The Year In Hip Hop: 1989

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-The golden era of hip hop has spawned many classic years in the 80's and early 90's, some of which tend to go slept on. While we look to years such as 1988 and 1992 as markers for the shift in hip hop, there are some years that truly set the tone going forward. 1989 would be one of those years. While far from a perfect year, this year took on some classic releases that we still champion today. Nothing could be more vital than a De La Soul in their prime dropping a "3 Feet High and Rising", Queen Latifah dropping "All Hail The Queen", Too Short dropping "Life Is... Too Short", Big Daddy Kane dropping his dope 2nd album, or my personal favorite of the year, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo's Road To the Riches.

1989 was something special to be honest, and we wanted to look back on it and give it the credit that it deserves. I'll let Porsha handle most of that now. Let's get into it.

Here is another year in hip hop that would serve to shape the genre and create a standard of quality and lyricism that would last the next two decades. 1989 saw quite a few album releases from the legends we already knew and loved throughout the eighties. These would be some of the most critical albums and would be deemed classics some years later. Amidst those legends, some artists would simply release a few feel good bangers that would get a whole lot of radio play and serve as nothing more than a nostalgic stroll into the past now. Here are my favorites in no particular order:

Ice-T, one of the most socially aware artists of the entire genre came with it, and those of us who were alive then remember this vividly. This was the year that Ice would release “The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say!". From the title to album art to the track list, this is the most powerful album of the time. Partnering with Afrika Islam on the production side, the album captures the beats, sounds and tempo so signature of the era. “Lethal Weapon” is one of my favorite tracks, and Ice is brilliant and drops a wealth of knowledge while addressing subject matter I would have never thought would be relevant 27 years later. I love the Rakim sample and despite having every bar and verse peppered with gems, the best is ending each with “My Lethal Weapon’s My Mind". Every album he put out has been revolutionary and impactful and this one is no different. Ice-T is largely (if not solely) responsible for integrating gangster rap into the west coast. The man is an absolute legend, a genius and this album is a perfect example of that!

DJ Premier and (the late) Guru come together to start the journey of the established group Gang Starr. This would be year they debuted with their release of “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, which turned out to be yet another classic this year. DJ Premier was still quite “new” to the game so he wasn’t seasoned and as a result, the production suffers a little bit in some way. It’s heavy on the jazz samples and scratching techniques, which isn't a bad thing, but misses sometimes. The track “DJ Premier in Deep Concentration” is to be noted because although Premo was still fresh in the game, this track epitomized the era and allowed him free reign on the tables. Lyrically this album was solid as Guru's delivery style, his voice and overall presence throughout the album made it fantastic. This debut is yet another gem in hip hop.

Another dope release would be EPMD's "Unfinished Business", just one year after their debut,  and these two proved that the "hip hop sophomore curse" missed them because this was another classic. Parish Smith and Erick Sermon have always known what they're good at and they deliver. On this release they give us the same high energy, funk filled amazingness we have come to expect. I think what made this such a notable album is that, they maintained their hunger, drive and momentum from the first one. Is it packed with profound lyrics and in depth content? Not really, but they did pack this with a ton of feel good laid back lyrics and beats. My favorite tracks are "Get the Bozack", "So Whatcha Sayin", and "The Big Payback". I absolutely love the production and these two are always fun. This album is such a highlight of the year.

This was also the year Young MC released "Stone Cold Rhymin" and this would be the only Young MC album I ever listened to and it's largely because of  "Bust a Move", which was the hit single. The hilarity of the lyrics is what made this resonate with me from "dressed in yellow she says hello come sit next to me you fine fellow" to "so come on fatso just bust a move" (I'm laughing just typing this), the lyrics scream 80's and that's why I enjoyed it. Young MC was much more mainstream and borderline pop than other artists I mentioned, but this album definitely took the year by storm. Everyone everywhere was rapping along to that track.

If I mention Young MC I have to mention Tone Loc who released "Lōc-Ed after dark", and everyone remembers "Funky Cold Medina" and "Wild Thing", which were in heavy rotation and got a ton of radio play that year. Once again, nothing of real depth on this album, but these were definite senseless storytelling tracks which added to the list of "must listens" that year. I was and still am a fan of both of these.

The ladies of hip hop were releasing some noteworthy albums this year as well. MC Lyte would release "Eyes On This" and Queen Latifah would release "All Hail The Queen". Both of these artists are among my favorite female MC's and with good reason. They are amongst the pioneers who paved the way for future females in a male dominated genre. Both albums have fantastic lyrics, delivery and flow. The production on both is great and both are incredible listens. I have an immense amount of respect for both of these ladies and they have to be mentioned as they are both legends of hip hop.

The albums, artists and tracks I mentioned are the reason why 1989 was such a great year musically. They gave us everything from feel good radio hits to in depth sociopolitical filled lyrics and fans were not disappointed. As I've mentioned in previous year in hip hop articles, the releases in the 80's were critical in the foundation of the golden era, 1989 was no different so these will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-As we said, 1989 was a big year and the releases from the year kept coming, from the BDP album ("KRS already made an album called Blueprint"), the classic D.O.C. album No One Can Do It Better, 3rd Bass and Beastie Boys holding it down for the lighter side of rap (figuratively and literally), to a new DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince record, this year really offered everything you wanted. The gangsta aggression, the social awareness, the party tracks, what sticks out about 1989 as a year in hip hop is that it's a reminder of what balance in hip hop can be and feel like. That's what's the most important part of 1989 as a year in hip hop. Balance.



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