There were numerous hip hop albums released in the year 1996, countless rap concerts & related events, plus many news worthy incidents in the genre that occurred. Here are just ten hip hop dates/events that helped shape the genre in that twelve month period fourteen years ago, and from a Bay Area perspective.
Jan 1st: Mr. Cee of popular San Francisco rap group RBL Posse was brutally shot and killed on Harbor Road in the Bayview / Hunters Point district. He was only 22 years of age. The tragic incident marked the unfortunate beginning of a year where Rap = Violence became the all-too-convenient equation for the mainstream media's sensationalist portrayal of an entire genre. Unfortunately the one event that overshadowed everything else in 1996, the death of Tupac Shakur, merely reinforced this stereotype.
Feb. 27th: Death Row Records released the first of two 2Pac albums for the year, the rush-recorded double CD set All Eyez On Me, which debuted at number one on the Billboard pop charts, sold five million copies in its first three months alone, and cemented the ever controversial Shakur as the poster boy of 'gangsta rap.' Even before his tragic death, the rapper/actor's ever newsworthy life and times blurred that fine line in reality rap between life and art.
March 20th: Dr. Dre, the veteran LA producer with the Midas touch who both shaped NWA's sound and mainstreamed 'gangsta rap' with his 1992 multi-platinum album The Chronic, made headlines by exiting Death Row Records. Reportedly he was sick and tired of the Suge Knight dominated record company's all-gangsta format. "Then Tupac coming to the label was the straw that broke the camel's back," partner RBX told Vibe in the October issue that year. As if to prove the point, soon after his departure Dr. Dre declared "gangsta rap dead" and went about setting up his own label, Aftermath Records, releasing "East Coast West Coast Killas" as its first single, which called for an end to the then still very prominent East versus West coast rivalry.