DAR Hip Hop: 9 Classic 90's Hip Hop Albums From The Midwest

By @TrueGodImmortal

Hip Hop has always been important in terms of the regional differences and distinct sounds. One region that has always been slept on over the years is the Midwest. Sure, the East Coast ran rap for years, the West Coast had it looked for years, and the South now have it locked for the most part, but the Midwest had something to say. With artists from Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, and more, the Midwest hip hop scene has always made some noise in the mainstream and beyond, but today, I wanted to go back to the 90's for a second. In the golden era of hip hop, what Midwest hip hop albums were special? Let's take a look at 9 amazing hip hop albums from the Midwest during the greatest decade of hip hop, the 1990s.

*Twista- Adrenaline Rush (1997)

-Chicago has given us so many legendary rappers, but the most underrated of them all remains Twista. The fast flowing lyricist is one of those artists that has always maintained quality and consistency, but the masses won't mention him in the same breath as Lupe, Kanye, or Common, and that's unfortunate because Twista is one of the best to ever do it from there. With his first album gaining some attention and his second album only being locally released, Adrenaline Rush would serve as the breakout album for Twista. With his frequent collaborator The Legendary Traxster handling the production, Twista would create an album that would do mafiaso rap better than 98% of the other artists who were utilizing the style. For an album that had minimal promotion, Adrenaline Rush going gold is a huge victory and with tracks like "Get It Wet", "Emotions", "Death Before Dishonor", "Overdose", and "Mobster's Anthem", it's clear that this album is special. Adrenaline Rush is one of the greatest albums out of Chicago and the Midwest period.

*Common- Resurrection (1994)

-I mentioned Common twice on this list and you'll see the other album I selected shortly, but there is no way you can have a Midwest list without his first classic featured. Working with No I.D., Common would craft a gem of an album that would feature alternative and jazz hip hop sounds, and a bit more introspection than his debut provided. The album is split up into two sections, with the East and West of Stony being the driving chapters. Stony Island Avenue is the inspiration for the two sections, a street in southside Chicago where Common is from. Within this album are some of the best Common verses, as tracks like "Book Of Life", "Nuthin To Do", and "Thisisme" showcase the lyrical strength of the Chicago wordsmith. The biggest song here of course is the all time classic "I Used To Love H.E.R.", which put Common in the hip hop history books as one of the best to ever do it and one of the most important storytellers of our time. Resurrection is in many ways the breakthrough Common album, and it is easily one of the most important albums from the Midwest, not just in the 90's, but period.

*Da Brat- Funkdafied (1994)

-You could be forgiven if you thought that Da Brat was from Atlanta due to the So So Def connection, but of course, she is 100% Midwest. With that being said, her debut album doesn't completely have the Midwest sound, but is rather a mix of sounds that range from boom bap to G-Funk. This album is a pioneering album for women in hip hop, as Brat would become the first female solo act to go platinum and it was well deserved. With the title track serving as the lead in to the album, Brat would give us gems like "Fa All Y'all", "Fire It Up", "Ain't No Thang", and of course "Give It To You". While her impact goes underrated now, in 1994, Da Brat was the queen of female hip hop and she was represnting the Midwest making it look all too easy.

*MC Breed- The New Breed (1993)

-The Michigan MC was one of the first artists to break out in that area and he would craft his best work in 1993. He would experience success with two singles off the album, which would crack the top 20 of the rap charts. The hit single "Gotta Get Mine" featuring 2Pac is the most notable track from the album, while the second single "Tight" also garnered some attention. The album would boast a second feature from Pac on "Comin' Real Again", as well as solid tracks like "Just Another Clip", "Conversations", and "Flashbacks". Breed would bring a Midwest swing to gangsta rap and he's severely underrated by the masses in terms of Midwest hip hop.

