Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images© 2023.
Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes
Open now through September 2024, "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" commemorates the genre’s 50th anniversary through interactive installations and displays of everything from photos to fashion.
You can get up close and personal with the Notorious B.I.G.’s red leather peacoat or test out your turntable skills at Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, open now at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles. A retrospective look to mark the genre’s 50th anniversary, Hip-Hop America brings together elements of fashion, music, dance, graffiti, business, activism, and history — all with the aim of capturing the sweeping, global impact of hip-hop.
"It's something that started as a genre that people considered a fad, as a novelty," says GRAMMY Museum Chief Curator Jasen Emmons, "but it has become not only a global musical force, but a global cultural force. So many young people have grown up with hip-hop and take it for granted, but its ability to evolve and continue to be relevant is pretty powerful."
The 5,000-square foot exhibit space is packed with artifacts, interactive elements, and curated video, as well as photo ops. Here are six things we learned walking through the installation, which runs through Sept. 4, 2024.
There Were Always Women In Hip-Hop
Saweetie┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Entering Hip-Hop America, you’ll get a look at a few standalone cases featuring everything from an essay Tupac Shakur wrote in junior high, to a gorgeously over the top set of custom nails made for Saweetie by celebrity nail artist Temeka Jackson. The exhibit’s main space showcases what life was like in the Boogie Down Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop music and culture. On display are pieces like a leather vest made for a junior member of the Young Nomads street gang and pieces of graffiti art from Edwin "HE."
Also on display are various paint caps used by Lady Pink, an artist known for her work in New York in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. She would go on to star in 1983’s Wild Style, which is widely regarded as the first hip-hop movie.
The inclusion of influencers and acts like Lady Pink was a very intentional move on the part of the exhibit’s creators, Emmons says. Quite often, when people think about hip-hop’s origins, they think of acts like the Sugar Hill Gang, Cold Crush Crew, and Fab 5 Freddy, and they were all there — and are all featured in the exhibit — but they grew and prospered alongside a number of female acts, and with the help and support of women like Sylvia Robinson, the founder of Sugar Hill Records who produced "Rappers Delight." Her confidence and the success of that track helped birth a wealth of small, independent labels that helped give the new sound a platform.
Hip-Hop And Soul Have Intermingled From The Beginning
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
In the middle of the exhibit, there’s an interactive video display dedicated to the marriage of the hip-hop and soul genres. Hip-hop, it says, "is an omnigenre that incorporates many music traditions." The relationship between hip-hop and R&B is complex, the exhibit continued:
While early rappers tended to avoid R&B-friendly topics like love and loss in favor of what the exhibit calls "braggadocio," by the 1990s rappers and R&B stars were working together in harmony. The resulting hip-hop soul gave songs like Janet Jackson and Q-Tip’s "Got ‘Til It’s Gone" and Mariah Carey and Jay-Z’s "Heartbreaker" a permanent place in the cultural lexicon.
Hip-Hop Has A Mind For Business
A history of entrepreneurs┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
One of Hip-Hop America’s exhibits focuses on the commercial aspects of the genre, highlighting people like the aforementioned Robinson and acts like the Wu-Tang Clan, who refused to sign all of their members to one label. They instead insisted that each member have an individual deal with one of the six majors, meaning that, come album release time, each label would have a vested interest in promoting the material and the group. That’s smart thinking.
A Lot Of Rappers Have Great Penmanship
Handwritten lyrics for "Fight The Power"┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
There are a number of handwritten pieces in Hip-Hop America, from Shakur’s junior high essay about citizenship to Lil Wayne’s letters home from prison and Wyclef Jean’s lyrics for the Fugees’ "Ready Or Not." Everything is remarkably legible and these pieces offer unique insight into the mind and lives of some of hip-hop’s biggest acts.
Take, for instance, a case featuring the late Shock G’s hand-drawn album cover art for "The Humpty Dance." He leaves copious notes on the drawing and in accompanying materials explaining not only what samples he wants cleared for the record but noting that in his cartoon visage, "Humpty’s gums are not white or red," saying the artist should use "the same brown used for the skin." Looking at these pieces, it’s clear that Shock G took his art and his image very seriously, and that though "The Humpty Dance" may have become a party classic, a lot of work went into creating something so fun.
B.I.G. Was Big, Big, Big
Biggie's peacoat and other distinctive jackets┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
For someone to earn the moniker "the Notorious B.I.G.," they probably have to be pretty large in either stature or scale. At Hip-Hop America, you’ll get a sense of how big the artist born Christopher Wallace. actually was, thanks to a mannequin sporting his iconic 5001 Flavors red leather peacoat and Karl Kani jeans.
Worn in an appearance on "MTV News," for a feature in Vibe, and in the Junior M.A.F.I.A. video for "Player’s Anthem," the coat was one of Biggie’s favorites and has the scuff marks, wear, and creases to prove it.
