The Last Poets release their eponymous debut album. It's combination of spare funk and aggressive, socially-conscious spoken word will be an early brick in the foundation of what would come to be hip-hop.
James Brown releases 'The Big Payback', an early funk gem that emphasizes the groove rather than melody over his aggressively spoken vocals.
A young immigrant from Kingston, Jamaica named Clive Campbell begins deejaying at local parties. As DJ Kool Herc, he invents a new technique of deejaying that would cut two of the same records and extend the middle instrumental, or 'break,' of the popular funk and disco songs of the day.
DJ Hollywood, a club DJ from Manhattan; begins rhyming over popular disco hits at his trendy night spots. It is alleged that Hollywood coins the term 'hip-hop' though some say his partner, Lovebug Starski, came up with the term.
A former gang member-turned-DJ named Afrika Bambaataa meets a young grafitti artist named Fab 5 Freddy; a regular on the burgeoning hip-hop scene. Soon after, Bambaataa forms the Zulu Nation and catagorizes what he calls the 'Four Elements' of hip-hop: DJing, Breaking, Graf Artists and MCing
DJ Kool Herc coins the term break-boy to describe dancers that would dance during his extended breaks in the music. Soon, the term is shortened to b-boy and the style is called 'breakdancing.' Herc also takes an up-and-coming DJ named Grandmaster Flash under his wings.
Grandmaster Flash begins working on a new, revolutionary technique of DJing: In addition to extending the break of a song, he begins mixing bits of two different songs together. Using headphones, he's able to get the songs to overlap and connect. His new 'mixing' technique would be adopted by every hip-hop DJ to follow.
Flash's partner, Mean Gene, has a thirteen-old-brother named Theodore that is also beginning to DJ at local parties. After accidently sliding the record under the needle; a young Grand Wizard Theodore takes DJing a step forward by pushing the record back and forth lightly under the needle during breaks. He calls his new technique 'scratching.'
A group of party promoters called the Force stumble across a young DJ named Kool DJ Kurt. One particularly bold and aggressive member of the Force is a young man named Russell Simmons.
The legendary Rock Steady Crew of breakdancers is founded in the Bronx.
The Crash Crew, one of the first recorded MC crews, forms in Harlem.
Russell "Rush" Simmons moves the Force to Queens and convinces Kool DJ Kurt to begin rapping. Simmons decides to change Kurt's name to Kurtis Blow and enlists his kid brother, Joey, to be Kurt's DJ. Joey changes his name to 'DJ Run.'
DJing, up to this point the primary force in hip-hop, begins to take a backseat to MCing.
The Cold Crush Brothers form after Almight KG meets DJ Charlie Chase.
Wendy Clark aka 'Lady B' begins spinning hip-hop records on WHAT 1340 AM in Philadelphia;furthering hip-hop's expansion outside of New York. Later that year, she also becomes one of hip-hop's first female artists when she releases "To the Beat Y'all."
The Funky Four+One is forms with one of hip-hop's first female MCs, Sha Rock.
The funk band Fatback releases 'King Tim III (Personality Jock).' Though it doesn't gain much attention, it is the first mainstream rap single.
Under manager Russell Simmons, Kurtis Blow becomes the first rapper to sign a record deal with a major label.
Sylvia Robinson founds Sugarhill Records and, after hearing a bootleg of The Cold Crush Brothers, decides to put together a rap group called 'The Sugarhill Gang.'
The Sugarhill Gang releases 'Rapper's Delight.' Built on a sample of Chic's disco hit 'Good Times' and written by Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, it goes on to become hip-hop's first hit and mainstream America's first exposure to rap music.
In order to capitalize on the growth of MCing in hip-hip, Grandmaster Flash recruits three of his friends, Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins, Melvin "Melle Mel" and Nathaniel "Kid Creole" Glover, who perform as The 3 MCs. Soon, they add Guy "Raheim" Williams and Eddie "Scorpio" Morris and change their name to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
The new wave band Blondie releases the single 'Rapture.' It features a rapping vocal by lead singer Debbie Harry and mentions Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash, furthering hip-hop's push into the mainstream.
With "Rapper's Delight" still riding the charts, Kurtis Blow releases his first single, "Christmas Rappin'". Blow's second single, "The Breaks," is a hit; and becomes hip-hop's first gold single. In his shows, Blow now sometimes allows DJ Run to rhyme with him.
At a DJ battle in Two-Fifths Park in Hollis, Queens; DJ Run and his friend, Darryl "Easy Dee" McDaniels, meet a young DJ named Jason "Jazzy Jase" Mizell.
Treacherous Three release "The New Rap Language" as a single. It incorporates a new style of rapping, dubbed "speed-rapping."
Grandmaster Flash releases "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels of Steel", the first record to only showcase turntablism.
Russell Simmons helps his little brother, Run, record a song called "Street Kid." It goes nowhere, but Run still wants to record. After hearing Run's friend, Darryl (now calling himself "D"), Russell begrudgingly makes Run and D a duo.
Whodini becomes the first rap group to shoot an official video for their song "Magic's Wand."
The film "Wild Style" is released. Showcasing DJs, graf artists, breakdancing and MC battles, it is Hollywood's first foray into hip-hop culture and begins a small "rapsploitation" period on film.
After Run and D graduate from high school, they enlist Jazzy Jase, their DJ friend from Hollis; who now calls himself 'Jam Master Jay'. Russell Simmons decides to change the group's name to Run DMC and begins work on a single. Simmons also lands the group a deal with Profile Records.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release 'The Message.' Moving away from hip-hop's party-oriented singles and focusing on the realities of inner-city poverty; it is a landmark moment for hip-hop.
Run DMC release their first single, "Sucker MCs/It's Like That." With it's spare beats and hard, aggressive rhymes, it signals the beginning of the end for "Old School" hip-hop artists.
A New York post-punk band called the Beastie Boys decides to switch their sound from punk to rap after attending a party thrown by Fab 5 Freddy.
Run DMC release their eponymous debut on Profile Records. It becomes a hit and introduces the 'new school' approach to hip-hop music: Hardcore, aggressive street rhymes over spare, funky beats with a heavy metal twist. Run DMC also become the first rap group to get consistent airplay on MTV and Top 40 rock radio.
