1989: Freddie Foxxx releases his debut album Freddie Foxxx is Here
Long Island rapper Freddie Foxxx had already created underground buzz as part of Supreme Force, a trio that matched him with Cool C and Easy E (not to be confused with N.W.A. rapper Eazy-E). Foxxx recruited Eric B. to produce his debut album, but the pairing could have been even more fruitful. Eric B. had been searching for a collaborator and scheduled a meeting with Foxxx to discuss the possibility of a partnership, but Foxxx missed the meeting. As a result, Eric B. decided to work with Rakim, forming a duo that would go on to be one of the most influential in hip-hop history.
1992: Prince becomes an emoji thanks to his Love Symbol album
Riding high on the success of Diamonds and Pearls, released the year prior, Prince decided to make the follow-up, The Love Symbol, a concept album. Though the original plot, centered around an Egyptian princess who falls in love with a rock star, was scrapped, spoken-word segues featuring actress Kirstie Alley did make their way onto the record. The album sold more than a million copies in the U.S. and produced five singles, including “My Name Is Prince,” “Sexy MF,” and “7.”
Prince would later create a direct-to-video film called 3 Chains o’ Gold. In it, the original plot-line is used to thread together music videos for all of the songs featured on Love Symbol. Perhaps most importantly, however, the “Love Symbol” was an unpronounceable glyph that he created by combing, and stylizing, the Mars and Venus symbols traditionally used to denote man and woman. A year later, Prince adopted the symbol as his name and kept it through the ’90s.
1997: Jurassic 5 arrive with their self-titled EP
Los Angeles hip-hop group Jurassic 5 dropped their first record, a self-titled EP, in 1997. The six-piece ensemble is best known for the baritone vocals of rapper Chali 2na, along with the funky beats of producer Cut Chemist. Featuring nine songs, including “In the Flesh,” “Jayou,” and “Concrete Schoolyard,” the EP would earn the group critical acclaim and go on to sell over 200,000 copies worldwide.
In an interview with AXS, Chali 2na reflected on how the EP changed his life. “(The EP’s success) made me confident that I could make a living doing what I love and not solely what I have to, to survive,” he said, later admitting that “the critical acclaim was great of course, but it also taught me not to live for the recognition more than the artistic expression.”
1998: 2Pac “Changes” the game
Originally recorded in 1992, “Changes” wouldn’t be released until 1998, two years after 2Pac’s death. The lyrics focused on many issues facing African Americans, including racism, poverty, police brutality and the war on drugs. The song’s social conscious struck a chord with listeners, helping the song chart in 15 different countries.
2Pac echoed his concerns on poverty during a 1992 interview with MTV News. “Everybody needs a little help on their way to being self-reliant,” he said while championing the need for change. “No independent person just grew up and was born independent. You worked and you learned teamwork, cooperation, unity and struggle and then you became independent. We have to teach that and instill that. If this is truly a melting pot in the country, and Lady Liberty got her hand up and she really love us, then we really need to be like that.” He’d go on to lament the separation between the haves and have-nots in America, saying “There’s no way that (people) should have a quadruple million dollars and then there’s people starving.”