Ryan Butler, the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Recording Academy and an advisory board member for the exhibit, says that Biggie’s coat is one of his favorite pieces in the exhibit, in part because it’s placed (per the Shakur family’s request) next to the white suit that Tupac wore in his last music video.
Hip-Hop Fashion Has Defined Trends For Generations
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
"To really see the impact that hip-hop has had on fashion is just so incredible," says Butler.
That impact is made clear throughout the exhibit, which features items like Andre 3000’s fringed green pants from the 46th GRAMMY Awards, MC Lyte’s bamboo earrings, and the chain and padlock worn by Naughty By Nature's Treach before he could afford something a little more swank.
"The rugged accessory suggested strength and proved useful as a defensive weapon when the trio faced potential violence in clubs," the exhibit notes, continuing that, "It was also meant to show solidarity with those locked up."
Also on display are multiple pieces made by the legendary designer Dapper Dan, who’s been fashioning hip-hop looks since the very beginning. There’s a look at the beginning of the exhibit that he made for old school DJ Busy Bee that’s pretty sharp even now, as well as a longer black leather motorcycle jacket he customized for Melle Mel to wear at the 1985 GRAMMY Awards, where he rapped the intro to Chaka Khan’s "I Feel For You."
Photo: Medios y Media/Getty Images
8 Latinx Rappers To Know: Eladio Carrion, Young Miko, Akapellah & More
African American, Caribbean and Latinx people were all present at the birth of hip-hop in 1973. In the five decades since, hip-hop has gone global, and Latinx people are shaping the genre.
Hip-hop is not only a global phenomenon, but a multi-lingual expression. There are many Latinx rappers who have contributed to the genre's legacy with Spanish-language music, and others who form the larger fabric of hip-hop history.
Hip-hop was born on Aug. 11, 1973 at a back-to-school party in the Bronx, which included African American, Caribbean and Latinx attendees. While Latinx people have helped shape the genre in the years since, Nuyoricans such as Angie Martinez, Fat Joe, and his collaborator Big Pun left an indelible Latinx mark on rap in the ‘90s. At the same time on the West Coast, the Latin Alliance formed and led to breakout careers of Chicano rappers Kid Frost and Mellow Man Ace, who both largely rapped in Spanglish. Cypress Hill and Ozomatli later emerged in their wake. Cuban American rapper Pitbull would soon crossover in the rap mainstream into the next decade.
On the island of Puerto Rico, rappers nurtured the emerging genre of reggaeton in the ‘90s and 2000s as another medium where they could flex their Spanish flow. Pioneers like Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderón, and Don Omar unleashed their rhymes over dembow-driven rhythms. Ivy Queen and Lisa M blazed a path for women in the male-dominated genre. N.O.R.E.'s hit "Oye Mi Canto" would later help globalize reggaeton in 2005. That decade also saw the rise of Puerto Rican group Calle 13, which was led by rapper Residente, who has since become the most-awarded artist in Latin GRAMMY history. Cardi B and Bad Bunny are now representing Latinx rappers on a global level. Those are just a few names of many Latinx trailblazers.
In honor of hip-hop's 50th anniversary, GRAMMY.com highlights eight artists from the next generation of Latinx rappers.
Since the release of his breakthrough album Bien O Mal in 2022, Trueno has become the rap artist to watch out for in Argentina. In his songs like the empowering "Argentina" featuring Nathy Peluso or the poignant "Tierra Zanta" alongside Argentine folk artist Victor Heredia, he celebrates the culture of his country while embracing the sounds and influences of American rap.
Trueno went global after the Gorillaz invited him to perform "Clint Eastwood" with them at the Quilmes Rock festival in Argentina. Earlier this year, he got a co-sign from Latinx rap group Cypress Hill, who remixed Trueno's socially-conscious banger "F— The Police." More recently, Trueno is having fun with his rhymes in his recent feel-good singles like "Tranky Funky" and "Ohh Baby."
"My mission in life is to take Argentine rap as far as we can go," Trueno told Infobae this year.
Eladio Carrion is proving that his explosive rap flow can't be contained to one genre. The Puerto Rican rapper has made a name for himself thanks to his series of Sauce Boyz albums, which first launched in 2020. Carrion largely dominates the Latin trap scene, but he has also made his mark in drill with the "Tata" remix featuring J Balvin, Daddy Yankee, and Bobby Shmurda, even experimenting in Mexican corridos with Peso Pluma in "77."
Carrion's latest album, 3men2 Kbrn, features collaborations with rappers that he idolized. Future joins him in the swaggering "Mbappe" remix, Lil Wayne appears on the triumphant "Gladiador" remix, and "Si Salimos" features 50 Cent. The all-Spanish LP debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 chart in March.
"I just keep trying to build that bridge between Latin and American culture because I’ve been influenced so much by American hip-hop, but you know I do Latin music," Carrion told Uproxx this year.
