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by Maurice Garland

July 12, 2013

1993: A Monumental Year in Hip-Hop

by Maurice Garland  |  July 12, 2013

Though the quality of the music will always be up for debate, there's one thing that cannot be disputed: 1993 was one of the most important and influential years in hip-hop's history. The U.S. social climate had the country looking inward, thus making the way for new voices -- or at least changing the old ones. Los Angeles was living in the post-riots era. Bill Clinton had just taken office after more than a decade of Republican rule. The year also gave us the first and best of some artists, and the worst and last of others.

While Snoop Doggy Dogg unleashed his classic debut album, Doggystyle, on the other side of the country Wu-Tang Clan debuted with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The latter revolutionized the makeup of the great American rap group -- the nine emcees and one producer stretched the limits of character in lyricism and sampling in production. Meanwhile, groups like Brand Nubian and Geto Boys maintained footing after the departure of key members Grand Puba and Willie D, respectively. Leaders of the New School disbanded after member Busta Rhymes' star power outgrew them; and KRS-One, Scarface, Erick Sermon and Guru each stepped away from their own groups to focus on new visions as soloists.

Hardcore groups like Naughty By Nature and Cypress Hill achieved pop chart success with their anthems "Hip Hop Hooray" and "Insane in the Brain." Native Tongues' De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest also managed to put out some of their best material even though the mainstream seemed to be speaking an entirely different language. Newcomers Digable Planets released a debut claiming to be "cool like dat," and rap vets Run-DMC dropped a "comeback" album hoping to show they were still cool like that.

Nineteen ninety-three also gave us the good, bad and ugly of the gangsta rap era. Spice 1's 187 He Wrote topped the charts with its ultra-violence, while genre forefather Ice Cube dropped his weakest effort up to that date, and his former NWA cohort Eazy-E released an entire album dedicated to dissing Dr. Dre. Even "real gangsters" in the Crips and Bloods united to make an album hoping to capitalize on the subgenre's popularity.

Though most of the attention was still set on New York City and Los Angeles, cities like Memphis made their presence known via 8Ball & MJG's debut, Comin Out Hard, while the Bay Area saw artists like E-40, Mac Mall and Dru Down follow in the footsteps of the original rap hustler Too $hort.

The year 1993 also saw Tupac Shakur become a rap star. His sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., showed every side of his personality, from the political podium to the party to the pulpit, setting the stage for him to become one of the most influential, controversial, contradictory and polarizing artists the world will ever know.

Looking back, the energy of hip-hop from two decades ago is indeed going on from "93 'Til Infinity."

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