While 1994 was undeniably a great year for hip-hop, fans have plenty of 20th anniversaries to celebrate this year as well. Whether getting “Sumpin' New” from the mainstream or seeing boundaries pushed until they “bounce” in the underground, 1995 had something for everybody and its influence is still being felt today.
Here are five classic West Coast rap albums turning 20 in 2015.
Coolio, Gangsta’s Paradise
True to his name, there was a period in the '90s when Coolio was the absolute coolest. One year after winning us over with the fun of his breakout single “Fantastic Voyage,” which provided a much-needed party in the middle of gangsta rap mania, Gangsta’s Paradise marked one of the biggest and most unexpected mainstream crossovers in hip-hop history. Along with the title track that became the theme of iconic '90s film Dangerous Minds, Gangsta’s Paradise also gave us “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New),” showing the range Coolio was capable of. From Compton to Nickelodeon, Coolio impressed us all, and Gangsta’s Paradise has gone on to become a timeless classic.
2Pac, Me Against the World
There’s no wrong answer to the question, “What was the best album 2Pac put out over the course of his life?” But a substantial number of fans would answer Me Against the World. Pac’s first solo album in two years, it marked a turning point not just in his songwriting but in his public perception as well. Pac had spent the bulk of 1994 in and out of courtrooms and being aggressive toward the media. But on Me Against the World, he showed his introspective side, which had always been present in his lyrics but hadn’t quite shone through until this release. The first single “Dear Mama” marks an absolute turning point in the Pac discography, and would go on to be the cornerstone of his legacy.
E-40, In a Major Way
There’s a reason why E-40 is a mainstay of rap’s many “Most Underrated” and “Most Influential” lists, and a big part of that stems from his masterpiece, In a Major Way. From the ahead-of-its time production to 40’s game-changing use of new regional slang in his one-of-a-kind flows, In a Major Way makes it happen. The second single “Sprinkle Me” would go on to become one of his signature songs and an example of how 40’s vernacular continues to innovate and elevate.
Before Master P relocated his burgeoning No Limit Records empire to New Orleans, The Real Untouchables, or TRU if you’re “Bout It,” and the rest of the No Limit soldiers were a proud part of Richmond, California’s hip-hop heritage. True was the first album to really break the group and the label nationwide with the inescapable hit “I’m Bout It.” Fans flocking to this new No Limit sound found an album that introduced them to the wide variety of MCs, effectively laying the strong foundation for the label’s prosperous future.
Aceyalone, All Balls Don’t Bounce
A standout performer from landmark Cali underground group Freestyle Fellowship, and an unmistakable voice of Good Life Cafe’s lineage, Aceyalone made enough noise in the early '90s to land a deal with Capitol Records. His solo debut All Balls Don’t Bounce became a cult favorite, and its single “Mic Check” is still the best entry point into the richly rewarding and endlessly innovative Freestyle Fellowship discography. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the “Labrats Remix” of “Mic Check” by Canadian producer Kemo, which remains one of the era’s signature bangers.