Hip hop become a flourishing music genre in the 1990s thanks to rappers from the East and West coasts who delivered beats and rhymes that went mainstream. To celebrate Coolio's 54th birthday on Aug. 1, 2017, Wonderwall.com rounded up our favorite '90s rappers and checked in on what they're up to now… starting with the birthday boy himself. Coolio (real name: Artis Ivey Jr.) achieved mainstream success with albums "It Takes a Thief" in 1994 and "Gangsta's Paradise" in 1995. The California-born rapper with the kooky hair was also known for performing the theme song for the late-'90s Nickelodeon series "Kenan & Kel." Read on to see what he and other '90s rappers are up to today!
After the '90s, Coolio's rap game waned. But in recent years, Coolio has found another audience: foodies. The self-proclaimed "ghetto Martha Stewart" released a cookbook, "Cookin' With Coolio," in 2009. In 2008, he launched the show "Coolio's Rules," which led to "Cooking With Coolio," a web series, shortly after. He also appeared on the reality series "Celebrity Wife Swap" in 2013. In 2017, Coolio dropped a new single, "Kill Again," as part of a new EP and he is currently back on the road resurrecting his career on the "I Love the '90s" tour alongside other nostalgic artists of the decade. Coolio, a father of six, reportedly divorced radio DJ Josefa Salinas in 2000.
Mase was an integral member of the Bad Boy family helmed by mastermind Sean "Diddy" Combs. Often wearing monochrome leather suits, Mase (real name: Mason Betha) made a name for himself with his first record, "Harlem World," which spawned hits such as "Feel So Good" and "What You Want." Two years later in 1999, he released his second album, "Double Up," which met with less critical success. Subsequently, he announced his retirement from the rap game to pursue a "calling from God."
After a five-year hiatus from the music industry to study and dedicate himself to the Lord, Mase came back in 2004 with a lighter, more buoyant album, "Welcome Back." On the lead single, Mase dubbed himself "a Bad Boy gone clean." Mase continued his foray into different spheres of R&B and rap with verses on songs for artists like Drake and 50 Cent. Following his return to music, Diddy and Mase ran into some contractual drama. In December 2012, Mase announced that he was no longer signed to Bad Boy after being on the label for 16 years. But there's no bad blood! Mase joined Diddy on his successful Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour in 2016. He's also featured in Diddy's 2017 documentary, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop."
The Notorious B.I.G. — aka Biggie Smalls — was arguably the most prolific rapper of the '90s. The Brooklyn-born star (real name: Christopher Wallace) was discovered by Sean "Diddy" Combs and broke onto the scene with his 1994 LP, "Ready to Die." As part of the Bad Boy family, he also led his childhood friends to chart success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. Biggie released iconic tracks like "Juicy," "Big Poppa," and "Hypnotize," but come 1997, things took a dark turn.
Following the death of West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, rumors swirled claiming that East Coast rapper The Notorious B.I.G. was behind Tupac's demise. On March 9, 1997, Biggie was shot and killed in his car after leaving a Soul Train Music Awards afterparty. Conspiracy theories about who committed the murders — both remain unsolved — continue to run wild to this day. Posthumously, Biggie's legacy has continued to grow, which has been, to a great extent, promulgated by Diddy, his devoted friend and business partner. The 2009 biopic "Notorious" chronicled Biggie's life. In 2017, a duet album titled "The King and I" featuring Biggie and ex-wife Faith Evans was released. Biggie has two children: a son with Faith and a daughter with ex Jan Jackson.
Tupac Shakur is also one of the greatest rappers of all time who came up in the '90s. His sensitive, political and hardcore gangster rap aesthetic set him up to be an incredibly complex paragon of West Coast rap. His 1991 debut solo album, "2pacalypse Now," put him on the charts. He joined the infamous Death Row Records label in 1995. He also served a prison sentence on sexual assault charges that same year. Then, come 1996…
After leaving a boxing match in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996, in a car with Suge Knight, Tupac Shakur was shot four times by unknown assailants. He died from his injuries six days later. His fifth album, "The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory," was released two months after his death. To preserve his legacy, his mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation in 1997. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac performed his songs with fellow West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. In 2014, a Broadway play based on Pac's life titled "Holler if You Hear Me" debuted, though only ran for six weeks. In June 2017, the biopic "All Eyez On Me" was released. Tupac was briefly married to Keisha Morris from 1995 to 1996.
1990s emcee Nas was a rhyming force from Queens, New York. His career began in 1991 but ascended in 1994 with his venerable debut album, "Illmatic." Nas (born Nasir Jones) released four more successful albums throughout the decade, putting him on the map as an inventive and profitable music-maker.
Nas has released six albums since the '90s and continues to have a major influence on hip-hop culture. He's evolved into an entrepreneur and mogul too. In 2013, he launched Mass Appeal Magazine and opened a sneaker store in Las Vegas. In 2014, he partnered with job placement startup Koru to fund a scholarship for college graduates. Additionally, Harvard University honored Nas in 2013 when he established the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship. His most recent album, "Life is Good," dropped in 2012, and a new album is reportedly coming in 2017. In early 2017, Nas was rumored to be dating fellow rapper Nicki Minaj. The same year, he announced a North American tour with Lauryn Hill. Nas has two children, including a son with ex-wife Kelis, to whom he was married from 2005 to 2010.
Sean "Diddy" Combs started out as an intern at Uptown Records in 1990. There, he helped develop the careers of R&B stars Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. In 1993, he founded his iconic label, Bad Boy Entertainment, and discovered superstar rapper The Notorious B.I.G. He established himself as a rapper, going by the name Puff Daddy, in 1997 with debut single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" alongside Mase. It was off his first solo album, "No Way Out," which won the 1998 Grammy Award for best rap album. Diddy famously dated Jennifer Lopez in the late '90s.
