THEN AND NOW: Hip-hop icons’ transformations over the years


According to Forbes, Dr. Dre is now the second-richest figure in hip-hop.

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Dr. Dre attended a screening of “The Defiant Ones,” a HBO docuseries about his friendship with Jimmy Iovine, in 2018.
Mike Marsland/WireImage

In addition to his three studio albums, including the six-time platinum “2001,” Dr. Dre has produced albums for rappers like 2Pac, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent. 

In 2014, Apple purchased his Beats By Dre headphone line for $3 billion. In 2015, he produced the Oscar-nominated film “Straight Outta Compton” alongside Ice Cube.

The Grammy-winning superproducer is worth about $800 million, according to Forbes.

Nas’ debut album “Illmatic,” released in 1994, was an instant classic.


Nas backstage at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards.
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

“Nearly 20 years after its release, Nas’ debut album still looms large over hip-hop,” Rob Kenner wrote for Complex. “Aside from exerting a profound influence over an entire generation of rappers, Nas’ rhymes are studied as serious literature in universities around the world.”

Widely considered one of the best MCs of all time, Nas went on to release three more solo albums and one joint album with The Firm before the end of the decade.

Nas released his 11th studio album in 2018.


Nas at a charity event on October 13, 2019.
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Imagine LA

“Nasir,” the rapper’s first album in six years, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 — making it his 12th top 10 album.

Nas has also dabbled in film and TV. Most recently, he served as an executive producer for “Gully Boy,” a 2019 Hindi-language musical drama.

Snoop Dogg rose to fame in 1992 after he was discovered by Dr. Dre.

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Snoop Dogg at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.
Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Snoop Dogg released his debut album “Doggystyle” in 1993, which became certified quadruple platinum the following year.

Snoop Dogg was recently awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Snoop Dogg accepting his star in 2018.
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

More recently — beyond releasing a gospel album and an eight-track EP in 2018 — the longtime rap legend has broadened his horizons. The third season of VH1’s surprise hit show “Martha & Snoop,” which he co-hosts with Martha Stewart, premiered in April.

Ice Cube is known as one of the founding artists of “gangsta rap.”

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Ice Cube is the stage name of O’Shea Jackson, pictured here in 1990.
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ice Cube initially rose to fame in the ’80s as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. He later became renowned for his lead role in the group N.W.A. alongside Dr. Dre and Eazy E.

After a successful solo career, Ice Cube transitioned into film and entrepreneurship.

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Ice Cube performed during week five of the 2019 BIG3 season.
Cooper Neill/BIG3/Getty Images

After his starring role in the 1991 film “Boyz n the Hood,” Ice Cube wrote and starred in the “Friday” film series. He has since starred in films like “Barbershop,” “Ride Along,” “Are We There Yet?” and “21 Jump Street.”

Ice Cube recently founded the BIG3, a three-on-three basketball league, which primarily enlists retired NBA players.

Missy Elliott launched her solo career in 1997.

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Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” won best rap music video at the 2002 Soul Train Music Awards.
Lucy Nicholson/AP

Missy Elliott’s debut solo album “Supa Dupa Fly” became, at the time, the highest charting debut for a female rapper, with it initially landing at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. She became known for infectious hits like “Get Ur Freak On,” “Lose Control,” and “Work It.”

Redman was the “premier party rapper” of the ’90s.

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Redman, left, and Method Man, right, pictured here in 1993, are well-known for their collaborations as a rap duo.
Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

No rapper was “as consistent throughout the decade as Redman,” wrote Complex’s David Drake. “If a single word could describe his output, it was fun.”

Redman released his debut solo album, “Whut? Thee Album,” in 1992 — but Drake argued that he peaked with 1996’s “Muddy Waters.” Redman also began teaming up with Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man in 1995 and found massive success with their 1995 song “How High.”

Upon the 1996 release of his debut album, Jay-Z emerged as one of the rap greats.


Jay-Z photographed for Life magazine circa 1995.
The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Jay-Z founded the record label Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 ahead of releasing his debut album, “Reasonable Doubt.” 

His musical prowess arguably hit its peak with his sixth and eighth solo projects, “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album,” in 2001 and 2003.

Jay-Z is now known as a mogul and husband as much as a rapper.

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Jay-Z and Beyoncé performed together throughout 2018 for their “On the Run II” tour.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Parkwood Entertainment

In 2002, Jay-Z began collaborating with his now-wife, Beyoncé. They tied the knot in 2008 and released a joint album, “Everything Is Love,” a decade later.