The film "Breakin" is released; with "Beat Street" coming soon after; continuing the hip-hop push into Hollywood." Beat Street" also showcases a young performer named Doug E. Fresh, who has the uncanny ability to 'beatbox' - mimic musical effects using only his mouth.
Russell Simmons meets a young college kid named Rick Rubin, an avid fan of rap music. Together, Simmons and Rubin found a small record label and run it out of Rubin's college dormroom at NYU. They name their new label Def Jam.
U.T.F.O.; (formerly the backup dancers for Whodini), release "Roxanne, Roxanne." It goes on to become one of the most popular rap songs of all-time and spawns more than two dozen 'response' songs, including "Roxanne, You're Through," "The Real Roxanne," "Roxanne's Mother," and most notably, "Roxanne's Revenge" by 13-year-old Roxanne Shante.
After hearing an underground single called "Public Enemy #1" by a college radio DJ named Chuck D.; Rick Rubin tries to recruit the reluctant rapper for his new label.
Def Jam issues it's first single, "It's Yours," by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay.
A young former delinquint-turned-rap-hopeful named Kris Parker meets social worker-and-sometimes-DJ Scott Sterling (aka Scott La Rock) at a Bronx homeless shelter. The two decide to form a rap group called Boogie Down Productions.
Doug E. Fresh records his classic single, "The Show," with the Get Fresh Crew and his new partner, MC Ricky D (aka Slick Rick.)
Run DMC release their second album, 'King of Rock.' Like their debut, it is a hit; and furthers the combination of rap and hard rock.
A 16-year-old LL Cool J releases his debut album, "Radio." It is the first album to be released by up-and-coming rap label, Def Jam.
Def Jam finances and releases it's own rap movie, "Krush Groove". Based on Russell Simmons life and starring Blair Underwood (as Russell), Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, the Fat Boys and the newly-signed Beastie Boys; the film becomes a hit.
Queens native MC Shan and his superproducer cousin, Marley Marl, release the single 'The Bridge.' Though virtually unnoticed by the mainstream press, the song is an instant classic in hip-hop circles. Featuring steller 'new-school' production from Marl and clever lyrics in which Shan arrogantly announts his home, the Queensbridge Projects, hip-hop's new homebase; the song raised the ire of the newly-formed, South Bronx-based Boogie Down Productions. BDP's KRS-One disses Shan, Marl and Queens equally in the hard-hitting single, 'The Bridge Is Over;' igniting hip-hop's first major rivalry and leaving fans eagerly awaiting Boogie Down Production's first full-length album.
Run DMC release their third album, "Raising Hell." Sparked by the Aerosmith collaboration, "Walk This Way," it is an instant hit. It is a cultural milestone for hip-hop, spawning four hit singles and becoming the first multi-platinum rap album. "Raising Hell" cements Run DMC's place as the kings of the rap world, and kick-starts hip-hop's 'Golden Age,' bringing the final curtain down on the 'Old School.'
Hip-hop's first White rap group, the Beastie Boys, release their debut album, "Licensed to Ill," on Def Jam Records. It goes on to become the best-selling rap album of the decade.
LL Cool J's debut, "Radio," becomes certified platinum as Def Jam Records becomes the premiere label in hip-hop.
A new hip-hop duo named Eric B. & Rakim release their first single, "Eric B. Is President." It is another benchmark moment in hip-hop; as Rakim's clever wordplay and complex rhyme schemes usher in a new era of MCing as an artform.
Run DMC becomes the first rap group nominated for a Grammy; for best "R&B Vocal Performance."
Salt-N-Pepa; a new female rap group; release their debut album, "Hot, Cool & Vicious." It becomes a moderate hit.
Rick Rubin signs Chuck D. and his newly-formed group, Public Enemy, to Def Jam.
Boogie Down Productions releases their debut album, "Criminal Minded." Building on Run DMC's hardcore, minimalist approach and focusing more on the harsh realities of ghetto life; it becomes an instant classic among hip-hop fans. Lead MC, KRS-One; becomes an especially respected rapper among culture aficionados.
Public Enemy release their debut album, "Yo! Bum Rush the Show," on Def Jam. While it is praised by critics, it fails to make an impression on the charts.
Cameron Paul, a San Francisco DJ; remixes 'Push It,' a tune from Salt-N-Pepa's (year-old) album, "Hot, Cool & Vicious." The single is released nationally and becomes a hit; hitting number 19 on the pop charts and is nominated for a Grammy.
A former L.A. drug dealer named Eazy-E (born Eric Wright) uses his money to finance a small indie rap label called Ruthless Records. He signs a local group called H.B.O. as his first act. He also recruits Andre 'Dr. Dre' Young-- a DJ/Producer from the R&B group World Class Wreckin' Cru; and Oshea Jackson, an up-and-coming MC who calls himself Ice Cube.
Eric B. & Rakim release their debut album, "Paid In Full," kick-starting hip-hop's love affair with James Brown samples. The emergence of Rakim, in particular, heralds the dawn of the modern MC.
L.A. rapper, Ice-T, releases his debut album, "Rhyme Pays," and becomes one of the first West Coast MCs to garner national attention. His single, 'Six In the Morning," is groundbreaking in it's harsh and explicit depiction of street hustling and the criminal lifestyle.
Philadelphia duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince debut with "Rock the House." With their fun, good-natured rhymes and humorous videos; the twosome become a favorite on MTV and the album goes gold.
After H.B.O. fails to make an impression on the L.A. rap scene; Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and DJ Yella, (also from the World Class Wreckin' Cru), form a new group called N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitudes). They rush-release an EP for fledgling Ruthless Records called "N.W.A. and the Posse." It goes nowhere. Eazy then recruits Lorenzo 'M.C. Ren' Wright, a young rapper from South Central, to join them as they go back into the studio to revamp their sound.
MC Hammer, an Oakland-based dancer-turned-rapper releases his debut album, "Let's Get It Started." It generates a few moderate hits, and Hammer gains attention for his exuberant dance moves and simple party raps.
After their show in Los Angeles ends in violence, Run DMC is blamed in the press for inciting the riot. The group calls a press conference to defend itself, and hip-hop is immediately thrust under a microscope by moral watchdogs and right-wing politicians.
