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'88 vs '98: Bookends Of The Golden Era

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

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.

Let's define "Golden Era", in regards to Hip-Hop. It's the height of it's creativity, diversity and influence. It went from a fad in the early to mid 80's, to........ "it ain't going no where". Not just musically, but culturally, through social influence, politics, economics, fashion, sports, education and entertainment, they all felt the power of hip-hop and it's relevance.

Okay, now let's start with 1988. However let's add, 1986 and 1987 were incredible years, as well, building up to the explosion of what was to come in 1988. Through lyricism and production, creativity, innovation, and diversity, collectively, they truly took Hip Hop to the next level.

As mentioned earlier, 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.


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.

Lakim Shabazz

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. All, despite losing two of it's giants, Pac in '96 and BIG in '97.

Then, what looked to be the apex of long term dominance in '88, Mike Tyson would see many ups and downs within those 10 years leading up to '98. It included getting knocked out by Buster Douglas, 3 years in prison, then regaining two titles, Pac's shooting the night of the Bruce Seldon fight (Pac succumbed to the shooting a week later), the Holyfield debacle, at which point it looked as though we had seen the last of the Mike Tyson we had grown to love. As time went on, it proved to be true, the two 1996 fights vs Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon would be the last time we would see the "classic" Mike Tyson dominance in the ring.

In 1988 Michael Jordan ruled in individual dominance. But by 1998, Jordan had conquered "team" dominance by leading the Bulls to 6 titles in 8 years. Capping off a legendary career in Chicago by putting the dagger jumper in the hearts of the Jazz fans in Utah to win title number 6 and completing his second 3-peat in June of 1998. With the Bulls brass not bringing back Phil Jackson, that led to Jordan retiring, Pippen being traded and the end of the Bulls' reign. Kind of fitting, with hip-hop's Golden Era coming to an end as well.

I know Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan are sports related, but for us in the hood...... they were HIP-HOP.....

Back to hip-hop music though. We'd 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.

Fashion and Hip-Hop, always went hand-in-hand. Hip-Hop moved the needle on what trends were "in" or "out". So much so, that artists became brand endorsers like Run-DMC for Adidas and LL Cool J for Troop in the mid to late 80s. Then from 1988 - 2002 ish (Hip-Hop Fashion's Golden Era) , there was a fashion renaissance within Hip-Hop bringing forth many black fashion designers such as Dapper Dan, Karl Kani, Carl Jones, Daymond John, Russell Simmons, April Walker, Sean Combs, Maurice Malone and many others.

Even Hip-Hop artists, themselves, launched/headlined their own lines to expand their musical brand, such as Wu-Tang (Wu-Wear), Jay-Z (Roc-a-wear), 50 Cent (G-Unit) and Beanie Sigel (State Property)

Again, personally, in an effort to contribute to the culture and bring these brands locally, myself (at the age of 24) and business partner Michael Allen opened up a clothing store, Flavaz, in December of 1995-2002.

1998 had seen several things dear to the hip-hop culture fade away, but there was 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


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!!

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