In addition to his roles as husband and father (Jay-Z and Beyoncé share three young children), the 49-year-old mogul has been focused on building his portfolio as a businessman. He recently made history as the first rapper to become a billionaire, according to Forbes.

Read more: Jay-Z is hip-hop’s first billionaire. See how he and Beyoncé make and spend their money.


André 3000 was still a teenager when OutKast released their first album in 1994.


Andre 3000 and Big Boi at the “Stankonia” release party in 2000.
Rick Diamond/WireImage

As one-half of the musical duo OutKast, alongside rapper Big Boi, André 3000 rose to fame with their debut album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.”

Just 19 years old at the time, André 3000 quickly became a breakout star — especially following the duo’s 2003 masterpiece “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” He’s often cited amongst the best and most influential rappers of all-time.

André starred in the 2018 sci-fi thriller “High Life” alongside Robert Pattinson.

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Robert Pattinson, director Claire Denis, and André Benjamin (aka André 3000) at a 2018 screening of “High Life.”
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

“I always liked André 3000,” French director Claire Denis explained. “I always liked Outkast, and I had this idea, if one day I do a film in English and I can cast American people I would like to meet André Benjamin and ask him.”

“His agent said, ‘No no no. Only if you come to meet him in Atlanta,'” she continued. “We went to Atlanta and we had a meeting in a restaurant… And then, he said yes. I’m surprised because I didn’t think he would. His spirit was so easy.”

The 44-year-old also boasts some of the best guest verses in recent memory, from “Solo (Reprise)” with Frank Ocean to “Sixteen” with Rick Ross.

Lauryn Hill shot to stardom with “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1998.

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Lauryn Hill performing in 1997.
Bernd Muller/Redferns

Lauryn Hill’s debut album was met with universal acclaim from both fans and critics. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, won album of the year at the Grammys, and has since gone eight-times platinum in the US.

Eminem won a Grammy and found mainstream fame in 1999 with his sophomore album.


Eminem photographed for the Washington Post in 1999.
The Washington Post/Contributor/Getty Images

After releasing his debut album “Infinite” in 1996, Eminem signed with Dr. Dre’s record label. His sophomore album “The Slim Shady LP,” released in 1999, won best rap album at that year’s Grammy Awards and rocketed him to mainstream fame with hits like “My Name Is.”

Eminem’s third, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth albums — 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” 2002’s “The Eminem Show,” 2009’s “Relapse,” 2010’s “Recovery,” and 2013’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” — also won Grammys for best rap album. He has been labeled “the king of hip hop.”

After making his name as a producer, Kanye West broke out as a rapper with “The College Dropout” in 2004.

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Kanye West won three awards at the 2005 Grammys.
Reed Saxon/AP

Kanye West garnered praise when he began to produce for artists on Roc-A-Fella Records in 2000, particularly in regards to his work on Jay-Z’s 2001 album “The Blueprint.”

But West was determined to forge a solo career, and even recorded his lead single with his jaw wired shut after a car crash.

“Through the Wire” helped drum up anticipation for West’s debut studio album, “The College Dropout,” which debuted at No. 2 on the chart and earned him a Grammy for best rap album.

Drake’s world domination began in 2009 with his third mixtape.


Drake attending the 2009 Grammys.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

After quitting acting to focus on his music career, Drake released “So Far Gone” under his self-created October’s Very Own label.

The mixtape’s most successful track, “Best I Ever Had,” was released as its lead single. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards — best rap solo performance and best rap song — and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

“Best I Ever Had” kicked off Drake’s reign over the charts. He would later become the first-ever artist to log eight straight years on the Hot 100, a run that eventually ended in 2017 with 431 consecutive weeks.

Drake has mastered the world of streaming and holds multiple chart records.

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Drake at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp

Drake’s most recent album, 2018’s “Scorpion,” became his eighth to debut at No. 1 and was streamed over 170 million times in its first 24 hours, breaking a Spotify record (one of many that he currently holds).

Read more: The complete timeline of Drake’s rise to stardom, from starring on ‘Degrassi’ to his record-breaking reign as a rapper

In June 2018, Drake beat the Beatles’ 1964 record of having the most songs in Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 at any one time — the record was five, and Drake managed seven.

Later that year, in October, Drake set a new record for number of singles in the same chart in a calendar year — he beat the existing Beatles record of 11 by one more, securing 12.

The Toronto rapper has been nominated for 42 Grammys, winning four. His Grammy-winning sophomore album, “Take Care,” was recently named the 13th best album of the decade by Pitchfork.

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