Erick Sermon and Parish Smith, collectively known as EPMD, release their debut album, "Strictly Business." The pair become one of the most celebrated duos in the hip-hop underground and shun the spotlight in the wake of rap music's exploding popularity.
As Boogie Down Productions begins production on their second album; DJ Scott La Rock is gunned down following an altercation. Stunned by the sudden death of his partner, KRS-One soldiers on, and as 'The Teacha,' promotes a more educated and socially aware approach to hardcore hip-hop.
MC Lyte; a brash, young 'female' MC, becomes the first female hardcore rapper signed to a major label and releases her debut album, "Lyte As A Rock."
Public Enemy release their second album, "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." With it's use of dense, layered sampling, hard funk, and politically incendiary rhymes; it is hailed by rap and rock critics alike as a landmark recording. Public Enemy skyrockets toward the forefront of popular music.
Ice-T's second album, "Power," becomes the first rap album to carry a Parental Advisory warning label.
Afrika Bambaataa froms the Native Tongues crew and, (after hearing an underground single called 'Wrath of My Madness'); recruits a young female MC from New Jersey named Queen Latifah.
N.W.A. releases their first full-fledged album, "Straight Outta Compton." Taking the hardcore sonic attack of Public Enemy and merging it with brutally explicit tales of the crime-ridden streets of South Central Los Angeles; it becomes a watershed moment for 'gangsta rap' and fully opens the door for West Coast rappers to gain national attention.
Run D.M.C. finally release their follow-up to 'Raising Hell;' called 'Tougher Than Leather,' and star in a movie of the same name. The movie bombs at the box office and though the album goes platinum and is praised by critics; it is considered a commercial disappointment for the group.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince release their second album, a double-set called "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper." Boosted by the immensely popular single, 'Parents Just Don't Understand;' the album is a smash--selling 2.5 million copies.
N.W.A.'s song, 'Fuck the Police,' incites controversy for it's lyrics and leads the F.B.I. to issue a formal warning to the group, Ruthless Records, and it's parent-label, Priority. This starts a long-standing battle between the powers-that-be and gangsta rap.
A trio of friends from Harlem NY, the Jungle Brothers, release their debut album, 'Straight Out The Jungle' on the small Idler label. Though the album doesn't gain much attention, it does provide a new slant on hip-hop that is neither 'gangsta' nor overtly political. Joining up with Afrika Bambaataa's "Native Tongues' crew, and incorporating elements of jazz and house music and using Afrocentric themes, the Jungles Brothers introduce a new subgenre that would later be dubbed 'alternative' rap.
Public Enemy release their much-anticipated third album, "Fear of A Black Planet" to strong sales and reviews despite controversy over anti-Semitic remarks made by group member Professor Griff in an interview. Chuck D formally dismisses Griff from group.
The Grammy committee announces that rap will be given it's own official Grammy catagory. The news is bittersweet, however, after it is announced that the presentation will not be televised. As a result, many of the most prominent rappers, (including Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Ice-T and more), host a Boycott-The-Grammys Party on MTV the night of the broadcast. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince go on to win the award.
After a year of buzz surrounding her underground singles, Queen Latifah releases her debut album, "All Hail the Queen." It is praised immensely by the hip-hop community for it's positive outlook and strong feminist overtones.
In an effort to quell the surge of Black-On-Black crime in New York (and as tribute to Scott La Rock); KRS-One organizes the Stop the Violence movement with several New York rappers. Soon, the Movement goes national as West Coast MCs get involved as well. The result is two public-service singles denouncing violence, 'Self Destruction' in New York, and 'We're All In the Same Gang' in Los Angeles.
Doug E. Fresh's former partner, MC Ricky D--now calling himself 'Slick Rick'--releases his solo debut, "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick" on Def Jam Records. With a gift for clever, laid-back rhymes and vivid storytelling, Rick is immediately elevated to the top-tier of MCs.
After a controversial tour promoting 'Straight Outta Compton' with N.W.A., Ice Cube announces he's leaving the group after a financial dispute with Eazy-E and manager, Jerry Heller.
De La Soul, a young rap group from Long Island, New York (and also affiliated with the Native Tongues collective), release their debut, "3 Feet High & Rising" on Tommy Boy Records. Building on quirky samples from rock, funk, folk, country and soul and using wordplay that ranged from psychadelic musings to outright jibberish, the group is immediately hailed as the 'future of hip-hop music.'
MC Hammer releases his sophomore effort, "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em." The album is bashed by critics and scoffed at by hip-hop purists, but becomes a mammoth hit. Spurred by the wildly popular single, 'U Can't Touch This,' and heavy video rotation on MTV, the album sells ten million copies- and with his flashy dancing and trademark baggy pants, MC Hammer becomes an international superstar.
The Beastie Boys, after a long and bitter exit from Def Jam Records, finally release their second album, "Paul's Boutique." Trading the frat-boy humor of their debut in favor of dense samples, sprawling sound collages and abstract lyrical themes, the album flops as most fans and critics don't know what to make of the record.
2 Live Crew, a Florida-based party-rap group, releases their third album, "As Nasty As They Wanna Be." It is an extremely explicit and sexually provocative--(with the lyrics reaching near-pornographic proportions), and is banned from sale in the state of Florida. The group themselves are arrested for lewdness after performing a concert in Miami. After going to court for the right to perform and write music as they want to, the group is found not guilty in what becomes a heated debate over decency and the First Amendment.
Rick Rubin leaves Def Jam and forms a new label, dubbed Def American.
Yo! MTV Raps makes it's debut, with host Fab 5 Freddy. For the first time, the entire country has a platform to watch the latest music videos by all of the top rap artists.
Ice Cube takes his new crew, Da Lench Mob to New York and records his solo debut with production from The Bomb Squad, Public Enemy's team of producers. The album, "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted," is praised by the hip-hop community as a classic and sets Cube on the road to solo superstardom.
Yet another addition to the (ever-growing) Native Tongues family, Queens-based A Tribe Called Quest release their debut album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm." Building on the template established by the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and, most notably, De La Soul; the group is praised for it's intelligently quirky lyrics and inventive musical style.
M.C. Hammer continues his pop-rap reign with his two Grammy nominations, a new Saturday morning cartoon, and an action figure. Despite all of his commercial success; there is a growing backlash against his image and music among rap fans and artists.
