1996 was a banner year for hip-hop, with a wide variety of releases that are viewed as some of the best albums of all-time, let alone the year itself. With the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry at its unfortunate peak, there were plenty of diss records, but it wasn’t the only theme.
For example, there were several groundbreaking debuts, with Busta Rhymes, Heltah Skeltah, Jay-Z, Ras Kass, Ghostface Killah and DJ Shadow all releasing their first albums, while a certain Detroit MC inauspiciously appeared under the radar.
As for more established artists, some (Fugees, UGK) were finding mainstream recognition for the first time, while others were exploring different styles and sounds (Nas, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast).
Of course, the year will forever be remembered for the September 7 death of 2Pac, who still managed to release two albums: the thug life classic All Eyez on Me and his first posthumous release, Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. And being that the aforementioned East Coast-West Coast beef was at an all-time high, his influence was felt on releases such as It Was Written, Stakes Is High, Beats Rhyme and Life, Soul on Ice and Hell on Earth.
Continue reading for a snapshot of hip-hop in 1996.