Raise your hand if you ever cut school to go buy a brand new album the day it came out. Raise your hand if you went to Tower Records, or The Wiz, and you did this in the 1990s. Raise your hand if you remember impatiently waiting for the doors to open, racing to the front of the register line and hoping to make it back to school before lunch — becoming the first to brag about owning the latest EPMD release or Illmatic.
Today, we live in an era in of streamable snippets and video preview clips — a technology that makes the selection process far less risky than it was when I was a kid. The stakes we faced then are nothing that today's rap fan experiences. The idea of previewing an album was unheard of in the '90s — outside of a listening station the most you could hope for was a video on MTV, or a couple songs on the radio, before you had to pay to play.
And so, back in the day, what you held in your hands in the lunch room mattered. Remember standing in front of the giant wall in the rap section of your local Sam Goody with $12.83 in your pocket? I do — that's exact change for a $11.99 tape plus tax in upstate New York, where I lived then. If you had similar concerns in, say 1993, like debating whether to cop KRS-One's Return of The Boom Bap or Souls of Mischief '93 Til Infinity, (which were both released on the same day, 20 years ago this week), the ten dates on this list may spark some nostalgia.
The money that flowed through the music business in the '90s and the quality of the music released then helped to create a fat spectrum of hip-hop music — enough that Tuesdays, the traditional release day for albums, was often full of tough choices. This list notes one such complicated day from each year of that decade. Every date here marks the entry of some very different sounds into our world, but the story of each person who bought one of the albums ends the same: furiously tearing into plastic, jamming a squeaky clean tape into a valiant Walkman (later, a Discman) and pressing play for the first time.