1999 - A Year In Rap

1999 was a year which marked a coming of age for the Indie Hip Hop scene. Whereas the previous year had been dominated by leftfield and arguably less accessible indie releases, 1999 delivered more accomplished and club friendly indie releases with labels such as Rawkus really growing into their hype. At the more commercial end of the spectrum big budget albums including Dre’s Chronic 2001 delivered on expectations. Other notable albums from the year include DJ Spinna’s Heavy Beats Volume 1 and underground classics including MF Doom’s ‘Operation Doomsday’ and Lootpack’s ‘Soundpieces’. Below is a snapshot of some of the year’s key mainstream events, produced this time with the assistance of Dream Door’s hip hop timeline:

- Nas releases his third album, ‘I Am…’, to mixed reviews and mediocre sales, as does its rushed follow-up ‘Nastradamus’, furthering the Queensbridge rapper’s downward career slide.

- 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 looks to eclipse the West Coast in overall popularity and sales.

- Jay-Z, DMX, Redman and Method Man embark on the ‘Hard Knock Life Tour’, one of hip-hop’s most successful major tours in around 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. 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 (pictured above) 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’, delivers the sound of Hip Hop’s independent underground to wider audiences.

- Slick Rick releases ‘The Art of Storytelling’, his first album since being released from prison two years earlier. It is praised as a return-to-form for the MC.

- Puff Daddy releases ‘Forever’. It fails to match 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 after Puffy himself 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’. Despite a degree of pop gloss, her presence is viewed by some as 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 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.

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