Salt-N-Pepa release their third album, "Blacks Magic." The album receives the strongest reviews of their career; with the single 'Let's Talk About Sex' being especially praised for it's honest and thoughtful look at relationships and promiscuity.
After shooting his cousin and leading polilce on a high-speed chase, Slick Rick is captured and taken to prison. Def Jam head Russell Simmons bails Rick out in time to finish his second album, "The Ruler's Back," but Rick is eventually sentenced to five years in prison on charges of attempted murder.
Will Smith aka The Fresh Prince is tapped to star in a new sitcom, dubbed "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."
Oakland-based alternative rap group Digital Underground release their debut album, "Sex Packets." It's second single, 'The Humpty Dance,' becomes a platinum hit thanks to it's catchy chorus and over-the-top title character, Humpty Hump.
Run DMC release their fifth album, "Back From Hell." It barely goes gold with no notable hit singles. The group takes a break from recording.
After an Atlanta-based DJ plays the song 'Ice, Ice Baby' by accident; the track becomes a hit for Miami-based White rapper Vanilla Ice. Though Ice is derided as a fake, his debut album, "To The Extreme" goes on to sell over seven million copies.
Popular rapper Heavy D. convinces Andre Harrell, the president of Uptown Records (Heavy D's label), to take on a young college student/dancer named Sean Combs as an intern.
Gilbert O'Sullivan successfully sues comedic rapper Biz Markie; claiming that Biz's single, 'Alone Again,' uses a sample of O'Sullivan's song 'Alone Again (Naturally),' without consent. The lawsuit signals a turning point in hip-hop sampling; as artists can no longer build multi-layered sound collages out of multiple samples for fear of litigation.
Digital Underground follow their excellent debut album with an EP. "This Is An EP Release" has some of their strongest work to date and the hit single, 'Same Song' features a young, lesser-known member of the crew named Tupac Shakur.
Ice Cube stars in the gritty urban drama "Boyz N the Hood" Spotlighting the hard lives of young Black men in South Central Los Angeles, the film becomes a hit and a critical favorite.
Bronx-based underground rapper Tim Dog releases the single 'Fuck Compton,' firing some of the first verbal shots in a simmering feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers.
A Tribe Called Quest releases their much-anticipated second album, "The Low End Theory." Praised by critics and fans, the group focuses on a leaner, more jazz-oriented approach and cements their place as the top alternative rap group.
After the success of A Tribe Called Quest's 'Low End Theory,' and De La Soul's sophomore effort, 'De La Soul Is Dead,' alternative rap begins a short two-year period of dominance on the strength of debuts by Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Del the Funkee Homosapien, P.M. Dawn, the Pharcyde, and Gangstarr.
N.W.A. release their second full-length album, the inflammatory and excessively offensive "Efil4zaggin." Discarding the social commentary of their classic debut, the group instead focuses on over-the-top gangsterisms and hedonistic fantasies. Nevertheless, the album debuts at number one on the charts.
Vanilla Ice's film, "Cool As Ice" premieres to poor reviews and even worse box office returns. He is also criticized for fabricating his entire life story in interviews. To add insult to injury; he's also successfully sued by David Bowie and Queen, who claim that he used the bassline from their hit 'Under Pressure,' for his hit, 'Ice Ice Baby.' In only a short ten months, Vanilla Ice's fame has fizzled out.
A video showing four L.A. police officers brutally beating a Black man named Rodney King is played at newstations all over the country. Several rappers contend that this has been happening for years in inner cities and call for change.
M.C. Hammer releases his third proper album, "2 Legit To Quit." Although the title cut is a sizeable hit; the album fails to match the across-the-board success of it's predecessor as the backlash against 'pop-rap' has Hammer losing his (already limited) crediblity among rap fans and the general public.
Dr. Dre; citing a dispute over finances with Eazy-E and Ruthless Records; quits N.W.A. Dre is still under contract to Ruthless; and hires gangster-turned-businessman Marion "Suge" Knight to get him out of his deal with the record label. With Dre departing for a solo career, N.W.A. officially split.
Sean Combs, still only 20 years old, is promoted to A&R at Uptown Records and executive produces hit albums for Father MC and Heavy D.
Alternative rap group Main Source release their debut, the critically acclaimed "Breaking Atoms." While it doesn't sell very well, the group becomes among hip-hop's most respected, and the single, 'Live At the Bar-B-Q' features a memorable verse by a seventeen-year-old Queens rapper named Nas.
2Pac Shakur, former roadie, dancer, and second-string MC for Digital Underground, releases his debut album, "2Pacalypse Now." It immediately incites controversy for it's content; particular lyrics regarding police officers. Vice President Dan Quayle even calls for a ban of the album during his campaign for re-election. Shakur's visibility is also raised by a star-making performance in the gritty urban drama "Juice".
Body Count; Ice-T's new rap-metal band, release their debut album. The song 'Cop Killa' ignites a firestorm of controversy for it's lyrics about killing police officers. After nationwide protests from law enforcement officials, Time-Warner pressures Ice-T to pull the song from the album and eventually sells it's share of Interscope Records, the distributor.
With "Paul's Boutique" obtaining cult-classic status in the years following it's release; the Beastie Boys third album, "Check Your Head," becomes a smash hit, debuting in the Top Ten and returning the Boys to the charts for the first time since their debut album--although with a much different sound.
After producing a successful album for R&B singer Mary J. Blige and remixing several other hits for artist such as Jodeci and Heavy D., Sean "Puffy" Combs is fired from Uptown after a dispute with labelhead Andre Harrell.
Eric B. & Rakim release their fourth album, "Don't Sweat the Technique." The album is critically acclaimed; but the duo split almost immediately after it's release. Eric B. continues to produce for other rappers, (with mixed results), while Rakim, arguably the most celebrated MC in rap up to this point; goes into seclusion.
After the acquittal of the officers accused of beating Rodney King, South Central Los Angeles erupts in violent street riots. After the two-day mayhem, rappers such as Ice-T and Chuck D. of Public Enemy are called upon to provide insight.
