1994: A Big Year In Black History + Culture Turns 20

1994 was a pretty unforgettable year. In fact, it was monumental year in black popular culture in history. The year that marked the beginning of NAFTA and China’s first connection to the Internet also saw the election of Nelson Mandela, Nas’ studio debut, Jason’s Lyric and CrazySexyCool. Take a look back 20 years on these other big moments from 1994.

  1.  Brandy, the self-titled debut studio album by American recording artist Brandy Norwood was released by Atlantic Records on September 27. Four singles were released from the album, two of which became number-one hits on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles.

  2. "Gin and Juice," the second single from Snoop Doggy Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle was released January 15, 1994. It was a top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number eight. The song was also nominated for the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance and has since been voted and number at the top of VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.

  3. Above the Rim was released in 1994. The drama, starring Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur, Leon and Marlon Wayans, tells the story of a talented high school basketball player in making a choice between his neighborhood and his future. 

  4. "Regulate" by Warren G and Nate Dogg was released in the summer of 1995. The song the appeared on the soundtrack to Above the Rim and came to epitomize the “G-Funk” sound with a sample of Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." "Regulate" reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

  5. In the summer of 1994, Boyz II Men, released II, the group’s second studio album. II contained two number one singles: "I'll Make Love To You" and "On Bended Knee." When the latter replaced the former at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, it marked only the third time an artist replace themselves at the top of the U.S. chart after Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

  6. Gullah Gullah Island, the Nickelodeon children's series, first aired in July of 1994. The show ran for three seasons through to 1997 and introduced America’s children to Gullah culture through the life of  a black family living on an island off the coast of South Carolina.

  7. America was first introduced to identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry when Sister, Sister aired in 1994. The show reintroduced sitcom veterans Tim Reid and Jackee Harry as the single parents of twin girls, separated and adopted at birth, who met again after 14 years apart.

  8. May 9, 1994, the South African parliament chose Nelson Mandela to be the first president of the post-apartheid era, ending three centuries of white rule.

  9. June 17, 1994, OJ Simpson led police on a low-speed chase up California’s Interstate 405. He was riding in his white Bronco, driven by a friend. The event set off the media spectacle around the murder of Simpson’s wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Simpson’s subsequent trial is widely regarded as "the trial of the century."

  10. From April to June of 1994, an estimated 800,000 people - mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority in Rwanda - were killed by the country’s Hutu extremist militias. Governments around the world failed to intervene in the conflict; some say contributing to what is now considered the Rwandan Genocide. The event was depicted on film ten years later in Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle.

  11. NaS’s debut album Illmatic was released April 19, 1994. It debuted at number 12 on Billboard’s top 200 chart. Illmatic is regarded by many music fans and critics to be one of the quintessential hip hop recordings of all time and one of the best albums of the 90s.

  12. CrazySexyCool, TLC’s second studio album was released on LaFace Records November 15, 1994, the album spent over two years on the Billboard album charts and spawned two Billboard number one singles: “Creep and "Waterfalls." The latter earned the group two Grammy Awards. CrazySexyCool was certified Diamond by the RIAA and has sold over 23 million copies worldwide.

  13. Aaliyah released her debut album Age Ain't Nothing but a Number in May of 1994. It was released under Jive and Blackground Records. R. Kelly. Served as lead songwriter and producer of the project. The album spawned hits such as “Back and Forth” and “Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.”

  14. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the first album by Hip Hop duo OutKast, was released in the spring of 1994 on LaFace Records. The album was the beginning of a long career for Hip Hop’s enduring duo and is noted as being seminal for Southern Hip Hop. Recently, it was announced that Outkast will reunite at the Coachella Festival this spring.

  15. Operation Uphold Democracy, a UN intervention to overthrow Haiati’s military regime, was launched September 19, 1994. The goal of the operation was to reinstall Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in a coup. The U.S led the charge with more than 20,000 troops from all branches of the armed forces. Operation Uphold Democracy ended on March 31, 1995 and was replaced by the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH.)

  16. Wu-Tang’s Method Man released his solo debut album Tical November 15, 1994. The album was produced primarily by RZA and features appearances from other Wu-Tang members including Raekwon and Inspectah Deck. The lead single from the album, "Bring the Pain," reached number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  17. Romantic drama Jason's Lyric was released in 1994. The film starred Allen Payne, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Lisa Nicole Carson and Forest Whitaker in a story of a young couple trying to escape their troubled families for a better life together.

  18. The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album Ready to Die was released September 13, 1994. The album was the first release on Bad Boy Records. Hailed a classic, Ready to Die was the only studio album released during Biggie’s lifetime and is a landmark of the 90’s and East Coast Hip Hop. It’s widely considered one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time. It spawned hits such as “Juicy,” “One More Chance” and “Big Poppa.”

  19. Super Bowl XXVIII occurred January 30, 1994 between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys won a 30-13 victory over Buffalo. Super Bowl MVP, Emmitt Smith had 30 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns. The event made Dallas the fifth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls and the only four-time champions.

  20. February 5, 1994, the man who assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Byron De La Beckwith, Jr., was convicted in the murder. Two previous trials in the 60s resulted in hung juries but, 30 years later, a trial was held before a jury of eight black and four white jurors. Physical evidence in the case was fundamentally the same, but prosecutors introduced testimony of De La Beckwith having boasted of the murder over the three decades since Evers’ murder. He convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison, and died in 2001.

Donovan X. Ramsey