In the twenty four years since the publication of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles Top 30 Chart (left) rap/hip-hop has grown by leaps and bounds in both terms of widespread acceptance and (seemingly) unstoppable global popularity. Upon publication back in mid June 1990, while popular enough to deem its own weekly chart, hip-hop was still somewhat marginalized and was far from the mainstream cultural force it enjoys today. However while examining the contrast between radio/sales charting hip-hop in 1990 and 2014 there are many notable differences. For starters hip-hop was still largely labeled or referred to as "rap" back then which is somewhat ironic since popular "hip-hop" today is technically more "rap" than than it was back at the beginning of the nineties.
From eyeballing this June 1990 chart, that was compiled from a national sample of both retail and one-stop sales, it's evident that commercially popular hip-hop appeared to be a lot more adventurous and much more diverse in style -both production wise and lyrically. Also notable is how major labels did not dominate the bulk of rap sales - rather is was pretty much evenly split between indies and majors, although many of those same independent labels would in time make deals with the majors. Another notable business factor was that record labels (indie or major) could still be very profitable ventures since 1990 was a time when people still bought records and tapes to hear music. There was no illegal free downloading/file-sharing of music, and the only threat to labels was illegal dubbed bootleg cassette copies of their releases. Hence labels had more money to spend on promotions of their artists/records.
Women hip-hop artists, who to this day have never gained equality in their genre, were still in the minority back in June 1990 with only five out of this top thirty chart being female acts. These five included three groups - something much rarer today when female rappers tend to be solo acts - that included Hammer proteges Oaktown's 3-5-7, Def Dames whose "Set It Off" heavily sampled Strafe's 1984 club/radio hit of the same name and who should not be confused with the Euro girl group of the same name who came a little later, and early career Jermaine Dupri discovered rap/rNb trio Silk Tymes Leather. The other female chart entries were Icey Jaye ("It's A Girl Thing"), and Queen Latifah in a duet with David Bowie in an update of his previous era hit "Fame 90." Speaking of minorities within rap there was one Latino rap act on this chart - Los Angeles rapper Mellow Man Ace (the bilingual single that he is best remembered for, "Mentirosa") who is the brother of Sen Dog of Cypress Hill.
Political and socially charged hip-hop included such chart entries as X-Clan's "Raise The Flag," Public Enemy's "911 Is A Joke," former Public Enemy member Professor Griff's "Pawns In The Game," the Afro-centric and Native Tongues members The Jungle Brothers ("What U Waitin' 4"), and the number one chart entry: Ice Cube's incendiary title track of his debut solo/post NWA album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Ice Cube's former NWA partner Dr. Dre (still two full years before he would unleash The Chronic) was represented on the chart via The D.O.C. single "The Formula" from the 1989 album No One Can Do It Better which he produced and was recorded before The D.O.C.'s tragic car accident that would ruin his music career. Other West Coast acts represented on this chart included Compton's Most Wanted and the Bay Area's MC Hammer (then in his prime and riding high with the single "U Can't Touch This") and Digital Underground who were taking the world by storm with their big hit "The Humpty Dance."