Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Many will agree that the Golden Era of hip-hop began between 1986-1988. However, when the so-called Golden Era of hip-hop came to an end is a sliding scale. I've heard arguments of 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999... and even 2000.
All made valid points, but due to time I'm not going to delve into the arguments. We all know arguing and debating goes together with hip-hop (and sports), like peanut butter and jelly.
But what I will do is condense the time period of 10 years, for the sake of argument, into two separate years 1988 and 1998. Those two years are what I will refer to as the bookends of the Golden Era.
Lets start with 1988. 1986 and 1987 were incredible years, building up to the explosion of what was to come in 1988. Through lyricism and production, creativity, innovativeness, and diversity, collectively, they truly took Hip Hop to the next level.
Even beyond just the music, but the culture in general was spiking on greatness. Sports icons were at their peak. Mike Tyson, being at his peak in the summer '88, he knocked out the undefeated former champion Michael Spinks. Bo Jackson was running over opponents on the football field and blasting home runs on the diamond. Michael Jordan was NBA MVP, won the slam dunk contest and All-Star game MVP, while leading the NBA in scoring and winning the Defensive player of the year. Magic Johnson and the L.A. Lakers finished off back to back titles in the NBA for the first time since the Celtics did it in 1968-69.
MICHAEL JORDAN VS MAGIC
Hell, even at the local level, as a 16 year old junior, I was a part of a historic Easton High School (MD) basketball team that went to the state Final Four for the first time in 19 years.
Black cult films were making a major comeback, for the first time since the Blaxplotation era of the 70's, with classics such as Coming To America, School Daze, Tougher Than Leather, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Bird and Mississippi Burning.
Jesse Jackson even threw his hat in the ring by running for president.
Culturally, 1988 was a monumental year. It showed that you can do anything, if you put your mind to it.
Biz Markie & Slick Rick Talk About What The Year 1988 Meant To Hip-Hop
Without the need of doing a lot of explaining and convincing, I'll just leave you with a list of albums that were released in 1988. Those of you who lived and experienced that incredible year, will feel what I'm saying. Here we go:
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
One of the best albums ever made, in any genre. One of the most important Hip Hop albums ever.
Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown
Ced Gee's production and Kool Keith's innovative and off kilter rhymes, brought something different to the rap game. It became an instant underground classic.
Slick Rick - The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
The British accent adds to the flavor of a dope emcee with story telling unmatched. An incomparable album from front to back.
N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton
These Compton bred rappers put the West Coast on the map with a sound and impact that created a new category within the genre, Gangsta Rap. Yea, many point to Ice-T, Schoolly D, and Just Ice, who predated N.W.A. when it comes to "gangsta" lyrics, but none had the impact this crew had.
Eric B & Rakim - Follow The Leader
Their second release just added onto the early legacy of the incredible duo. Rakim made rappers scrap and rewrite their lyrics.
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane
The Juice Crew lyricist who was arguably the author of punchlines and lyrical word play, Big Daddy Kane's well crafted lyrics and Marley Marl's boom bap production ushered in a "new" type of emcee...
Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary
KRS-One's growth from his debut Criminal Minded is very evident with his conscious lyrics throughout his second album release. He arguably became the voice of conscious lyricism.
EPMD - Strictly Business
One of the first hip-hop crews to incorporate funk into their sound, dubbed the "Hardcore Funk", Eric & Parrish created a sound through their music, lyrics, chemistry and flow that was all their own. This debut was a classic.
Ice-T - Power
His follow up to his debut in '87 "Crime Pays", "Power" solidified Ice-T as a major player in hip-hop.
Jungle Brothers - Straight Out The Jungle
The JB's ushered in a new afro-centric consciousness in hip-hop lyricism, style and fashion. With dope beats and rhymes,the JB's would give birth to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and The Native Tongue collective.
MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock
Lyte was an emcees, MC. Holding her own in a genre full of ball grabbing emcees, she quickly gained the respect of all who heard her on this debut release.
Eazy-E - Eazy Duz It
Not known as a great lyricist for obvious reasons, with assistance from Ice Cube, MC Ren and the DOC, but his debut release was very solid and continued to make waves for N.W.A. and the new "West Coast" sound.
Marley Marl - In Control
For the Juice Crew beat smith maestro and orchestrator, it was only right that Marley would construct a compilation album. Headed by one of, if not theeee greatest posse cuts ever, The Symphony. In Control highlighted the Juice Crew all-stars featuring Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Roxanne Shante, Biz Markie, Masta Ace, Tragedy and Craig G, for the world to hear.
Biz Markie - Goin Off
First known for his beat boxing and off the dome freestyles, the funny man of rap was delivered some dope rhymes from the pen of Big Daddy Kane. Add to that, the boom bap, sonic sound from the Queensbridge legend Marley Marl and you have a classic debut.
Too Short - Life Is...
Having been dropping joints since 81,82 out west, Short dawg became a national household name after this release. With his pimped out street tales, no one could spit game quite like Too Short.
Run-DMC - Tougher Than Leather
No strangers to the game at this point and their legacy strongly solidified, on their fourth album release, coupled with a nationwide theatrical release, Run-DMC offers up another high energy, braggadocious, boom basctic classic.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - He's The DJ I'm The Rapper
Being Hip-Hop's first double album and the group's second release, this Philly duo went platinum this trip. Garnering much commercial success, this album, along with it's video visuals showing off Will Smith's personality and light-hearted comedy, helped catapult Will Smith to Hollywood superstardom.
