Hip-Hop was in a tumultuous space exiting the 1980s: As more hard-edged MCs found listenerships in homes outside major cities, the opportunity for rap artists to become mainstream contributors made us all take a look at what it meant to “keep it real.”
Could, for example, a street-based artist or group align themselves with a soft drink company? Would starring in a Saturday morning cartoon delegitimize the urban integrity of a rising rap star?
Is selling a brand akin to selling out?
For a brief moment in time, artists who crossed over were at risk of being crossed out. Decades later, rappers becoming brand ambassadors, actors, hell – fashion designers are markers of success. The shift happened in the 90s, when artists (and managers and labels) realized that rising out of the bottom only to leave money on the table didn’t benefit anyone’s bottom line.
And the fans, they’d just have to deal with it.
And so, in this very pivotal era, the lane opened up for artists of all sorts (streets, conscious, pop and all things in between) comfortably began to merge music with marketing. It was also during that time, we were treated to some of the most influential releases in rap’s history.
Wether it be the solemn diatribes of DMX or a tour through Compton with Dr. Dre, the game expanded in sounds, stories and sales. In a decade that saw Hip-Hop launched into sights unseen, here are ten albums that not only stood the test of time, but cemented rap’s place as a global force.
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