This is part of Complex's 'The 1996 Project: Looking Back at the Year Hip-Hop Embraced Success.'
1996 ushered in a new era of hip-hop. Street sounds clashed with commercial sounds, the divide between East and West deepened, rappers experimented with electronic beats, female MCs surged into super-stardom, and the death of 2Pac sent the entire community into chaos and grief.
To adequately express the impact of '96 on the hip-hop landscape, we compiled a panel of prominent music experts who witnessed the genre's metamorphosis in that pivotal year: Alan Light, former editor-in-chief of VIBE, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, former editor-in-chief of The Source, Dan Charnas, former A&R executive at Def American and author of The Big Payback, Tina Davis, former A&R executive of Def Jam, and Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, former A&R at Roc-A-Fella Records.
Watch them discuss the influence of Biggie and Puff's 1995 hits, the breakthrough of unique regional sounds, and the way in which Jay-Z's iconic Unreasonable Doubt achieved both commercial success and street appeal.