Villano Antillano is making a mark for both women and the LGBTQ+ community in the Latin hip-hop scene. The Puerto Rican rapper — who identifies as transfemme and nonbinary — has proudly represented who she is within her fierce anthems. Antillano teamed up with Spanish rapper Ptazeta for the girl power anthem "Mujerón" and empowered trans women in "Muñeca" with nonbinary artist Ana Macho.
Antillano made a global impact last year when she featured on Argentine producer Bizarrap’s hit "BZRP Music Sessions #51." Over trap beats with an electronica edge, she unleashed fiery flow about how she is running the Latin rap game. Villano then released her debut album La Sustancia X where celebrated women's resilience alongside Residente's sister iLe in "Mujer" and paid homage to La Delfi and Celia Cruz in "Cáscara De Coco."
"I hope that from seeing me and hearing my music, more people can live authentically in their everyday lives," she told MTV News in 2021.
Young Miko is also breaking down barriers for the LGBTQ+ community in the Latin hip-hop scene. The queer Puerto Rican rapper has proudly dropped bars about her love for other women in her songs, like this year's global hit "Classy 101" with Colombian singer Feid, as well as the swaggering "Lisa."
Young Miko has become one of the most in-demand collaborators in today's Latin music scene, proving that she can shine in any genre. In 2023, she featured g on Marshmello's house-infused "Tempo" and Bad Gyal's reggaeton banger "Chulo Pt. 2" with Dominican star Tokischa.
"This generation is tired of the same," she told Popsugar this year. "They're accepting and receptive to something new. Maybe [my lyrics] are not how I feel but how I'd like to feel."
In Latin rap, J Noa is proudly carrying her country of the Dominican Republic on her back. The teen phenom released her debut EP Autodidacta earlier this year. In the somber "Betty," J Noa shined a light on the pressures that Dominican teens face in underserved neighborhoods. In the explosive "Autodidacta," she unleashed her mind-blowing rap skills.
A triumphant moment on the EP is empowering "No Me Pueden Parar." The self-proclaimed "La Hija del Rap," or "the daughter of rap," spit inspirational bars about not allowing any obstacles to get in the way of achieving her dreams. J Noa has a knack for mixing social truths with fierce rhymes. Back in July, she wowed hip-hop pioneers DMC, Grandmaster Caz, Mighty Mike C, and Sha-Rock with a freestyle rap in the Bronx.
"I can keep rap going by staying on the path that I am on," she told Refinery29. "Real rap is about social protests and history."
Akapellah is proudly representing the hip-hop scene in Venezuela, releasing songs that are both playful and socially-conscious In 2020, the hard-hitting "Condenados," he dropped bars about the plight of the Venezuelan people following the country's economic collapse.
Instead of letting his size be anyone else's punchline, Akapellah boasted about the benefits it gives him in the smooth "Gordo Funky." For his feel-good rhymes, he received multiple Latin GRAMMY nominations for Best Rap/Hip Hop Song. Akapellah made headlines this year when he released a tiraera, or diss track, against Residente called "No Eres Rapero." Understanding it's a part of hip-hop culture, Residente took the shot in stride and later named Akapellah one of his favorite Latinx rappers.
"My [success] has been very organic and like a hybrid," he told La República newspaper. "I have had my peaks of hype, but [my career] has always remained stable."
Nanpa Básico is a proud exponent of Colombia in the Latin rap scene. The Medellín native has made waves with his street-conscious lyrics and romantic flow, first breaking through in 2017, with the guitar-driven ballad "Sin Ti Estoy Bien" and the haunting "Ya Para Qué."
This past year, Básico has gone global while exploring different genres. Alongside Mexican singer Ximena Sariñana, he tackles a whimsical pop sound in the dreamy "Nunca Tuve Tanto." Básico's slick rap flow met R&B in the soulful "Ya No Se Mueve" with Leon Leiden. Básico's latest album, HECHO M13RD4, boasts features from Mexican rappers Gera MX and Santa Fe Klan, regional Mexican music star Adriel Favela, and Colombian reggaeton singer Ryan Castro.
"I studied social work so I said I don't want to continue glorifying the problems, but on the contrary, very cool things happen in the hood too, that people sometimes don't talk about," he told Rolling Stone En Español.
Gera MX is making Mexico's rap scene go global. In 2021, he blended trap and mariachi music with Christian Nodal in the genre-bending hit "Botella Tras Botella." They made history with the first regional Mexican song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Last year, Gera MX continued to push boundaries for Latin rap in his two albums, No Teníamos Nada, Pero Éramos Felices and Ahora Tengo Todo Menos A Ti. In explosive "Hagan Ruido," he teamed up with Mexican American rapper Snow Tha Product where they proudly boasted about their roots. Colombian reggaeton singer Blessd joined Gera MX in the feel-good "One Love." This year, Gera MX brought together the worlds of Latin trap and corridos in the fiery "Feria En El Sobre," featuring Peso Pluma and Herencia De Patrones.