Dr. Dre and Suge Knight form a partnership and create Death Row Records. Their first project is a song for the soundtrack to a police drama called "Deep Cover". The song features a young rapper from Long Beach named Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Dr. Dre releases his solo debut, "The Chronic." With it's heavy emphasis on deep rolling bass and funk grooves--it takes hardcore gangsta rap into more accessible, radio-friendly territory and becomes the biggest rap album of the year behind the huge single, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang." Dre's new sound--dubbed 'G-Funk'--reinvents the entire West Coast rap scene, and signals the beginning of a West Coast-dominated rap charts.
KRS-One, deciding on a change of approach, officially 'retires' the name Boogie Down Productions; subsequently releasing albums only as KRS-One.
A loose collective of Staten Island MCs calling themselves the Wu-Tang Clan release their first single, 'Protect Ya Neck.' It becomes an underground hit, making anticipation for the nine-man crew's debut album extremely high.
2Pac releases his second album, "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." Almost as inflammatory as his debut, it also showcases a sensitive, thoughtful side to the rapper. The single, "Keep Ya Head Up" is especially praised as a love letter to Black women, and becomes his biggest hit to date.
Run DMC make an unexpected return to the charts with their acclaimed comeback album, "Down With the King."
Sean "Puffy" Combs begins running his own label, called Bad Boy Entertainment, out of his apartment. The company grows rapidly, and Combs soon signs two up-and-coming MCs, former EPMD roadie Craig Mack and a former drug dealer from Brooklyn named Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G.
Dr. Dre protege Snoop Doggy Dogg releases his highly-anticipated solo debut, "DoggyStyle" for Death Row Records. The album is a monstrous hit, becoming the first debut album to enter the Billboard chart at #1. Unfortunately, Snoop is implicated in the shooting death of a Long Beach man and is charged with second-degree murder. Surprisingly, this does nothing to slow his skyrocketing popularity.
Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, "Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers," is released to critical acclaim but moderate sales. After the single, 'C.R.E.A.M.' is released, the album begins a steady climb up the charts; beginning a new age for hardcore, gritty East Coast hip-hop.
2Pac is arrested on charges of assault and battery after he attacks director Allen Hughes on the set of the film "Menace II Society".
MC Lyte releases her first hardcore rap album in four years (after a brief foray into more pop-friendly territory.) Her hit single, 'Ruffneck,' becomes the first rap single by a female artist to go gold and is nominated for a Grammy.
Craig Mack releases, "Funk Da World;" the first album to be released by fledgling Bad Boy Entertainment. It eventually goes gold.
Continuing their string of brilliant albums, 'A Tribe Called Quest' releases "Midnight Marauders," which spawns their biggest hit to date, the infectious single 'Award Tour.'
2Pac is charged in the shooting of two off-duty police officers in Atlanta, GA. The charges would later be dismissed. He also lands a second high-profile film role, starring in John Singleton's urban romance "Poetic Justice". He follows that with yet another starring turn in the basketball drama "Above the Rim".
Queen Latifah releases the uplifting respect anthem, 'U.N.I.T.Y.,' which wins a Grammy; and her third album, "Black Reign," becomes the first gold album for a solo female MC.
C. Deloris Tucker, Dionne Warwick, and several other high-profile moral activists call for a boycott against gangsta-rap artists such as 2Pac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Doggy Dogg, citing the lyrics of much of their music to be violent and misogynistic.
Salt-N-Pepa release their fourth album, "Very Necessary." It goes on to become the best-selling rap album of all time by a female artist.
After six years and four critically-acclaimed albums, (and jump-starting the career of close friend Redman); EPMD, underground rap's most respected group--announce that they are going their seperate ways.
Arista chief Clive Davis signs Bad Boy Entertainment to a subsidiary/distribution deal. Puffy Combs begins work on the Notorious B.I.G.'s debut album.
Queens rapper Nas finally releases his solo debut, "Illmatic." It instantly becomes one of the most critically-acclaimed rap albums of all time, with Nas' clever wordplay and verbal skill being favorably compared to Rakim's best work.
Snoop Doggy Dogg releases the short film/soundtrack, "Murder Was the Case". With it's graphic storytelling about a man being sentenced for murder uncomfortably close to Snoop's real-life legal woes, many critics blast the rapper for exploiting the unfortunate circumstances.
"southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," the debut album from Atlanta-based rap duo Outkast signals a shift from hip-hop's bi-coastal grip. Loose and funky with clever lyrics and insightful subject-matter, the group becomes a cult favorite among hip-hop enthusiasts.
Adding to a seemingly endless string of legal charges, 2Pac is charged with sexual assault by a female fan in New York City.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony; a new Cleveland-based rap group discovered by Eazy-E; release an EP called "Creepin' On Ah Come-up." Their sound is a combination of rapid-fire speed-rapping and vocal harmonizing and the single, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" becomes a moderate hit.
Notorious B.I.G., after cameo appearances on several popular singles, finally releases "Ready to Die," his debut album for Bad Boy. It spawns two hit singles, 'Juicy' and 'Big Poppa;' one hit remix, 'One More Chance', and returns the East Coast to the top of the charts after a two-year absence. It also elevates Puffy Combs' Bad Boy label to the top of hip-hop.
2Pac is shot in what appears to be a robbery outside of a New York recording studio only days after being found guilty of sexual assault. He checks himself out of the hospital and appears in court in a wheelchair for his sentencing. He immediately accuses the Notorious B.I.G. (a former friend), and Puffy Combs for orchestrating the attack. Nonetheless, he begins serving his five-year prison term.
Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z releases the underground single, 'In My Lifetime.' With his clever wordplay and quick delivery, he quickly becomes a word-of-mouth sensation in New York.
Eccentric Wu-Tang Clan member, Ol' Dirty Bastard gains notoriety by picking up food stamps in a limosuine while appearing on MTV. He is promptly arrested.
2Pac releases his third album, "Me Against the World" while still in prison. It's more thoughtful and introspective approach earns him the biggest critical praise of his career and his legend grows among hip-hop fans as he showcases his more tortured and self-conscious side.
At the Source Awards, Suge Knight publicly insults Sean "Puffy" Combs onstage; adding fuel to the ever-growing tensions between the East Coast and West Coast, but particularly his L.A.-based Death Row Records and Combs' New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment.
While filming the video for the song 'New York, New York,' members of the Death Row Records group Tha Dogg Pound are shot at.
