The 90s is the de facto Golden Era of Hip-Hop. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Reminiscing on the days of Wu-Tang Clan and Tupac, Biggie and N.W.A; rap back then evoked a certain sound and structure lacking in music today. Every record was a hit. Not in the sense that we judge hits now, but by the guidelines of genuine innovation and competition.
While the East vs. West battles created a two-lane highway for rap music, pockets of cultural relevance popped up everywhere between New York and LA; but it was a quad from Cleveland, OH that emerged in the mid-90s with an album so influential it singlehandedly put an entire city on the map.
This group goes by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and that lasting work I’m referring to is E.Eternal 1999.
Born and raised in Ohio it’s hard for me to write that we’ve been the epicenter of the hip-hop community throughout the years. We haven’t. Our state is known more for Presidential election results and sports futility than it is for our rap music. But Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony is synonymous with not only Cleveland but the entire state of Ohio.
Bone Thugs entered the game on a mission; searching first and foremost for a producer capable enough to match their drive and help them get off the streets and into a studio. It was an arduous task, considering Cleveland isn’t running flush with hip-hop’s elite.
But a certain west coast emcee by the name of Eric Wright took notice. Yes, that’s Eazy-E for those of you trying to put a name to a persona. After the success of their debut EP, 1994’s Creepin’ On Ah Come Up, the group never looked back. And what ensued was none other than one of the best rap group albums of the 1990s, and the sophomore edition of Rooted Rap albums, E.Eternal 1999.
Dark, gritty, and cold; three adjectives any hip-hop listener could use to describe the sound on the group’s second studio album.
From the sounds of booming thunder, rain pelting the pavement, and women screaming on “Da Introduction,” one thing is clear from the onset; E.Eternal 1999 accomplishes what only so few albums throughout history have been able to do: simultaneously create an album and a movie in the same setting.
That is what the classics do. They take you on a lyrical and musical journey.
Less obvious to the average listener, classic albums take you on a visual journey just the same, if not more. If you’re feeling the music, you’re visualizing how it coincides with a certain moment of scenario in your brain. Classic music is as much a psychological experience as it is emotional.
The beauty in E.Eternal 1999 is its simplicity, weaved into its simultaneous intricacy.
From the in-your-face, hard-hitting sounds of “East 1999.”
To the pearly gates into of “Eternal” and the timeless classic, “Tha Crossroads,” a hit that I still listen to multiple times a week in 2016:
While sampling the great Earth, Wind, and Fire on a track that just about anyone can relate to, the Cleveland trio concurrently constructed an album for the hip-hop mainstream with a niche market to follow. Due to the interpolation of gangster rap, gritty and spiritual production, and of course, bud-smoking music; E.Eternal 1999 still stands alone to this day as Midwest rap’s first great masterpiece.
So, what I suggest is you grab your best headphones and take E.Eternal 1999 for a spin this week. If you’ve never visited Cleveland, it will help transport you to a portion of a city unfamiliar on your radar and completely open up a new perspective.
Reaching all the way back to 1995 into the year 2016, that is why this classic album still works so well today.