"Mexican hip-hop has gained a lot of respect and popularity," he told Remezcla. "I don’t know if it’s the Golden Age, but it’s a good time."
Photo: mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
Snoop Dogg's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Display His Charismatic Style And Range
As the rapper's seminal debut album Doggystyle celebrates its 30th anniversary, dig into some of the best and most popular songs in Snoop Dogg's discography, from "Gin and Juice" to "I'm From 21st Street."
Thirty years ago, a rap music legend began his journey to immortality — and to Martha Stewart.
Most in-the-know music fans were aware of Snoop Doggy Dogg (as he was then known) because of his collaborations with Dr. Dre. First there was "Deep Cover" from the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Then there were his memorable contributions to Dre's The Chronic, which came out in late 1992.
So the world was primed for Snoop's solo debut Doggystyle when it was released into the world on November 23, 1993. The album sold around 800,000 copies in its first week, and set the stage for Snoop to become a superstar, one who would eventually reach a stage of pop-culture ubiquity that mid-90s rap fans — and those people who saw his scowl on the cover of Newsweek as the literal face of the question of whether rap was too violent — could have never imagined.
To celebrate the anniversary of Doggystyle's release, GRAMMY.com is revisiting the D-O-double-G's biggest and best musical moments. A quick note: this list does not include songs that appear on another artist's album (hey, we had to draw the line somewhere!), so there's no "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" or "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted." And we tried to pull from all eras of his career, so it's not all Doggystyle (though you should, of course, listen to that classic in its entirety).
So with all that said, here we are: 15 of Snoop Dogg's most popular and most dynamic songs.
"Deep Cover" with Dr. Dre, Deep Cover soundtrack (1992)
Snoop's very first recorded song — his introduction to the world at large — occurred over a Dre beat so powerful, with a bassline so iconic, that it became the foil for not one, not two, but three classic songs (plus a nasty Biggie freestyle). The duo's lyrical chemistry was undeniable as they traded verses throughout. And, of course, there's the song's chorus, in which Snoop introduced California penal code 187 into the national lexicon.
The track and its video loosely parallel the plot of the movie on whose soundtrack it appears, the absolutely nuts (and surprisingly entertaining) Deep Cover, directed by Bill Duke and starring Laurence Fishburne.
"Who Am I (What's My Name)?" Doggystyle (1993)
This track wasn't just the world's introduction to Doggystyle — it lets fans know that the Dre-and-Snoop chemistry they'd heard on The Chronic was not a fluke. The track's George Clinton and P-Funk interpolations also showed that Dre was still in his bag, and Snoop's vocal performance was one for the ages. Still in his very early 20s, the rapper was adept at mythmaking, showing the audience how he would "step through the fog" and "creep through the smog" to deliver his charismatic raps.
As if that wasn't enough, the song's Fab 5 Freddy-directed video showed Snoop's sense of humor, as it featured the rapper and his compatriots morphing into literal dogs.
"Gin and Juice," Doggystyle (1993)
Any rap fan of a certain age can not only spit this song word for word, but also quote pretty much every line in the video ("Snoop Doggy Dogg! You need to get a jobby-job"). Just say the words "Laid back…" to pretty much anyone who is at the age where they can say complete sentences, and you'll get "With my mind on my money and my money on my mind" in response.
The song and video created an image for Snoop that was fun-loving and comic — one that he rode (sometimes in a Chrysler) all the way to a decades-long career as a pitchman, TV host and overall personality that would at first glance seem incongruous for an avowed Crip from Long Beach. Beyond all the myth-making, though, it's just a fantastic song, one that Rolling Stone included in its 100 best rap songs of all time list.
"Gz and Hustlas," Doggystyle (1993)
This Doggystyle highlight begins with a hilarious skit that ends with a funny and profane punchline from a very young Bow Wow. It just gets better from there.
Snoop has said that this is one of his two personal favorites from his debut album. Not unrelatedly, he's also admitted that the whole thing was improvised while he was just checking a mic. And as we'll see on the "Afro Puffs" remix, freestyling Snoop is the best Snoop. That's certainly the case here. The sample of Bernard Wright's "Haboglabotribin" provides the perfect soundtrack for the ride.
"Murder Was the Case," Doggystyle (1993)
This song is the Faustian tale of a young man who survives a shooting by selling his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal life and a life of riches and success. But, as always with these stories, the protagonist's greed gets the better of him, and the devil gets his due. The narrator ends the story locked up, with only a prison riot to look forward to.
It's a gripping tale that would have eerie real-life resonance when Snoop was actually charged with murder, a charge on which he was famously acquitted. He wrote the song before the incident, a coincidence that affected him so deeply that he decided that "maybe I shouldn't be writing about devilish s— like this."
"Afro Puffs (Extended Remix)" with The Lady of Rage, Above the Rim soundtrack (1994)
Snoop is at his best when he's in the moment — when he's relaxed, freestyling and rapping in his inimitable style about whatever is on his mind. His opening verse on this song is perhaps the quintessential example of that.
