This single and the album it came from, Dr. Dre's "Chronic," took hip hop down an entirely new road that would eventually be called Gangsta Rap. "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" features Dre's protege Snoop Doggy Dogg who would soon become a star on his own. Fat, Parliament-style funky beats, laidback rap vocals, words reflecting the violence of life on the street, and pop hooks combined for a tremendously successful new sound.
Inspired by the powerful beats of house, hit after hit crossed over from the dance chart to the pop top 10 in 1990, but it took producers Robert Clivilles and David Cole (aka C&C Music Factory) to climb all the way to #1. "Gonna Make You Sweat" featured the powerful diva vocals of Martha Wash and a rap from Freedom Williams along with state of the art house rhythms to make up one of the most exhilarating sounds of the year.
Jonathan Demme's film Philadelphia was the first big budget, mainstream motion picture to deal directly with the AIDS epidemic. Bruce Springsteen's "Streets Of Philadelphia" is the perfect theme for the film. Springsteen creates an atmosphere of darkness and loneliness that still manages to maintain a sense of dignity as well. The song won a much deserved Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture.
The importance of M.C. Hammer to pop music history is that he proved without a doubt that rap could be as effortlessly entertaining as any other musical genre. "U Can't Touch This" is little more than Hammer's simple rap in place of Rick James' "Super Freak" vocals, but the image of Hammer working the crowd in his oversized parachute pants is one of the most memorable entertainment images of 1990.
Selected to play a key role on the soundtrack for Robert Altman's exploration of the fashion world in the movie Pret-a-Porter, "Here Comes the Hotstepper" brought dancehall, a sug-genre of reggae, into the mainstream. It remains one of the most catchy songs of the mid-90s. "Hotstepper" is a Jamaican term for a man on the run from the law.
After the far too early breakup of the Fugees, the music world waited impatiently for Lauryn Hill's first solo effort. The wait was worth it. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is one of the top albums of the decade and "Doo Wop (That Thing)" is a brilliantly tuneful dissection of sexual politics from the point of view of both genders.
Among Latin audiences, Ricky Martin was a household name by 1999 having begun his career many years before as a lead singer with the legendary teen group Menudo. With "Livin' La Vida Loca" the English-speaking world found out what they had been missing. It's irresistibly sexy and nearly impossible to listen to without moving the body.