Decade Profile: 1990s

Hip Hop

Dominated by the East Coast-West Coast feud. Fuelled by media speculation and business interest, it culminated in the death of two of Hip Hop’s greatest icons. No one knows who shot Biggie, but his and Tupac’s deaths were shattering to the Hip Hop world and considered the end of its golden era. Hip Hop had moved away from the more funk and soul infused sounds of the 1980s to become dominated by West Coast Gangster Rap. The success of NWA in the late 1980s followed by successful solo releases of Dr Dre’s ‘The Chronic’, helped to establish the dominance of West Coast rap, G Funk and its adversaries Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill. East Coast hip hop was led by the Native Tounges posse (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest) but was unable to match the commercial success of the West. The release of Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers’ (1993) Nas ‘Illmatic’ (1994) and B.I.G. ‘Ready to Die’ (1994) put New York back into the limelight with each album considered one of Hip Hop‘s most iconic. Aside from the commercial side, a rise in hip hop indie record labels like Definitive Jux (RJD2, Murs and Aesop Rock) and Rawkus Records (Mos Def) as well as the emergence of one of Hip Hop’s greatest producers, J Dilla. Oh, and who could forget a certain white boy from Detroit?

Angus Drummond


The Stone Roses and The Jam were the key influences in the formation of the early nineties indie movement, along with 1960s and 70s rock n’ rollers such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and British punk-rockers such as The Clash. The emergence of Suede’s self titled album in 1993 and Blur’s ‘Parklife’ in 1994 kick-started the rivalry that had been created between different mod-inspired bands of the era. Oasis’s ‘Definitely Maybe’ (1994) and Pulp’s ‘His ‘n’ Hers’ (1994), Supergrass, The Manic Street Preachers, and The Verve marked the nineties as a period that bridged the gap between ‘rock’ music and ‘popular’ music; Britpop provided the young, working class generation of the time with lyrics and vocals that they could relate to, Pulp’s ‘Common People’ being a prime example. With strong regional accents and upbeat, catchy guitar riffs, which had previously been neglected by the grunge and shoegaze movements, the genre is recognised as being a raw sound that was unashamedly British.

Sarah Dawood


Born out of a most unnatural marriage: the inner city African-American soul culture met with industrial Detroit’s disillusioned youth to produce Techno. Techno fathers Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, represented a technological spirituality, working perfectly at free parties in Detroit’s abandoned warehouse clubbing culture. In Europe, we were doing equally well at drug-fuelled, free parties (queue clip of big eyed, high-vis jacket-raver cutting shapes) so the transgression across the Atlantic wasn’t too difficult at all. DiY Soundsystem in Nottingham was one of the biggest nights around and was integral in the organisation of the Castlemorton Common Festival (dance music Woodstock) where 35,000 people attended a five day ‘skank-out’. For many, dance music represented a great institute in which to meet like minded people. At the same time jungle thrived as an influence of the British Dub Soundsystem culture, cementing itself in the UK’s clubbing life. The underground electronic sounds of the 90s are an impressive period and I wonder if the decade will be looked upon by its’ generation as romantically as our parents look upon their musical generation. After all the high-vis raver isn’t to dissimilar to the luminous day-glo hippies of the 60s.

Ben Allen


In a musically alienated mid-1980s Seattle this growing subculture encompassed attitudes of resentment towards popular culture and social expectations; feelings made visually evident in Grunge’s ‘anti-fashion’, as typified by Kurt Cobain. Quietly evolved from folk, blues rock and punk influences, notably including Neil Young, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. 1991 represented a sudden leap in grunge’s popularity with Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’ bringing the genre into the international limelight and being the most iconic. Their abrasive and heavily distorted guitars native to punk, transposed elegantly against coarse vocals exemplify grunge. Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’ highlights the distrust of popular society and yet enduring hope and inspiring goodwill. Ironically the popularity, thanks to MTV, marked the beginning of its downfall; having to abandon their idealistic roots in exchange for popular commercial orientation. Cobain’s suicide in 1994 made him a martyr to grunge’s origins, his death personifying its demise. Unfortunately this only furthered Nirvana’s eclipsing domination of the genre, leaving bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Hole relatively unknown to great injustice. Though the scene may now be dead, its legacy continues in the more commercial post-grunge vein adopted by the Foo Fighters, Incubus, the Lost Prophets and (regrettably) Nickleback.

Jack Shields


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