He sounds completely at ease, swinging, developing ideas in an unforced way. It's like you're in the studio with Snoop for two solid minutes, watching him warm up and get comfortable. It's a performance style he wouldn't duplicate on any other studio track, even the ones he would also make up on the spot.
"Woof! (feat. Fiend and Mystikal)," Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998)
One of Snoop's first major business and stylistic switches happened in March 1998, when he signed to No Limit Records. What was a Long Beach gangsta rapper doing on a New Orleans label? Well, it turned out to be a pretty great fit, at least on "Woof!"
The track was the second single on Snoop's No Limit debut, and it featured two of the label's stars, Fiend and Mystikal. The Dogg fits perfectly on a track in the label's aggressive, chant-based Southern style (even the track's percussive dog barks manage to add intensity). Snoop adopts a more free rhythmic approach here, perhaps influenced by his all-over-the-beat labelmates. It's fascinating to hear, and it works amazingly well.
"B— Please (feat. Xzibit)," No Limit Top Dogg (1999)
One of the things Snoop is greatest at is, to put it in crass, unavoidable terms, pimp talk. "B— Please" might be his ultimate entry into the genre. This song features a memorable performance by Xzibit and some classic singing from Nate Dogg. And the Dr. Dre beat is instantly memorable. But what really puts the song over the top is the confidence and style with which Snoop orders an unnamed lady to "hem my coat and roll me some dope."
"Lay Low (feat. Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy, and Tha Eastsidaz)," The Last Meal (2000)
Yes, Xzibit wrote Snoop's verse on this classic posse cut featuring rapping contributions from the Eastsidaz and Snoop's then-label boss Master P. But that doesn't make the Doggfather's contribution any less smooth. It doesn't prevent Nate Dogg's hook from being an unstoppable ear worm. It doesn't make Dr. Dre's beat any less of a minimalist masterpiece. It doesn't make the Eastsidaz's appearances less effective. And it certainly doesn't diminish in any way the single best part of the song: Master P rapping, "They call me Jed Clampett for all the bread I got/ But they call me Bill Clinton for all the head I got."
"Beautiful (feat. Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson)," Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$ (2002)
Snoop teaming up with Pharrell gave the Dogg a much-needed early aughts career boost. It turned out that Snoop and P made an unbeatable combination, and one that we will see again later in this very list.
"Beautiful" features an instantly memorable beat whose repetitive syncopated rhythms immediately drive into the listener's skull and don't let up until the song is over. Add in Pharrell's so-off-key-they're-somehow-on vocals, and you have a track that stands out even in the era of Neptunes ubiquity. Snoop adds his own style and grace, and, somehow, a (presumably intentionally) charmingly awkward reference to Clueless.
"Drop It Like It's Hot (feat. Pharrell Williams)," R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (2004)
Snoop and Pharrell made a number of great songs, but this is arguably their masterpiece. This No. 1 hit was so popular that even its ringtone version went double platinum. It was also nominated for a GRAMMY. But accolades and numbers are secondary.
What makes this track is the perfect melding of one the Neptunes' greatest non-Clipse minimalist beats with Snoop's laid-back rapping (and a verse from Pharrell in which he bends his approach towards Snoop's to superb effect). Snoop sounds so relaxed that you might miss all the tough talk, which is delivered in his patented stylish way ("Pistol-whip you, dip you, then flip you/ Then dance to this mothaf—in' music we Crip to").
"Think About It," Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)
This is the song Snoop chose to demonstrate to his own son that after nearly 15 years in the rap world, he could still hold his own. He couldn't have made a better choice.
"Think About It" is dense, wordy, even "intellectual" — a word Snoop comes back to a few times in the track. It's also a seemingly incongruous mixture of aggressive rapping, where Snoop sounds like he's really pushing himself; with laid-back music reminiscent of 1970s soul. And yet that combination, which could be off-putting, somehow works to the advantage of both elements of the song, supplying the rapping with needed comfort and style; and the music with energy and drive.
"Sensual Seduction," Ego Trippin' (2007)
Sometimes known by its uncensored title "Sexual Eruption," this Shawty Redd-produced track was one of Snoop's biggest chart hits, making it all the way to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's also a big left turn for him, featuring Auto-Tuned singing throughout, minus a rap verse in the middle.
The incredibly catchy number started its life as a Shawty Redd solo song called "Drifter," which got leaked and hit the radio. "Snoop wanted to buy that song," Shawty told me a few years back. "At the time, Sylvia Rhone was signing me to Universal/Motown as an artist, and I couldn't sell Snoop that song. So I ended up making ['Sensual Seduction']."
