The lyrics outshine the production, which is great, but seeing as though this is GZA's very first release, he sounds young and unrefined. You can especially notice the difference if you listen to it side by side with his rhymes on "36 Chambers" or his following release. This album was a gift to 1991 because if nothing else, it was a precursor to upcoming years.

The best release of the year might be "O.G. Original Gangster" from a West Cost legend. That's right, Ice-T puts together an album that I believe shocked even him. This would be the 4th studio release and arguably his best work. I think there are 2 reasons for that:

1. '91 was a part of the transition period into more gangster rap being prevalent. It was different from his 3 previous releases and was EXACTLY what rap fans were wanting to hear about at the time.

2. Ice-T incorporates his anger and perspective at the time, social issues within the ghettos, and of course crude humor while delivering all of this with a storytelling artistry that would gain him immense recognition and praise. This album relies heavily on the thought provoking insight that Ice-T was living and seeing at the time in South Central. He chronicled his experiences and did it realistically and perfectly. This album will always remain a classic masterpiece.

I will never pass up the opportunity to highlight a release from my second favorite rap group of all time, A Tribe Called Quest. They released "The Low End Theory" in line with what Tribe was known for, as they brought jazz and Hip hop together flawlessly in their second studio album. It was this album that reaffirmed the smoothness and chemistry between Phife and Tip and did it in a 14 track perfectly balanced and well put together album. "Scenario", "Butter", and "The Infamous Date Rape" are among my favorite tracks, but truthfully each one is fantastic. When Tribe sets out to do something, it's always done well and this project was no different. They gifted the world with their genius and definitely made '91 memorable.

Another game changing release from the West was Ice Cube with "Death Certificate" and everything about this album is dope. I love that it's divided into the "the death side" and "the life side". I love that Ice Cube still had his aggressive, unfiltered momentum from NWA and from his debut. This was also the album that has "No Vaseline" on it. I don't know what it is about this particular diss track that i find so fascinating, but maybe it is because it was the very first rap beef I had exposure to. That track alone makes this album stand out. The others are like 19 cherries on top of a perfect delivered cake.

These albums are what make 1991 for me, although Tupac had a release, Leaders of the New School, Boogie Down Productions, and MC Lyte, which were great as well. All of these definitely played a significant role in the transition and introduction from synthesized beats and DJ scratching to gangster rap alongside dark classic sounding ones. Hip hop always delivers and this is where the golden era really started.

A year filled with N.W.A, A Tribe Called Quest, Scarface, and many more. There are some great albums in this year personally to me. The album that I always must play once throughout the day is “The Low End Theory” from Tribe. Those moving instrumentals are just addictive. The album is an essential for any new listeners to Tribe with Q-Tip’s excellent vocals. There was also Naughty By Nature’s debut album that was self-titled. A mashup of pop and rap made this album contagious when it released and I personally liked “Uptown Anthem” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” over their most popular “O.P.P”. This was also the year that 2Pac dropped his contemporary debut album “2Pacalypse Now”. It’s a dark album focused on racism, brutality, poverty, and it’s an eye opener about the world around us. Can’t forget about DJ Quik’s album “Quik is the Name”. Always a good listen. It’s not perfect, as he’s known as a producer more than lyricist, but he does a great job with the latter.

1991 was a pretty decent year in hip hop. Not a ton of gems, but we did get a couple of them. Death Certificate, The Low End Theory, Niggaz4Life, Breaking Atoms, We Can't Be Stopped, and Cypress Hill were all great albums released in 1991. I truly believe these albums started the golden age in hip hop, as 90's hip hop went on a tear, proving themselves as the golden age of hip hop, which ended around 1998. Jodeci also released a pretty good album in 1991, Forever My Lady. Overall, a good year for hip hop fans. A little bit underrated too.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-This year isn't the strongest like say 1994, 1996, or 1998 even, but this year is definitely in the realm of 1993, 1995, and such, with big moments throughout and classics. De La Soul Is Dead, Death Certificate (I think this is Cube's best album), The Low End Theory (I think this is Tribe's best album), Niggaz4Life, and a few others made this year a great one. 2Pac debuted, Black Sheep told you about the engine, engine no. 9, Main Source were Breaking Atoms, Cypress Hill held it down, Ice T put out one of his best, I can't say enough about this year honestly. It's hands down one of the most underrated years in hip hop, and should be appreciated as such.



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