1998 - A Year In Rap

1998 is a year often celebrated as the pinnacle of the late 90s ‘Indie’ era. Revered independent labels including Rawkus, ABB, Fondle Em and countless other less well known imprints released some of their strongest material during the year. Major labels were quick to get in on the act with Tommy Boy launching its ‘Black Label’ imprint as an outlet for less commercial sounding output from the likes of Defari and DV Alias Khrist. Notable albums include Black Star seminal debut, Tribe Called Quest’s Ummah produced ‘Love Movement’ and Pete Rock’s star studded solo debut ‘Soul Survivor’. 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:

- DMX makes his debut with ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot’. 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.

- Lauryn Hill (pictured), 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 instrumentation 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 diss of the legendary rapper. LL responds with ‘The Ripper’s Back’, returning some of the street credibility to his career after a string of pop hits.

- Later the same year DMX 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.

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