"Young, Wild & Free" (Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa feat. Bruno Mars) Mac & Devin Go To High School (2011)
This track brings together Snoop and a younger weed-obsessed rapper, Wiz Khalifa. But what really makes it a winner is the addition of Bruno Mars, who at that time was in the middle of an absolutely unstoppable run with his crew the Smeezingtons as a hitmaker for both himself and others. This was "F— You"/ "Billionaire"/ "Nothin' on You"-era Bruno, and his composition and hook here is right up there with those pop masterpieces. Snoop and Wiz trade rhymes back and forth with a chemistry that, while perhaps plant-induced, can't be faked.
"I'm From 21st Street (feat. DJ Drama and Stressmatic)," Gangsta Grillz: I Still Got It (2022)
Snoop spent much of the past decade doing unusual one-offs (see 2013's reggae album Reincarnated and 7 Days of Funk, a funk project with DāM-FunK, or 2018's gospel compilation Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love, among others). So when he wanted to get back to his rap roots in 2022, he teamed with Gangsta Grillz mastermind DJ Drama to release a mixtape called I Still Got It. The project, and especially this song, more than proves the title correct.
Snoop tears up the Rick Rock-produced beat, sounding more energized and hungry than he has in a while. The subject matter may be somewhat well-trod ground (it's not far removed from his 1994 track "21 Jumpstreet," which could easily have made this list as well), but how he talks about his past, and the intensity he brings to it, shows that Snoop can still produce great music 30 years into his career.
Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Watch: "A History Of L.A. Ska" Panel At The GRAMMY Museum With Reel Big Fish, NOFX & More
Featuring musicians, DJs, curators and more, the multi-part series "A History Of L.A. Ska" explores the genre's deep history in Southern California. The latest installment included members of Hepcat, Ocean 11 and others.
Ska — as any lover of the genre will tell you — is far from dead.
In fact, the genre that burst forth in Jamaica at the time of the nation's independence in the early 1960s (and, crucially, is the musical seed from which reggae grew) is alive and well around the globe. Call it a fourth wave, a revival or a scene of stalwarts, but the horn-heavy, grooving and uptempo music continues to march forward — and the GRAMMY Museum is all-in on the celebration.
For several years, the GRAMMY Museum has hosted "A History Of L.A. Ska" — a discussion and performance series featuring local musicians, DJs, journalists, and others. Panelists reminisce about their early years in ska, working with legends, and the important role Southern California has played in the development of the culture. The most recent panel was held on Nov. 7 (but more on that later).
Although born in Jamaica, ska migrated to the UK in the latter half of the '60s and, the following decade, mixed with burgeoning punk sounds to create the genre's second wave: Two Tone. Bands such as the Specials, Madness and the Selecter struck a chord with local audiences as well as those in Southern California — which saw its first ska band, the Boxboys, debut in 1979. Then by the late ‘80s, California-based bands such as the Untouchables, Fishbone, Hepcat and Let’s Go Bowling were building a distinct scene.
As the ‘90s began, Southern California was the focal point of ska's third wave. Helmed by bands like Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats and, early on, No Doubt, a new generation further enmeshed punk and ska to become faster, catchier and more memeable. While third wave groups of the era came from all corners (see New Jersey's Catch-22, Florida's Less Than Jake and Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones), Southern California remained a stronghold for ska music and was buoyed by a strong subculture of mods and non-racist skinheads.
Today, Los Angeles remains a hotbed for a new generation of ska acts — many of which harken back to the sounds of the '60s. Southern California has also played host to ska legends, including Derrick Morgan (whose song "Forward March" became an independence anthem), Pat Kelly, the Pioneers and more.
"When I was first introduced to ska in Southern California, I was blown away by the level of musicianship and the love that these young talents had for the music that I grew up listening to in Jamaica,” shares Junor Francis, a moderator and veteran radio DJ/emcee who co-curates the "A History Of L.A. Ska" series with Eric Kohler. The two also host a video interview series of the same name. [Editor's note: Author Jessica Lipsky has appeared on this series.]
"While many fans of American third wave ska were introduced to the sound in the 1990s, more casual listeners may not be aware that ska in Southern California dates back four decades," notes Kohler. "To that end, Junor and I have made it our mission to celebrate and highlight the scene’s rich history, vibrancy and uniqueness."
Part four of the series — and the most recent — featured seven panelists representing a broad swath of L.A. ska history: Hepcat drummer Greg Narvas (Hepcat), singer Karina Denike (Dance Hall Crashers, NOFX), keyboardists Matt Parker (the Donkey Show) and Paul Hampton (the Skeletones), DJ and drummer Nina Cole (the Cover Ups), drummer Oliver Charles (Ocean 11, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Gogol Bordello), and multi-instrumentalist Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish, the Littlest Man Band). The panel was moderated by Junor Francis.
