Home / The Age of Notorious: Hip Hop and R&B’s Golden Age

The Age of Notorious: Hip Hop and R&B’s Golden Age

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The Notorious B.I.G. was a one of a kind artist that had appeal greater than a majority of the emcees still in the game today. With the recent release of the Hollywood depiction of his life’s story and tragic ending, I was struck with an amazing sense of nostalgia.

The time period of Biggie Smalls, his friend and fellow emcee 2pac, and the ascension/fall of Bad Boy and Death Row Records brought about sooooo much more timeless hip hop and R&B. Between 1994 and 1997, there was a flurry of great new and young artists doing some great things.

I mean, look at the laundry list:

– 2 of the highest selling hip hop albums of all-time (both of which were DOUBLE albums) from Biggie and 2pac (Life After Death and All Eyez On Me)
– Wu-Tang’s monumental double CD and the release of virtually EVERY member’s debut solo album
– Mary J. Blige (in her prime and dropping her most amazing album to date) – My Life
– Groups like 112, Boyz II Men, Jodeci, and Dru Hill were lighting up the soul charts.
– TLC’s CrazySexyCool
– A Tribe Called Quest was still together.

– Outkast’s debut album and their amazing ATLiens follow-up album
– Prince changing his name to a symbol and then releasing a Triple CD
– Aaliyah’s debut album and first collaborations with Timbaland
– D’Angelo’s amazing debut album Brown Sugar
– R. Kelly’s Down Low epic saga that begins his love for soap opera epic songs
– The flash in the pan dominance of The Fugees with their epic album The Score
– The debut’s of Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Usher, Eric Benet, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, and Maxwell just to name a few.

I’m sure there are more in there that I’m missing. Still, this era was filled with some of the most active and highest selling hip hop influenced music ever. But shortly after the deaths of 2pac and Biggie, it was like the music industry seemed to go stale. Soul and hip hop artists were few and far between as those of us who really loved good music were forced to seek out artists under the ‘neo-soul’ or ‘underground’ monikers.

It became so hard to find ‘new’ talent that would turn out to be lasting for years up until around the year 2000 or so. In that time gap, the music industry seemed to hover around the popular established artists who did manage to put out good music like Janet Jackson, R. Kelly, Mariah Carey, Erykah, Outkast, Maxwell, and even 2pac (even though his material released after his death was decent at best). Still, people ran out to buy it.

Oh well. All I know is that a hip hop or R&B playlist from that era could still turn a club upside down today!

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About Bunneh3000

  • Really good article Bunneh. Really good. There was a lot of great hip-hop stuff out around that time wasn’t there?

    I’d take issue with you on just two points. Am I missing something, or isn’t it true that Biggie and 2Pac were not friends at all, but in fact bitter rivals? Most of the conspiracy theories out there surrounding their deaths, in fact center on this rivalry.

    The other thing is that although the mid 90s were a good period, I’d have to say that the late eighties are still the standard to match for quality. You want a laundry list? How’s this, all from 1987 alone:

    Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of millions To Hold Us bank
    Eric B and Rakim – Paid In Full
    Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill
    De La Soul – Three Feet High And Rising
    NWA – Straight Outta Compton
    EPMD – Unfinished Business

    Now THAT was some hip-hop music.


  • BJ “Bunneh3000” Brown

    Sup Glen!! Thanks for sounding off!

    As for your Biggie and 2pac comment, no they were not bitter enemies. The media hyped up their fued during their lasts days and if you listen to actual interviews that they’ve had you’ll find that they started out as pretty good friends.

    Check out one of the BEEF videos that talk about their fued OR go and see the NOTORIOUS movie. It kind of showed how Biggie and Pac got to know each other and how they actually had a MISUNDERSTANDING that led to the whole east coast west coast fued.

    as for 1987, yes… those are some classic albums there. Definitely timeless but the 90’s were more nostalgic for me just because I was a teenager graduating from high school and going to college during those years. Also, in that list, I didn’t see any R&B 🙂

  • I’ll have to check out the movie (it was on my list anyway), but if the feud was a media creation, the two rappers did little to dispel it.

    I even remember some song (the name escapes me) 2Pac did where it went so far as to say “I f**ked your wife” (referring to Faith Evans, who was married to Biggie at the time). I mean it really got personal. And the rumors surrounding Biggie’s death still suggest it might have been a retribution thing (for Pac’s own murder). Not that I subscribe to the conspiracy theories, but I’m just saying…

    As for late eighties R&B…funk was already dying out, but I do recall some good records by Cameo, Ready For The World, and Jesse Johnson. And then there was the whole Nu Jack Swing deal with Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, Alexander O’ Neal, and the various incarnations of New Edition. Prince was still making good stuff then, and Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam were arguably the best producers around…


  • Yeah, matter of fact Prince made Sign O The Times in 1987….arguably his best record.


  • Tony

    There is no comparison to the 90s period. Tribe Called Quest, The Beatnuts, Slum Village, old Black Eyed Pea, Pharcyde, X-Clan, De La Soul, Hieroglyphics, the Fugees, the list goes on and on. These groups produced the highest quality of music in the hip hop genre ever. That, combined with Tupac, Biggie, Eazy-e, Dre, Snoop, Warren G, ect, ect, makes it indisputable.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Nice article. Good to see some more hip-hop discussion around here.

    Some of my faves from the 94-97:

    OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
    Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
    Nas – Illmatic
    Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
    GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords
    Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
    Ghostface Killah – Ironman
    Rakim – The 18th Letter
    Erykah Badu – Baduizm
    KRS-One – I Got Next
    Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus

    And on and on…

    Then Mary J. Blige also had Share My World, which is bloody brilliant. And Janet’s Velvet Rope was good too.

  • Shauni

    You can only be a bitter enemy to someone you once loved and held in high regard, and yes, the two men had a conflict but can we really give them credit for bi-coastal beef? The beef was clearly a marketing ploy to boost record sales and hype people up. Just look at who benefited from it… Puffy and Suge. All that “beef” money went straight into their pockets. When the artists died so did the marketing scheme.

    As for the music issue, I only have two words- Uptown Records. It was the hiphop version of Motown in the 90s. The artists assembled by Andre Harrell and Puffy Combs was masterful. The music was so diverse and so rich. I can respect what Glen is saying but his list can’t measure up to hordes of talent that came out in the mid 90’s, nor does it offer the diversity that came about in the 90s. Mary had grown men crying. Onyx had chicks slam dancing. Even marginally talented outfits like No Limit had success because they brought something different to the table.

    I mean, seriously, One More Chance still gets the party started and packs the dance floor almost 14 years later.

  • molly

    i just stumbled across your blog post and i have to agree with you, the music from the 90s in r&b and rap was amazing. i agree that it should be played in the clubs, i get excited when i hear it. and i listen to it on my own all the time.