Super Lover Cee & Cassanova Rudd - Girls I Got Em Locked
One of the more slept on albums of the year, mainly due to "the year". Just fun loving, light hearted rhymes, with dope beats.
Stetsasonic - In Full Gear
The first hip-hop band comes back with their second release, following up their 1986 debut. Stetsa just continued where they left off in '86.
King Tee- Act A Fool
King Tee is one who often gets left out of the West Coast invasion conversation. Get a late pass, Tee is mos def a West Coast pioneer.
MC Shan - Born To Be Wild
Shan's follow up to his '86 debut doesn't hit as hard, but it's still a solid effort, amongst a crowded group of '88 claasics.
Another oft-forgotten pioneer, in terms of conscious lyricism. Lakim of the Flavor Unit, along with the 45 King on production, served up an overlooked, underground gem here.
DJ Cash Money & Marvelous
Another Philly duo, in the vein of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, brought fun-loving, light-hearted content on wax.
Tuff Crew - Danger Zone
Another Philly crew, but on the other end of spectrum. Hardcore street lyrics and knockin beats were the forte for these cats.
JVC Force - Doin Damage
These Long Island cats keep the airwaves buzzin in NYC with their underground smash, "Strong Island". Didn't hear much from them after this album, but they made Strong Island's presence known in '88.
Schoolly D - Smoke Some Kill
One of the original gangsta MC's, this Philly cat dropped his 3rd album in'88. Not as successful as the first two, but he still made his mark in '88.
Audio Two - What More Can I Say?
Dropping one of the dopest, most recognizable and most time-tested hip-hop songs in hip-hop history "Top Billin", any songs after that would be an after thought... and it was. Their album was solid, but Top Billin, was just that.
Then there's the monumental year that was 1998. Hip-Hop wise, it was equivalent to hip-hop being on life support. You know, it gets that burst of life and it begins to look promising, just to suddenly die as fast as things looked positive.
We seen the fading of mainstream cultural outlets that upheld the non-commercial Hip-Hop such as Yo! MTV Raps (1995) and the Arsenio Hall Show (1994). BET's Rap City was hanging on by a thread, it just wasn't the same.
1998 seen a couple of things. One last burst of what once was (East Coast Boom Bap at it's finest, the West Coast making one last gasp, underground hip hop still being recognized) and a glimpse into the future (Down South's reign at the top was on its way).
Here's the list of the many top notch superior albums released in 1998. Arguablly ushering in the end of Hip-Hop's Golden Era:
The LOX - Money Power Respect
Funkdoobiest - The Troubleshooters
Silkk the Shocker - Charge It 2 Da Game
Above The Law - Legends
Scarface - My Homies
Killah Priest - Heavy Mental
Fat Pat - Ghetto Dreams
Cappadonna - The Pillage
Das Efx - Generation Efx
Hieroglyphics - 3rd Eye Vision
People Under The Stairs - The Next Step
Gang Starr - The Moment of Truth
Smif-N-Wessun - The Rude Awakening
Goodie Mob - Still Standing
Souls of Mischief - Focus
Big Pun - Capital Punishment
Mac Dre - Stupid Doo Doo Dumb
Public Enemy - He Got Game
WC - The Shadiest One
Shades of Culture - Mindstate
Rawkus Records - Lyricist Lounge
DMX - It's Dark and Hell Is Hot
AZ - Pieces of A Man
8 Ball - Lost
Jurassic 5 - Jurassic 5
Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz - Make It Reign
Master P - MP Da Last Don
Onyx - Shut Em Down
Devin The Dude - The Dude
Def Squad - El Nino
MC Ren - Ruthless For Life
N.O.R.E. - NORE
69 Boyz - The Wait Is Over
Cam'Ron - Confessions of Fire
Snoop Dogg - The Game Is To Be Told Not Sold
Sunz Of Man - The Last Shall Be First
Wu-Tang Clan - The Swarm
E-40 - The Element of Surprise
Funkmaster Flex - The Mixtape Vol. lll
M.O.P. - First Family 4 Life
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Xzibit - 40 Days & 40 Nights
Fat Joe - Don Cartegena
Canibus - Can-I-Bus
Flipmode Squad - The Imperial
Rass Kass - Rassassination
Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (Released Sept 29)
Brand Nubian - Foundation (Released Sept 29)
Jay Z - Vol 2... Hard Knock Life (Released Sept 29)
No Limit Records - Mean Green (Released Sept 29)
Outkast - Aquemini (Released Sept 29)
A Tribe Called Quest - The Love Movement (Released Sept 29)
Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill IV
Kurupt - Kuruption
Mack 10 - The Recipe
Heltah Skeltah - Magnum Force
Beat Junkies - World Famous Beat Junkies Vol.2
All City - Metropolis Gold
Pete Rock - Soul Survivor
Geto Boyz - Da Good Da Bad Da Ugly
Keith Murray - It's A Beautiful Thing
Ice Cube - War & Peace
Method Man: Tical 2000
RZA - Bobby Digital In Stereo
Redman - Doc's Da Name
Busta Rhymes - Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front
Mystikal - Ghetto Fabulos
DJ Clue - The Professional
DMX - Flesh Of My Flesh Blood Of My Blood
As you can see 1998 was versatile and DEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!
For argument and debate's sake, what are you taking 1988 or 1998?
Let's have some fun!!