The 1990’s started off Hip Hop into its full second decade of existence and in terms of record sales there is much to be said. The record labels listed below not only achieved commercial success but also influenced the sound, style, and culture of hip hop in the 1990s.
Without further ado, let’s get into the top 10 best selling hip hop record labels of the 90’s.
1O) RUTHLESS RECORDS
Founded by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, Ruthless Records played a significant role in the rise of West Coast gangsta rap. The label’s most prominent act was N.W.A., which included Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Ruthless Records provided a platform for controversial and socially aware music, contributing to the genre’s evolution.
While specific sales figures for the ’90s are not easily accessible, it is estimated that Ruthless Records sold several million records during that decade, thanks to the popularity of their artists and their pioneering contributions to gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Eazy E’s Ruthless Records (Much More Than Gangsta Rap)
9) CASH MONEY RECORDS
Though founded in 1991, Cash Money Record’s breakthrough year wasn’t until 1998 with rapper Juvenile’s multi platinum album, 400 Degreez.
The label closed the decade with millions of records sold. Estimates put their record sales to close out the 90’s era at over 7 million records sold.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Irv Gotti Explains Why Cash Money Is The Greatest Label Ever
8) TOMMY BOY RECORDS
Active since the 1980s, Tommy Boy Records thrived in the ’90s, releasing influential albums from acts like De La Soul, Naughty by Nature, and House of Pain. The label embraced diverse sounds within hip hop and contributed to the growth of alternative and conscious rap during that era. Their sales during the ’90s were estimated at around 10 million records.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: How Tommy Boy Records Roared In The 90’s
7) RUFFHOUSE RECORDS
Ruffhouse Records was founded by Chris Schwartz and Joe Nicolo in 1989. The label gained prominence in the ’90s with artists like Cypress Hill and The Fugees, whose album “The Score” achieved significant success. Ruffhouse Records sold approximately 10 million records during the ’90s.
6) LOUD RECORDS
Founded by Steve Rifkind, Loud Records became a significant force in the ’90s underground hip hop scene. It signed artists like Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, Mobb Deep, and The Beatnuts. Loud Records’ roster showcased diverse talent and played a pivotal role in introducing raw and gritty hip hop to a broader audience. The label achieved sales of approximately 10 million records during the ’90s.
Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter is 50 Cent’s most personal book. He shakes up the self-help category with his unique, cutting-edge lessons and hard-earned advice on embracing change.
Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter combines 50 Cent’s street smarts and hard-learned corporate savvy tactics to help readers learn to flow with the changes.
5) ROCAFELLA RECORDS
Co-founded by Jay-Z, Damon Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Roc-A-Fella Records emerged as a powerhouse in the late ’90s. It propelled Jay-Z’s career and showcased artists such as Kanye West, Memphis Bleek, and Beanie Sigel. Roc-A-Fella played a crucial role in the rise of Jay-Z and the commercial success of East Coast hip hop. Roc-A-Fella sold approximately 10 million records during the ’90s.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Rocafella Records (Hip Hop’s Dynasty)
4) NO LIMIT RECORDS
Founded by Master P, No Limit Records was a prominent Southern hip hop label in the ’90s. It featured artists like Master P himself, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, C-Murder and Snoop Dogg. No Limit Records gained recognition for its aggressive marketing strategies and a vast catalog of releases, which solidified its place in hip hop history. Their ’90s sales reached around 15 million records with Priority Records as their distributor.
3) DEF JAM RECORDINGS
Established in the 1980s, Def Jam Recordings continued its success through the ’90s. Led by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, the label signed influential artists such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Warren G and Jay Z, among others. Def Jam played a vital role in expanding hip hop’s reach and merging it with other genres. Def Jam sold over 20 million records during the 90’s decade.
2) BAD BOY RECORDS
Founded by Sean “Puffy” Combs (now known as Diddy), Bad Boy Records was instrumental in bringing East Coast hip hop to the mainstream in the ’90s. Artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, and Mase gained immense popularity through the label. Bad Boy’s blend of hip hop and R&B elements helped define the “New York sound.” Their sales figures exceeded 25 million records.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Bad Boy Records (The Bad Boy Story)
1) DEATH ROW RECORDS
Founded by Dr. Dre and Marion “Suge” Knight, Death Row Records became one of the most successful and controversial labels of the ’90s. Death Row released iconic albums such as Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Doggystyle.”
Death Row Records played a pivotal role in shaping West Coast gangsta rap and its influence on the genre with a roster of renown artists that would go on to include 2Pac as well. It is estimated that they sold over 30 million records in the ’90s.
Out of the top 10 best selling hip hop record labels of the 90’s Death Row is the highest selling hip hop record label.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Death Row Records (The Highest Selling Rap Label Of The 90’s)
WE CAN’T FORGET…
PRIORITY RECORDS: Priority Records played a significant role in promoting West Coast hip hop. They released albums by influential artists like Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and Master P’s No Limit Records. Thanks in part to their distribution agreement, Priority is credited with selling millions or records during the 1990’s.
And as always we like to close with a saying, quote or adage and today’s is from KRS One: RAP IS SOMETHING YOU DO, HIP HOP IS SOMETHING YOU LIVE.
Now, go forth and change the game!