The Independent label Era (’94-’97)
Indie labels had always been a part of Hip Hop, but it was still a system were artists relied on someone to sign them to a label. In this instance, it was the motion set forth by groups, such as Wu-tang, that gave artists the incentive to put their music out themselves.
Common releases his lead single, “I Used To Love H.E.R”, off his sophomore LP, which metaphorically describes his love for Hip Hop and how “she” changed thru out the main different eras and eventually abandonded the conscious statement and strayed into gangsterism. This was misinterpreted by Ice Cube as a diss to the West Coast and sparked him to lash out at Common on a Wessyde Connection record. Which ultimately lead to Common’s rebuttle with “The Bitch In Yoo!”. Allow me to also mention that I was the one who had the pleasure of putting that Wessyde Connection LP in Common’s hand and quoting Ice Cube when Common asked “…so what did he say about me?”
Wildpitch, known for having a great ear for talent, snatched up All Natural, but they folded before releasing anything (except “Hip Hop Is Back” on the now famous Wildpitch Classics mixtape).
In the summer, WJPC gets bought out and becomes 106Jamz and in an attempt to compete with WGCI adopts a Hip Hop/R&B format based on the blueprints of stations such as Hot 97 in New York.
After a successful performance night on March 31st at the Playhouse in Forest Park the plans were set in motion that lead to the forming of The Elements Of Nature crew (Rubberoom, Children Of Reality, Spelany’s, Gravity, Thawfor, Dirty M.F., Verb, etc…) A collective of Mcs of producers who soon solidified themselves as a force to be recognized and respected.
The Elbo Room became the first home to Jesse De La Pena’s “Blue Groove Lounge” nites which has since moved around a bit, but 6 years later is still in tact.
In print, Caught In The Middle magazine made a strong debut, giving Common Sense his first cover story, but only survived thru two issues.
Upski released one of the most talked about and respected pieces of Hip Hop journalism, Bomb The Suburbs.
Former Kinetic Order member, Judgemental, impressed as well as shocked many by taking the first place slot at the last New Music Seminar in New York by taking out many Mcs, including King Sun in the final round.
Local pride was at an all time high which prompted The First Annual Props awards which was a ceremony to give due credit and respect to various local artists who had made their mark on Chicago Hip Hop history and/or were currently making moves to do so.
Steady Serv-You Know The Time 12″ (reigns as one of the most respected singles in the Chicago underground…purely classic)
Fully G-There She Goes Again 12″
Blazae Blazae sign a deal with Island, but this deal also falls apart.
East Of The Rock sends in three different singles for pressing, but none of them become actual releases and exist in the most minimal form possible. Regarded as three of the most sought items by Chicago DJ completest. The most popular being the Egyptian Musk/Galaxy Rays 12″.
Treach of Naughy By Nature is quoted as making a series of negative coments about Chicago Mcs and then continues on by disrespecting Tung Twista on their 19-naughty-3 LP. This sparks much controversy and a barrage of verbal assaults from Chicago artists. Most notably on D2ThaS-Dissin These Fools 12″ & of course by Twista on “Suicide” which was the first single to what would have been his sophomore LP, Resurrection. However, it was never released.
On April 20th The Time Travel show was established on WNUR in an attempt to make the education of Hip Hop culture, the artists involved and all the inner-workings as important as the musical selection.
E.C. delivers his Illa LP and makes his biggest noise yet. This one helps him not only continue his success locally, but reach out to many welcoming ears from coast to coast. Complete with the “On Ill” video which captures the essence of the Chicago scene rather excellently.
Tha Chamba-Makin’ Illa Noize LP (Ichiban)
Common-Resurrection LP (Relativity): Simply put this is a must have. Regarded as a Hip Hop classic by some of the most respected names in Hip Hop.
Legally, Common is forced to drop the “Sense” from his name
Demon, Nerd, & Ewok open up a shop called Uptown/Beatdown; selling local music, Graf mags & gear, mixtapes, and other treats.
Rubberoom-Gothic Architecture EP
Talent Fest Compilation (feat. Juice, Spelanys, Undaground Soulution, Ang 13, etc…)
The Molemen started with a series of cassettes with various artists. The most memorable being the Vakill “Who’s Afraid?” release.
Crucial Conflict signed with Pallas and made plenty of noise with their “HAY” single. The LP, Final Tic, goes Gold.
Roc delivers Klipart magazine which had quite a concept; it was made backwards, meaning you had to flip the pages to the right not the left… you get it? Anyway, the best thing about it is that thru out the whole issues there were actually Graffiti flicks that pulled right out!!!
A year after their tape only releases, Rhymefest became the first Molemen full vinyl project and his “How we Chill” & “How We Chill PT. 2″ (w/J.U.I.C.E) both reign as local anthems.
Stony Island-Super Transfer EP (features the first official production by pns)
Whatnoxic-Fly Urban Scenery 12″ & EP
Gravity, Originally from New York, but arrived in Chicago around ‘91/’92 caught a deal and the result was his Down To Earth LP (correct)
T.S.P-Look What the Wind Blew In (tape only)
Earatik Statik release their double cassette LP “Enter The Third Rail”.
Howie opens up the Beat Parlor record store and quickly becomes one of the top Hip Hop spots in the city.
DJ pns releases the first in a series of three mixtapes entitled “Chicago Rocks” strictly featuring the best, most rare and/or important work of local talent from all eras of Chicago Hip Hop history.
In honor of it’s 50th show anniversary (May 2nd), The Time Travel show (WNUR) hosts an on air local free-for-all; “Skill Showcase/Style Wars ‘96″. Over 50 of the top MCS were invited to the show and though all couldn’t make it, between the ones who did and the hungry new Mcs who just showed up it was a full house. The show started off with a huge freestyle session and it was an all out MC battle (the first organized radio MC battle…perhaps?). Every year after that Time Travel had an annual all local show.
2nd annual props awards
Pinkhouse, Chicago Hip Hop radio pioneer and legend passes away on Nov 2nd (R.I.P)
JUICE & Rhymesfest take 1st and 2nd place, respectively, at the Rapsheet battle in LA
DEE JAY BIRD drops his “Beneath The Surface” mixtape that utilizes all sorts of movie dialog collages and all sorts of other studio trickery that helps set a new standard in recording mixtapes.
JUICE wins first at the 2nd Annual Scribble Jam MC battle in Ohio
Do Or Die & Twista are key factors in Traxster & Wendy Day being able to get Creators Way signed, to what is still the biggest Chicago Hip Hop label deal in our history, with Atlantic. They land a $2 Million contract to release and produce acts as well as remain the owners of the masters.