The '90s proved to be interesting times for Hip Hop. Early in the decade, the “golden era” produced countless classics, while the middle of the decade gave way to a highly publicized beef between East and West coast rappers. Gangsta rap came and went. “Bling bling” became a thing with rappers wearing chains so big MR. T was blushing. The entire Hip Hop community was shaken up by the untimely murders of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., leaving a major void in the mainstream. Slowly, the tide began to shift and Hip Hop audiences started looking to the underground for what was to come next.
In 1996, with backing by James Murdoch (son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch), Rawkus Records was established in New York City. The small label launched with Company Flow’s debut, Funcrusher Plus (1997), quickly establishing itself at the forefront of the new underground movement. Rawkus set the bar high by following up with two stellar compilations, Sound Bombing (1997) and Lyricist Lounge Volume 1. (1998). The latter featuring veteran emcees including De La Soul, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Black Thought of The Roots. Music fans and critics began taking note of the fledgling label and all the stars seem to align for what came next.