September 29, 1998: Hip-Hop’s Greatest Day”

The late nineties represented a significant dichotomy in hip-hop. At one end of the spectrum, we were losing our soldiers of the rap game at an alarming rate (Eazy E 1995, 2pac 1996, Biggie 1997). On the other side of the coin (no pun intended), the business of hip-hop was never better. Millions of rap records were flying out of stores. I was a 20-something year old customer at local record shops every “new release” Tuesday. It could be argued no other genre of music was more viable.

September 29, 1998 was a day that, at least temporarily, we in the hip-hop community could revel in; the culture’s status and effect on the world. Rap music publication XXL Magazine organized a day of unity in Harlem, New York bringing current and past hip-hop artists together in droves and calling it “The Greatest Day In Hip Hop.” A similar, poignant union was constructed 40 years prior called a “Great Day In Harlem.” It featured all of the famous Jazz musicians of the time and was the inspiration for XXL Magazine arranging such a day.

Two hundred old and new school rap artists assembled in Harlem. It could be said this display of unity went a long way in forever ending the proverbial East coast/West coast beef that existed for years. A sense of closure from the aforementioned deaths certainly was an underlying element here as well.

As if the summit in New York wasn’t enough, several game changing hip-hop albums were released for public consumption on this day 15 years ago. Jay Z’s third album “Hard Knock Life,” is his highest selling album to date and made him an international superstar. Outkast’s third album “Aquemini” is unquestionably their definitive work, establishing the duo as rap’s finest act from a creative standpoint. The group that previously held that distinction, A Tribe Called Quest, released their final album “The Love Movement,” deciding that solo careers was the next chapter for the trio.

You would be hard pressed to find a more prosperous day for the music we love. This day propelled hip-hop into the new millennium with massive momentum and should be hailed as such. Unprecedented display of Unity in the hip hop community: Check. An abundance of brand new, genre bending music on the shelves: Check. September 29, 1998…….I salute.

-Jermaine Raetone Johnson

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