Sean "Diddy" Combs' mantra is "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" and he truly never has. He has gone through a myriad of rebirths, amplified by the intermittent altering of his name (he credits the late David Bowie with giving him "the confidence to change") — from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy and, now, Diddy. In the early aughts, the entrepreneur-executive produced the successful MTV show "Making the Band." In 2010, he created a rap supergroup and called it "The Dream Team." He's continued to rap on various tracks and produce albums, all the while maintaining his Sean John fashion brand, which he launched in 1998. In 2007, he agreed to help develop the Ciroc vodka brand that he continues to promote today. Diddy is the head of Combs Enterprises, an umbrella company for his portfolio of businesses. In 2016, he grouped together all of the greats from the heyday of Bad Boy Records and launched a reunion tour. His documentary, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story," premiered in June 2017 — the same month he topped Forbes' 2017 list of the world's highest paid entertainers, with earnings of $130 million. He has six children and is currently dating R&B singer Cassie.
Shawn Carter, aka JAY-Z, is one of the greatest musicians of all time and holds the record for most No. 1 solo albums by an artist. He developed his sound and aesthetic in Brooklyn in the '90s with his 1996 debut, "Reasonable Doubt," and proceeded to release three more successful albums in the '90s. He created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label in 1995 along with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs and soon expanded the business to include a clothing and accessories line, Rocawear.
Talk about successful! Forbes estimated JAY-Z's net worth in 2017 at $810 million — and that's not counting the pooled income with his superstar wife, Beyonce, whom he married in 2008. JAY-Z has continued to thrive as a rap mogul and entrepreneur. He founded the sports bar/lounge The 40/40 Club in New York City in 2003. He sold his stake as a part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center in 2013. He is also the co-brand director for Budweiser Select. In 2010, he released a memoir, "Decoded." In 2015, JAY-Z acquired Norwegian subscription-based music service TIDAL. He released his 14th studio album, "4:44," to rave reviews on June 30, 2017. JAY-Z and Beyonce share a daughter, Blue Ivy, and twins Rumi and Sir.
Snoop Dogg is a rapper out of Long Beach, California. His career began in 1992 shortly after he was discovered by Dr. Dre of the rap group N.W.A. His debut album, "Doggystyle," dropped in 1993 via West Coast titan Death Row Records. The rapper (real name: Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr.) churned out three more successful albums featuring his unique G-funk (aka "gangsta funk") before the decade was over.
Snoop Dogg, along with his fellow '90s rapper tastemakers, has become an incredibly influential figure in mainstream hip hop as well as a bona fide rock star of the times. Though he's admitted to acting as a professional pimp in the early aughts, he's continued to make music and even changed up his persona for a moment in 2013 when he released the documentary "Reincarnated" under the pseudonym Snoop Lion. His latest studio album, "Neva Left," came out in May 2017. Snoop has appeared in numerous TV and films projects throughout his career and in 2016 landed a VH1 show with Martha Stewart, "Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party." (In 2017, he and the domestic goddess were nominated for a Daytime Emmy for outstanding reality program hosts!) Snoop is married to childhood sweetheart Shante Taylor, with whom he has three kids.
Dr. Dre started out as a rapper in the group N.W.A out of Compton, California, in 1986 and embarked on his solo rap career in 1992 with the help of Suge Knight at Death Row Records. Dre's debut album, "The Chronic," boasted hit singles such as "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," "Dre Day" and "Let Me Ride." Dre (real name: Andre Young) evolved into a producer and is known for his work on Snoop Dogg's debut album, "Doggystyle."
After the '90s, Dr. Dre continued to release solo work in addition to solidifying his name as an in-demand producer for rappers like his protégé, Eminem, and, later, Kendrick Lamar. He also became a wildly successful businessman: In 2006, he founded the audio brand Beats Electrons with record exec and longtime business partner Jimmy Iovine. In 2014, they sold it to Apple for $3.2 billion. In 2015, the film "Straight Outta Compton" chronicled the life of N.W.A.'s members and shined a spotlight on Dre. He dropped his album "Compton" that same year. In 2016, it was announced that Dre was involved in the development of Apple TV's first original television show, "Vital Signs." In July 2017, he and Jimmy starred in an HBO docu-series, "The Defiant Ones," which chronicles their fruitful professional relationship. He has been married to Nicole Threatt, the mother of two of his six children, since 1996.
Detroit-based rapper Eminem, born Marshall Mathers III, was discovered by Dr. Dre in 1997 after his "Slim Shady" EP made its way into the hands of Jimmy Iovine at Interscope Records. Eminem released "The Slim Shady" LP in 1999 and was taken under Dre's wing. Eminem is one of the only caucasian rappers to ever make it big and demonstrate longevity, all the while cultivating respect from the larger hip-hop community.
In the early aughts, Eminem dropped successful albums like "The Marshall Mathers LP" and "The Eminem Show." He was a rabble-rouser and creative force who stirred up a lot of controversy with his bold and violent lyrics. In 2002, Eminem starred in "8 Mile," a film set in 1995 and based largely on his life. After years of quietly battling prescription drug addiction, he overdosed in 2007. In 2015, he told Men's Journal he's now addicted to running instead. That same year, he executive produced the soundtrack for the sports drama "Southpaw." Eminem has not released an album since 2013, but in 2016, he announced that was working on a new one after dropping the one-off single "Campaign Speech." Eminem has had a tumultuous relationship with Kim Scott since the two attended high school together. They have married and divorced twice and share a daughter, Hailie, who's now a college student.