Eazy-E, gangsta rap icon and co-founder of N.W.A., announces that he has full-blown AIDS. After only a few days at Cedar-Sinai hospital for treatment, he dies from pneumonia.
Notorious B.I.G. signs his proteges, the Junior M.A.F.I.A. to the small Untertainment Label. Their debut album, "Conspiracy" is a moderate hit and provides a showcase for a young female rapper named Lil Kim.
Will Smith stars in the buddy-cop action film "Bad Boys". It becomes one of the biggest hits of the year.
Chicago-bred female rapper Da Brat releases her debut album, "Funkdafied." It becomes the first album by a solo female rapper to go platinum.
Bad Boy Entertainment's empire continues to grow with platinum-selling R&B albums by Faith Evans and the girl-group Total.
Snoop Doggy Dogg is acquitted of second-degree murder charges.
At the end of the year, Suge Knight bails 2Pac out of prison and immediately signs the embattled rapper to Death Row Records. With Knight's hatred of Sean "Puffy" Combs and 2Pac's belief that the Notorious B.I.G. conspired against him; the conflict between Death Row and Bad Boy Entertainment intensifies.
2Pac releases his fourth album, "All Eyez On Me," hip-hop's first double-disc of all-original material and his first album for Death Row Records. It becomes a hit and raises the rap star's profile even higher.
Underground sensation Jay-Z begins a budding friendship with the Notorious B.I.G. and releases his first two mainstream singles, 'Dead Presidents' and 'Ain't No N*gga.' Both are moderate hits and help build anticipation for his debut album.
Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony release, 'The Crossroads,' the second single from their critically-acclaimed 1995 album, "E. 1999-Eternal." With it's heartfelt lyrics and funereal production, it becomes a huge hit and is nominated for a Grammy.
Alternative rap group The Fugees release their second album, "The Score." A stirring mix of reggae, rap, and soul; the album is one of the most acclaimed of the year and the group members, (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras) are thrust into the national spotlight.
2Pac releases the inflammatory b-side single, 'Hit 'Em Up.' Dissing the Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Entertainment; he also claims to have had sex with B.I.G.'s estranged wife, Bad Boy ingenue Faith Evans.
Nas finally releases "It Was Written," his follow-up to the landmark "Illmatic." With the lyrical focus shifting from street poetry to a glamourized criminal lifestyle; and the production becoming more slick and accessible; he is bashed by hip-hop purists for selling out to a pop audience.
Dr. Dre abruptly announces he's leaving Death Row Records. Declaring that gangsta rap is a 'dead' genre, he goes on to form a new label, Aftermath Entertainment.
Will Smith stars in the action-sci fi flick "Independence Day", raising his profile as an A-list celebrity in Hollywood.
Jay-Z's debut album, "Reasonable Doubt" is released to much praise from critics. Despite all of the accolades, it barely makes a dent on the charts.
After leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, NV; a car carrying Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur is riddled with gunfire. Though Suge only suffers minor injuries, 2Pac--after fighting for his life for seven days in a hospital--dies from his wounds. The hip-hop nation goes into shock and mourning for the fallen rapper.
Southern rap duo Outkast release their second album, "ATLiens." It is critically acclaimed for it's positive outlook, progressive lyrics and a more futuristic production style.
The Notorious B.I.G. is almost killed in a car accident in New Jersey. With his leg partially shattered, he is forced to walk with a cane.
Eminem, a White rapper from Detroit, releases his debut album, "Infinite," on a small indie label. Despite displaying a flair for clever, witty rhymes; the album goes unnoticed by fans and critics.
A Tribe Called Quest release their fourth album, "Beats, Rhymes, & Life." For the first time in their storied career, the trio is bashed for releasing a half-hearted album.
Two debuts by two new female rappers, B.I.G. protege Lil Kim and ingenue Foxy Brown--albums that feature a heavy emphasis on sex and materialism--signal a change in direction for female MCs in hip-hop.
After a year of critical acclaim, The Fugees announce that they are going their seperate ways; citing creative differences. Wyclef Jean almost immediately begins work on his solo debut.
After leaving the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles, the Notorious B.I.G. is shot and killed in a drive-by shooting that eerily resembles what happened to 2Pac six months earlier. With the twin murders of two of it's biggest stars, the hip-hop nation is forced to take stock of itself and what it represents. B.I.G.'s second album, the prophetically titled "Life After Death," is released only a few days after his killing and becomes the best-selling rap album of all time.
Sean Combs, now calling himself 'Puff Daddy' releases two benefit singles as memoriam to the slain Notorious B.I.G.
The Wu-Tang Clan release their second album, the double LP "Wu-Tang Forever." It sells well; but fails to match the critical respect of the group's more acclaimed debut.
Suge Knight is sentenced to four years in prison for parole violation.
After writing and producing hits for MC Lyte and R&B groups Xscape and 702; female rap artist Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott releases her debut album, "Supa Dupa Fly." It is an artistic triumph and she is praised for her wit and quirky musical approach.
Puff Daddy makes his debut as an artist with "No Way Out." Spawning four top ten singles, the album becomes a monster hit and makes Puffy the biggest star on the Bad Boy label in the wake of B.I.G.'s murder.
Snoop Doggy Dogg finally releases his second album, the lackluster "The Doggfather." After the album fails to sell, Snoop announces he is leaving the crumbling Death Row Records.
After starring in his third-straight summer blockbuster, "Men In Black"; Will Smith confirms his status as one of the biggest box-office draws of the 90s. In a somewhat surprising move, he also returns to music, releasing his first solo album, "Big Willie Style." Though lightweight, it becomes one of the best-selling albums of the year.
Ending a five-year period of seclusion that saw his reputation as a lyricist reach near-mythic proportions; Rakim finally makes his return with "The 18th Letter," his solo debut.
After operating in obscurity in the Deep South for almost a decade, New Orleans based rapper-entrepeneur Master P releases "Ghetto D." Derided by critics as an untalented hack; the album nonetheless becomes a hit and opens the floodgates for a wealth of New Orleans gangsta rap to hit the airwaves. Master P, as founder and CEO of the No Limit record label, unexpectedly becomes one of the most powerful men in hip-hop.
Picking up where the Notorious B.I.G. left off (at least commercially), new Bad Boy rapper Ma$e releases his debut album, "Harlem World." It is a smash and confirms Bad Boy's status as the (now undisputed) top label in rap.
