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Hip-hop was at a crossroads in the late ’90s. The genre was dealing with the aftermath of a senseless war that took the lives of two of its greats. The success of the “jiggy” era was moving rap away from the street to the mainstream, and times didn’t look any better with Big L’s murder in 1999. The purists needed stability and a voice that proved credibility and quality weren’t a thing of the past. That voice was Rawkus Records. By the end of the decade they had a roster of MCs that came to be revered as some of the greatest of all-time: Pharoahe Monch, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli, to name a few. At its peak, the label released iconic records like Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, Monch’s Internal Affairs, and Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides.

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