*Bone Thugs N Harmony- E. 1999 Eternal (1995)

-Of course, Bone Thugs would be a catalyst for a movement in hip hop, as their utilization of harmony in their raps made them stand out from everyone. I started to include their debut EP on this list, but they are interchangeable in a way. For me, this is the true classic in their catalog, and the numbers reflected that as well. Following the loss of Eazy E, Bone Thugs would regroup with this album and experience huge success in the aftermath. The biggest single here of course is the all time classic "Tha Crossroads", but there is a lot on this album to enjoy. My personal favorite track is the hit single "1st Of Tha Month", as the production and the way every verse is executed rings of perfection. I think it's the perfect Bone Thugs song. Aside from those two hit singles, there are classics like "Mo Murda", "No Shorts, No Losses", "Mr. Bill Collector", and "Buddah Lovaz". All in all, Bone Thugs would see their star power rise and their place in hip hop history solidified with this album, selling 6 million copies in the United States and nearly 11 million worldwide. Bone Thugs became international stars as a result of this album, and because of that, this might be the most important album from the Midwest during the decade.

*Crucial Conflict- The Final Tic (1996)

-I remember this group. They were different at the time and despite not being the greatest lyrically, they had something special in their music that made me a fan. Their style was hard hitting and catchy, and this entire album was self produced by member Wildstyle. Their music was mostly weed inspired, which worked well with the gangsta style implemented throughout. They would strike gold with their first single "Hay", which is essentially the claim to fame for the group. The call and response style hook was infectious and pushed this album to sell over 600,000 copies making the group a success. Outside of this, the album would boast a number of solid tracks like "Desperado", "Showdown", and my favorite, "Just Getting My Money". When we talk about the Midwest hip hop scene, Crucial Conflict doesn't get enough mention, as they had a huge moment in 1996 that can't be duplicated.

*Eminem- The Slim Shady LP (1999)

-While Eminem ruled the 2000s from a sales perspective, his most infamous album came at the end of the decade. After releasing his slightly underrated debut Infinite in 1996, and the Slim Shady EP in 1997, Em would sign with Dr. Dre and Aftermath Records, then release his official debut album in 1999. His arrival sparked controversy for a number of reasons, and his ability to rap was beyond any white rapper we had seen at the time. The Slim Shady LP might not be his most popular or highest selling album, but it's the most important in his career because the first impression is everything. For most in the hip hop world, this was their first time hearing Em and he didn't disappoint for the most part. Backed by production from the Bass Brothers and of course Dre, Eminem would show his lyrical dexterity, his taste for shock value rhymes, and everything else in his arsenal. For me, the best songs on this album are "Role Model", "Guilty Conscience", "Rock Bottom", and "Just Don't Give A Fuck", but in all honesty, this album might be his most concise. The Slim Shady LP was a moment in hip hop and for Detroit, it would mean a new star had emerged.

*Do Or Die- Picture This (1996)

-One of the most underrated groups from Chicago, Do Or Die rarely gets the credit they deserve. Their debut album would turn out to be a huge success and would feature appearances Twista, Johnny P, and Yung Buk of Psycho Drama. With production from Crazy C, Mike Dean, and The Legendary Traxster, the sound of this album is what makes it so easy to listen to. While tracks like "Promise", "Shut Em Down", "Money Flow", and "Kill Or Be Killed" are amazing, the apex of the album is in the hit single "Po Pimp", which features Twista and is the biggest piece of the group's legacy. Do Or Die would see a gold plaque off this album making it a victory for them and by extension, the Midwest.

*Common- One Day It'll All Make Sense (1997)

-I chose to close out this article with this album because it's honestly the most underrated Common project. The production here is superb and the maturation of Common was amazing to watch come to life honestly. He would expand his sound and style beyond what we saw and loved on Resurrection, and I'll be honest, I prefer this album over Resurrection by just a bit. Common would bring a new level of introspection to the jazzy and soulful production, and with features on this album from Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Cee-Lo Green, De La Soul, Black Thought, Q-Tip, and Canibus. In my opinion, this is his most well executed album, with tracks like "Invocation", "Real Nigga Quotes", and "Hungry" showcasing Common at his lyrical best, while tracks like "Retrospect For Life", "G.O.D. (Gaining One's Definition), and "Reminding Me (Of Sef)" allowed the listener to hear the maturation of coming of age of the Chicago rapper. In closing, all of these albums are pivotal to hip hop for different reasons, but they all have value to the power of Midwest hip hop to the world over.



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