1991 - A Year In Rap

1991 was the year which many consider to have signaled the birth of a golden period for club friendly credible hip hop releases. Aside from numerous memorable LP releases, 1991 was above all a year of anthems - Tribe’s ‘Scenario’, Nice and Smooth’s ‘Hip Hop Junkies’, Showbiz and AG’s ‘Party Groove’ and many other club friendly cuts with catchy hooks saw release during the year. 1991 was also a solid year for long players with stand out debut LPs from Black Sheep and Main Source amongst others. Debut LPs from Del the Funkee Homosapien and Cypress Hill both broke preconceptions about the West Coast sound in very different ways. Below is a snapshot of some of the year’s key events, produced this time with the assistance of Dream Door’s hip hop timeline:

- Gilbert O’Sullivan successfully sues 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, dissuading future producers from building multi-layered sound collages out of multiple samples for fear of litigation.

- Digital Underground follow their well received debut album with the quirkily titled ‘This Is An EP Release’. 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’, telling he tale of a group of young black men growing up in South Central Los Angeles. The film is a huge hit and spawns a legion of similarly styled movies in the following years.

- Bronx rapper Tim Dog (pictured above) 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 sophomore album ‘The Low End Theory’. Praised by critics and fans, the album is notable for its jazz-led production sealing the group’s reputation as leaders of the ‘new school’ movement of the day.

- After the success of A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Low End Theory’ and De La Soul’s sophomore effort ‘De La Soul Is Dead’, an alternative movement in hip hop gains momentum supported by strong debuts from Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Del the Funkee Homosapien, the Pharcyde, and Gang Starr.

- N.W.A. release their second full-length album, the inflammatory and controversial ‘Efil4zaggin’. In spite of widespread media criticism of the album’s graphic content, 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 criticised for fabricating his entire life story in interviews. To add insult to injury, Ice is successfully sued by David Bowie and Queen, who claim that he used the bassline from their hit ‘Under Pressure’ for his hit single ‘Ice Ice Baby’.

- A video showing four Los Angeles police officers brutally beating a black man named Rodney King filmed by a third party onlooker is broadcast on television news wordwide provoking outrage. The incident provokes a wave of politically charged commentary in hip hop releases shortly thereafter. The subsequent acquittal of the four officers on assault charges the following year spark the 1992 L.A. riots.

- M.C. Hammer releases his third album, ‘2 Legit To Quit’. Although the title cut is a sizeable hit, the album fails to match the 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.

- New York rap group Main Source release their debut LP, the critically acclaimed ‘Breaking Atoms’ on Wild Pitch records. Despite moderate sales, the album goes down in hip hop history as one of the greatest debut long players of all time and the single ‘Live At the Bar-B-Q’ features a memorable verse by a seventeen year old Queens rapper named Nas.

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