feature: revisiting the trailblazers – the importance of 90’s hip-hop

April 29, 2014

1990 was a beautiful year for hip-hop. Artists like Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and many others released works expressing how young, black men felt about the world at that time. Among all the albums released, even in their differences, they all carried the same 90’s feel. The same conscious vibration. These young artists were capturing black consciousness and pride into clever lyrics and old school record samples. The emergence of pride and culture was almost a savior for some who’d escaped the crack/self destructive epidemic of the 80’s.

By Ariana Beedie, AFROPUNK Contributor *

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“A D.A.I.S.Y. Age,” as De La Soul would call it, had taken over young, impressionable rappers of that time. It was more about self discovery and rocking the crowd. For me, there are three groups in particular that made an everlasting impression on east coast hip-hop. A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian and De La Soul are a few of the many bands that helped spread the “knowledge of self” lifestyle. They showed other black youth that it was OK to be positive, black and in tune with the self. These groups were and still are a breath of fresh air for hip-hop. There are many reasons why these artists have left such a strong impact on hip-hop culture. First, the common denominator of ill skills among these artists.

Let’s start with Brand Nubian. The trio of rappers Grand Puba, Sadat X and Lord Jamar, burst onto the scene with their debut album, “One for All.” Spiritually charged lyrics paired with funky beats let other groups just what these guys are all about. “Peace to the Gods,” a phrase commonly used on this album expressed their support of the Nation of Gods and Earths, a movement promoting black awareness. “You’ve got to know knowledge of self is the foundation… understanding is the manifestation and cultural freedom is the final turnout.”

Secondly, A Tribe Called Quest made strides in advocating for consciousness and positivity. “You aren’t any less of a man if you don’t pull the trigger. You’re not necessarily a man if you do.” These are the types of messages Q-Tip, Phife, Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad were trying to portray to their fans. Also supporters of the various consciousness movements, ATCQ also focused on an early form of “Afropunk.” They let others know that being different was a good thing, also that inner city youth didn’t have to be stereotypical but they could also educate themselves and others on positivity.

Lastly, De La Soul implemented the idea of the first black hippy movement, the “D.A.I.S.Y.” Age. From the impression of their debut album cover, three young black males surrounded by flowers wasn’t a bad thing. Instead of being seen as feminine or being discredited for their style, De La was (and still is) embraced by millions. Their debut, “3 Feet High and Rising,” released mid-1989, set a high standard for this era of cool consciousness. Another common denominator among these groups is a sense of brotherhood. At this point in 1990, these groups were solidifying their friendships. As the knowledge spread, the bonds in the group grew stronger. These bonds also expanded to other groups, so that most of the similar rap groups in New York were friends and appeared on each other’s albums. These groups have made a continual impact on the lives and experiences of current rappers.

As time comes around, we’ve entered another “D.A.I.S.Y. Age.” (D.A.I.S.Y stands for “da inner sound ya’ll.”) If it weren’t for these groups daring to be different and stand up for what they believe in, we wouldn’t be lucky enough to have the young, fresh rap scene that we have today. We wouldn’t have a Tyler the Creator without Q-Tip. We certainly wouldn’t have groups like A$AP Mob without the entire Native Tongue Movement. If you haven’t revisited this era of hip-hop, then you need to. Follow our history, and celebrate what these artists have done for our culture.

* Ariana Beedie on Twitter: @thegladfact.