Def Jam Records signs Jay-Z and releases popular albums by rappers Redman, Method Man, and Foxy Brown; signalling a return to form for Russell Simmons and rap's longest-running label.
Simmons also signs a newly-reformed EPMD and DMX, an intense MC from Yonkers. Jay-Z releases his second album, "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1." It sells much better than his debut, but critics deride it as a flaky attempt to reach a crossover audience.
Afeni Shakur, mother of the slain 2Pac Shakur; releases "R U Still Down (Remember Me)," a double-album of unreleased material the rapper recorded prior to his death. It is the beginning of a flood of songs, compilations and albums from the deceased rap star's vaults.
DMX makes his debut with "It's Dark and Hell Is Hot" and intensely personal album of hardcore rap and poignant confessionals. It becomes a monster hit and signals a return of gritty, hardcore rap after a year of the more radio-friendly, Bad Boy-influenced party-rap.
Master P's No Limit Records continues to churn out one hit album after the other; even though critics and hip-hop purists scoff at the cheap production and lackluster artists on the label. Seeking to strike while he's hot, P also creates No Limit Films, No Limit Wireless, and his own Percy Miller Clothing Line.
Jay-Z's third album, "Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life," becomes his biggest-seller and restores some of his credibility in hip-hop circles. He immediately is heralded as the biggest rapper in hip-hop.
Lauryn Hill, formerly of the Fugees; releases her solo debut, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." With an emphasis on confessional songwriting and a powerful mix of rap, reggae, gospel, soul and folk, it becomes the most-acclaimed album of the year and thrusts Hill into international stardom.
"Aquemini;" the third outing for Atlanta rappers Outkast; is a startling leap forward for the group. Combining live instruments with thought-provoking and forward-thinking lyrics, as well as meshing hip-hop, country, soul, techno, and funk elements, the album follows Lauryn Hill's debut as one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, though it isn't as successful commercially.
After releasing their fifth album, "The Love Movement," A Tribe Called Quest abruptly announce their breakup. Lead rapper Q-Tip immediately embarks on a solo career.
Seeking a career rebirth, Snoop Dogg signs with Master P's No Limit label and rush-releases two lackluster albums.
With a chain of restaurants, ("Justin's"), a clothing line, ("Sean John"), and a celebrity girlfriend, (Jennifer Lopez), Puff Daddy becomes the most recognized man in hip-hop.
West Coast underground rapper C-Bo goes to jail as a judge claims his violent lyrics are a violation of his probation.
Upstart New Orleans label Cash Money Records signs a 100M distribution deal with Universal and releases albums from Juvenile, Lil Wayne and B.G. confirming the 'Dirty' South as hip-hop's new second coast.
Rap-rock explodes into the mainstream as albums by Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Kid Rock sell huge numbers; confirming the influence of hip-hop in general--(and Run DMC in particular)--on an entire generation.
After appearing on the song '4, 3, 2, 1' with LL Cool J; young up-and-comer Canibus releases '2nd Round K.O.,' a scathing dis of the legendary rapper. LL responds with 'The Ripper's Back.' returning some of the street credibility to his career after a string of MOR-pop hits.
DMX abruptly releases his sophomore album, "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood." He becomes the first rap artist to have two number one albums in the same year.
Puff Daddy, Russell Simmons, and Master P all appear on Forbes' Top Moneymakers in Entertainment of 1998.
Big Punisher, a Puerto-Rican MC from the Bronx; releases his debut album, "Capital Punishment," and becomes the first Hispanic solo rapper to have a platinum-selling album.
Nas releases his third album, "I Am...," to mixed reviews and mediocre sales; as does it's rushed follow-up "Nastradamus," furthering the Queensbridge rapper's slide into relative obscurity.
With the continuing multiplatinum success of Cash Money Records out of New Orleans; and hit albums by Atlanta-based Ludacris, and the Hypnotized Mindz Camp from Memphis; the South eclipses the now-stagnant West Coast in overall popularity.
Jay-Z, DMX, Redman, and Method embark on the "Hard Knock Life Tour," hip-hop's first successful major tour in more than a decade.
Lauryn Hill's debut album wins five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year; the first hip-hop album to do so.
Now signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, Eminem makes his major label debut with "The Slim Shady LP." The album and debut single, "My Name Is," announce the darkly comical rapper as a star in the rap world. Incidently, the rapper garners both praise for his wit and creativity and derision for the album's misogyny and vulgarity.
Mos Def and Talib Kweli, collectively known as Black Star; release their eponymous debut. With their thoughtful, intelligent lyrics and laid-back approach, the album; along with Mos Def's solo debut, "Black On Both Sides;" ushers in a return of conscious alternative rap.
Slick Rick releases "The Art of Storytelling," his first album since being released from prison two years earlier. It is critically praised as a return-to-form for the MC.
Puff Daddy releases "Forever." It fails to make the success of his debut, and disappears from the charts quickly. To add insult to injury, Ma$e, the biggest star on his Bad Boy label (next to himself, of course); leaves rap music behind to pursue religious ministry.
Eve, a brash young female rapper from DMX's Ruff Ryders posse; releases her debut album "Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders First Lady." A hardcore lyricist in the MC Lyte mold; she marks a welcome departure from the money-and-sex obsessed rhymes of most of her female contemporaries.
Underground sensation Big L is shot and killed just blocks away from his home.
After touring successfully for years, Run DMC return to recording after a six-year hiatus. The album, "Crown Royal," is both a critical and commercial disappointment. Featuring little-to-no input from DMC, a bevy of guest stars and spawning only one moderate hit, it throws the future of legendary trio into doubt.
Dr. Dre finally releases a proper follow-up to his 1992 masterpiece, "The Chronic." "2001" is a strong return to form for the producer/rapper, with guest appearances by his new protege, Eminem and a long-awaited reunion with hisold one, Snoop Dogg.
At a New Year's Eve party at club New York, Puff Daddy and his girlfriend, actress/singer Jennifer Lopez get into an altercation with some patrons that turns into a shootout. After fleeing from the scene, they are arrested on charges of aggravated assault.
Outkast continues to sit at the cutting edge of mainstream hip-hop with their fourth disc, "Stankonia." Equally as praised as their previous work; and containing their two biggest commercial hits thus far, the group goes from critics' darlings to superstars.