The four-part series is available to view on the GRAMMY Museum's website, or you can immerse yourself in the "History Of L.A. Ska" panel by panel below:
Featuring: Greg Lee, Persephone “Queen P” Laird, Joey Altruda, Brian Dixon and Luis Correa
Featuring: Angelo Moore, Chris Murray, Darrin Pfeiffer, Kip Wirtzfeld, Tazy Phyllipz
Featuring: Jerry Miller, Chuck Askerneese, Ivan Wong, Greg Sowders, Norwood Fishe, Greg Lee, Bill Bentley, Howard Paar, Marc Wasserman, Karena Sundaram Marcum, Laurence Fishburn
If the excitement on display during the "History Of L.A. Ska" panel sessions isn't enough to convince you of the genre's staying power, consummate emcee Junor Francis shares words of affirmation:
“After being baptized into this scene and welcomed with open arms, I realized this was absolutely the right place for me!”
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Why 1998 Was Hip-Hop's Most Mature Year: From The Rise Of The Underground To Artist Masterworks
From the release of 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' and 'Aquemini,' to the proliferation of underground rap and the rise of regionalism, 1998 was hip-hop's sweet spot.
2023 has seen countless tributes to hip-hop, celebrating both its golden anniversary and the staying power of a genre that was vilified, underestimated, and branded a passing fad for decades. Nonetheless, while 50 is a major milestone, many believe hip-hop reached its peak decades ago.
At the tail end of the golden age of hip-hop, the genre reached a new level of maturity. Twenty-five years ago, hip-hop music demonstrated a wide variety of production styles and a diversity of perspectives. Further proving that 1998 was a high watermark for hip-hop, several important and stylistically distinct albums by Jay-Z, Black Star, A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast were even released on the same day.
This diversity of expression resulted in multiple commercially successful, distinct subgenres and niche audiences. The culture moved beyond the bi-coastal hostility that had culminated in the tragic murders of Tupac and Biggie, and the South asserted itself in a big way. The year’s versatility was demonstrated through the emergence of an underground scene that was critical of mainstream hip-hop’s consumerist mentality, but nonetheless thrived alongside commercially successful albums by both new and established artists.
Southern Hip-Hop Earns Respect
By 1998 groups beyond the East and West Coasts had started to gain national visibility — a hallmark of hip-hop's growing maturity.
While Outkast's Andre 3000 famously declared that "The South got somethin’ to say" in1995, the group didn't earn widespread respect and recognition until three years later. Released in September 1998, Aquemini, garnered near-universal praise — earning Outkast a notoriously rare five mics in The Source — and is still considered to be one of hip-hop’s greatest albums.
No other hip-hop group sounded like Outkast, and Southern flavor and slang pervaded the album (see the harmonica breakdown in "Rosa Parks"), but it was also the live instrumentation on tracks like "Liberation" and "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" that made the album so special.
Fellow ATLiens Goodie MOB, a group in the Dungeon Family collective, also released an album in '98. Like Aquemini, their sophomore effort Still Standing was produced largely by Organized Noize and featured a similar production style.
Outkast and Goodie MOB collaborated often in the 1990s: Aquemini’s "Liberation" only works because of the deeply soulful vocals of Goodie MOB’s Cee-Lo, and Still Standing’s "Black Ice" features one of Andre 3000’s most poetic and brilliant verses. While speaking to the many struggles of being young, Black and poor in the South, these two groups demonstrated how regional pride could be asserted in a more positive way, instead of spilling over into real-life violence; it was evidence of hip-hop’s maturity.
On the more commercial side, Atlanta rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri — who was already producing and writing songs for major R&B artists like Usher and Mariah Carey — released his debut album, resulting in one of the hits of the summer: the bouncy Jay-Z collaboration "Money Ain’t A Thang." New Orleans was also becoming an important locus of Southern hip-hop by 1998, with Master P’s No Limit Records releasing albums by Master P himself, Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder, Mystikal, and Snoop Dogg. Hits included "Make ‘Em Say Ugh" and "It Ain’t My Fault," both containing Mystikal’s distinctive high-pitched growling; his lightning-fast verse on the first song is truly something to behold. Also from Crescent City, Cash Money Records struck gold with Juvenile’s 400 Degreez and his booty-shaking anthem, "Back That Azz Up."
The Rise of Underground Hip-Hop
1998 was also the year "underground" hip-hop bubbled to the surface as a reaction to the genre’s crossover success. It was defined primarily by a critique of the presumed excessive consumerism of mainstream hip-hop, and a desire to return to the days when DJs, b-boys and graffiti artists were as important as rappers.
Turntablism was strongly associated with this style, as were cyphers — gatherings where rappers, b-boys and beatboxers would form a circle and engage in freestyle battles. The emergence of underground hip-hop was another sign that the genre was maturing as a whole; artists were no longer as worried about the ghettoization by the music industry and some felt that it had strayed too far from its marginalized roots.
The most significant underground hip-hop album of 1998 was Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, created by a young duo of Brooklyn MCs. Interestingly, it was released on the same day in September as Aquemini, as well as two other major albums of the year: Jay-Z’s Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement — which although not an essential listen in their discography, did produce a hit with "Find A Way." Four major albums released on the same day was a testament to how far hip-hop had come.