The West Coast alt-rap scene experiences a rebirth with "Quality Control," the debut album by a six(?)-man crew called Jurassic 5.
Eminem's second album, "The Marshall Mathers LP", is a huge hit, (eventually becoming one of the best-selling rap albums of all-time.) A more personal album than his previous one, (but even more inflammatory), it catapults Em into rap superstardom and more controversy for his homophobic lyrics. Despite a small backlash among some accusing him of cultural piracy; he maintains credibility in the hip-hop community while remaining immensely popular (and controversial) outside of it.
Jay-Z continues his reign as the number one mainstream MC in hip-hop with "Dynasty: Roc-La-Familia", an album featuring up-and-coming artists from he and his partner, Damon Dash's record label, Roc-A-Fella Records.
Building on his semi-reunion with Snoop Dogg on 1999's successful comeback effort "2001", Dr. Dre reunites with Ice Cube and MC Ren on the single, 'Hello,' from Cube's album, "War & Peace, Vol. 2."
St. Louis-based rapper Nelly debuts with "Country Grammar." The album is a monster hit, it's success (and the success of rappers from New Orleans, Houston, and Detroit); prove that hip-hop has moved farther away from bi-coastal domination.
Superstar Latino rapper Big Pun dies of heart attack at only 29 years old.
Shunning fame and the spotlight, acclaimed MC/singer/songwriter Lauryn Hill goes into self-imposed seclusion.
After a year-and-a-half long media frenzy, Puff Daddy is acquitted of assault charges. Unfortunately, Shyne, an up-and-coming rapper on the Bad Boy label, is found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison for the 1999 nightclub incidient. With the trial behind him, (and Jennifer Lopez leaving him prior to his acquittal), the embattled mogul announces that he is changing his name to 'P. Diddy' in an effort to kick-start a change in direction for both himself and his label.
At Hot 97's Summer Jam in New York, Jay-Z performs a new song called 'Takeover,' a stinging dis record aimed at the hardcore Queens duo Mobb Deep; who had been insulting the Brooklyn rapper in interviews.
While shooting a video in the Bahamas, hip-hop/soul star Aaliyah dies in a plane crash. She was only 22 years old.
Jay-Z releases his sixth album, "The Blueprint." The album receives the best reviews since his debut and is a monster-seller. On the album, Jay-Z includes a new version of 'Takeover,' with an additional verse aimed at Nas; igniting a sparring match between the two MCs.
Nas responds with his fifth album, "Stillmatic." Hailed as a return to form for the once-favored MC, he likewise attacks Jay-Z on the song, "Ether." The publicity is good for both rappers; and returns the luster to Nas' slightly faded career.
Public Enemy release "Revolverlution," a critically-acclaimed set that, while not commercially viable, re-affirms the legendary group as critics' darlings.
Showing that southern rap has an alternative side, Nappy Roots and Field Mob, two acts from Kentucky and Georgia, respectively, release two critically acclaimed albums: Nappy Roots' eclectic debut, "Watermelon, Chicken, & Gritz;" and Field Mob's sophomore effort "From the Roota to the Toota."
Following the career rebirth he experienced with "Stillmatic;" Nas releases two more critically-acclaimed albums; the rarities collection "The Lost Tapes," and the autobiographical "God's Son."
Eminem stars in the film, "8 Mile", a critically-acclaimed semi-autobiographical look at hip-hop's underground. The film is a runaway success at the box-office; having the 2nd-largest opening of any dramatic film; and it's theme song, Eminem's 'Lose Yourself,' is nominated for an Oscar.
Signed to Em's Shady/Aftermath Label, New York-based rapper 50 Cent releases the single 'Wanksta.' The song explodes onto radio and the singles' chart; leaving the public salivating for an album and creating the most buzz a debut rapper has seen in over a decade.
The semi-revival of the Golden Age continues as DJ Jazzy Jeff releases his critically-acclaimed debut, "The Magnificent."
Missy Elliott releases her fourth album, "Under Construction." Marrying her quirky sense of fun to a decidedly old-school emphasis on breakbeats; the album is a hit and becomes one of the year's most acclaimed.
Legendary DJ Jam Master Jay of Run DMC is murdered outside of a recording studio in New York City. The hip-hop community pays it's respects to the 37-year-old turntablist.
50 Cent's debut, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," after months of hype; becomes one of the fastest-selling albums in history and establishes the hardcore rapper as one of the biggest stars of the year.
Snoop Dogg becomes a pitchman for AOL, Nokia, and XM Satellite Radio; and his TV show, 'Doggy Fizzle Televizzle', debuts on MTV.
17 years after Run DMC recorded "My Adidas", Nike signs Nelly to lucrative endorsement deals, Reebok gives Jay-Z and 50 Cent their own shoe designs; furthering hip-hop's commercial, cultural, and economic dominance of the youth market.
The Source Magazine begins a heated feud with Eminem. Ray Benzino, co-owner of the Source and a bitter rival of Eminem's, releases a mixtape of Eminem, ten years earlier, making racist comments in an underground freestyle. The Source unleashes a full media blitz attacking the rapper, who's career is largely unaffected. After months of controversy, Eminem issues an apology and receives the support of many rappers.
Outkast release their much-anticipated fifth album, "Speakerboxxx/the Love Below", a two-disc set that uniquely splits the two MCs, (Big Boi and Andre 3000, respectively) into two seperate albums. The unique approach works, as the album spawns "Hey Ya", (the biggest hit of the year); sells 8 million copies--(becoming one of the best-selling albums of all-time); and goes on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, only the second hip-hop release to win the award.
With 'crunk' music by performers such as Lil Jon and the Yin-Yang Twins becoming the dancefloor craze, artists such as Lil Flip, David Banner, and T.I. making gritty street rap; Ludacris burning up the charts and Outkast winning endless accolades; Southern rap dominates popular music. Billboard's first all-black Top Ten is made up entirely of Dirty South acts.
Jay-Z releases "The Black Album", his supposed final release. Announcing his retirement, he leaves music behind (sort of), to focus on his business and personal endeavors, including clothing, marriage, and a partial ownership with the New Jersey Nets. Jay-Z's retirement proves to many that hip-hop artists can grow up and mature.