In fact, the Black Star album was an explicit critique of the type of consumerist mentality and sexually explicit/boasting lyrics Jay-Z employed on Hard Knock Life. Songs like "Definition" display Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s exceptional lyrical dexterity and clever references, while "Hater Players" draws a clear line in the sand between commercial hip-hop and the "real MCs." In the latter, Kweli raps: "We ain't havin’ that, reachin’ past the star status that you grabbin’ at/ My battle raps blast your ass back to your natural habitat."
Mos Def’s adaptation of Slick Rick’s "Children’s Story" is a clever screed about the lack of originality within mainstream hip-hop. "They jacked the beats, money came wit' ease, but son, he couldn't stop, it's like he had a disease. He jacked another and another, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder." The song was a not-so-veiled reference to the production technique utilized by Puff Daddy, relying heavily on well-known samples of soul and R&B songs.
Black Star also distinguished itself from much of commercial rap of the time by uplifting, instead of denigrating, women. "Brown Skin Lady" is an ode to Black women throughout the African diaspora, presenting a clear contrast to the frequent use of the b-word on Hard Knock Life, particularly on one of its biggest hits, "Can I Get A…" Nonetheless, like many "conscious" rappers — notably, Common, who makes a guest appearance on this album — Black Star reflects the almost-universal homophobia in hip-hop at the time, particularly in Mos Def’s verse on "Re-Definition."
Despite Jay-Z’s distrust and demonization of women on Hard Knock Life — his third and most commercially successful record — no one can dispute his tremendous verbal prowess and flow, evident on tracks like "N— What, N— Who." And while he called out "gold diggers" in "Can I Get A…," he invited a female rapper (Amil) onto the song — leveling the playing field a bit.
Production-wise, Jay-Z’s use of the "Annie" theme for the title song was one of the most inspired choices in the genre’s history. The slick production of the album guaranteed it would be a home run; in retrospect, it heralded the future of commercial hip-hop’s sound.
Oher underground hip-hop artists were making big waves in 1998. Rawkus Records — which released the Black Star album — put out an important compilation, Lyricist Lounge, Volume 1, which featured performances by Mos Def, Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, and the L.A.-based Jurassic 5, who also released their debut album that year. Other West Coast underground artists who released debut albums in 1998 included the Bay Area-based Hieroglyphics and Rasco, and the L.A.-based Aceyalone and People Under the Stairs.
Debuts, Veterans And The Biggest Album Of The Year
1998 also saw the release of important debut albums by commercial hip-hop artists like DMX, Big Pun and Black Eyed Peas. Big Pun’s "Still Not A Player" was one of the biggest hits of the year, with his lyricism reminiscent of Biggie.
DMX had a particularly productive year, releasing two albums in 1998, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. That year, it was impossible to escape the melodic hook and chorus of "Ruff Ryders’ Anthem" ("Stop! Drop! Shut ‘em down, open up shop") from the first DMX album. DMX also contributed a memorable verse on the Lox’s hit "Money, Power, Respect," off the group’s debut album, released by Puffy’s Bad Boy.
Beyond the debut albums of 1998, a slew of established artists from various regions and representing myriad styles put out their third, fourth or fifth albums. East Coast artists with new albums included Beastie Boys, Method Man, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Queen Latifah, Gang Starr, Mc Lyte, and Public Enemy, who released a soundtrack album for Spike Lee’s He Got Game. On the West Coast, there were new albums by Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, and Digital Underground.
Notwithstanding the success of so many diverse hip-hop artists, no album achieved greater heights than Lauryn Hill’s masterful solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. To start, it won Album Of The Year at the 1999 GRAMMYs, a feat never before accomplished for a hip-hop artist, as well as four other golden gramophones. Hill wrote, arranged and produced the album herself, reportedly turning down offers for production help from both her former Fugees bandmate Wyclef Jean and her label, which suggested bringing in Wu-Tang Clan’s mastermind, RZA.
The album was somewhere between R&B and hip-hop (and in fact was nominated and won in R&B instead of rap categories), and right off the bat, the album showcases Hill’s considerable skill as both a rapper and singer. The dancehall-inflected "Lost Ones" takes on an aggressive stance, with Hill rapping in Jamaican patois and invoking phrases of religious retribution, but it’s followed by a neo-soul breakup ballad, "Ex-Factor," featuring Hill’s signature throaty vocals.
The other major hits on the album besides "Ex-Factor" were "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "Everything Is Everything," which cemented Hill as one of the best lyricists in hip-hop. Twenty-five years later, the whole album holds up beautifully and features some incredible invited guests.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the first hip-hop album to break the Album Of The Year barrier was released in 1998 — when the genre had reached what is arguably its creative apex. With the incredible stylistic and regional diversity of that year’s albums, hip-hop had succeeded beyond its founders’ wildest dreams.