With culture's ever-reliable 20-year cycle meaning that all things 90s are very much back in vogue, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at the original artists that did it first. Whether you're staring into the nihilistic, grunge abyss, indulging in some giddy Britpop escapism or charging up your riot grrl power, these are the tracks that started it all. Words: Priya Elan, Matthew Horton, Ben Hewitt

100‘Gangsta’s Paradise’

Nowadays, Coolio whiles away the time ‘starring’ in US reality cooking shows, but for the briefest of periods in 1995 he was the epitome of cool. Eschewing any of the violent tropes of hip-hop, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ was gospel-tinged and religion-indebted rap, with Coolio joined by tubby warbler L.V. as he twisted Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ into a dark tale of the pitfalls of gangster life.

99‘Reverend Black Grape’

Shaun Ryder and Bez rode off together into the sunset following the implosion of the Mondays. They were still bringing baggy beats and grooves and remained adored by many – ‘Reverend Black Grape’, their first single, shifted more copies than ‘Step On’ – but weren’t immune to the odd spot of controversy, either: the track drew parallels between the Pope, the Catholic church and Nazism.

98‘The Changingman’

By the time the Modfather released his third solo album ‘Stanley Road’, he’d firmly found his feet as a solo artist and was flourishing even without The Jam or Style Council. In many ways ‘The Changingman’ could neatly serve as Weller’s mantra for the era: a recognition of the need for constant evolution and boundary-pushing, backed by a riff-heavy stomp and white-hot licks.

97‘Who Am I? (What’s My Name)’

She want the nigga with the biggest nuts, and guess what?/ He is I, and I am him” No self-deprecation for Calvin Broadus as he teamed up with Dr Dre for the first single from his debut LP ‘Doggystyle’. Snoop’s idle, laidback style was another pivotal moment in the transformation of West Coast rap, as it moved further away from the abrasive violence of NWA into funkier, more melodic pastures.

96‘You Get What You Give’

Regrettably, New Radicals didn’t make it to the 2000s, deciding to call it a day with just the one studio album under their belt in 1999. But they can rest content that they’re one of the most fondly remembered one-hit wonders of the decade: the feelgood guitar pop of ‘You Get What You Give’ stormed charts across the globe, and was named by U2 guitarist The Edge as the song he wished he’d written.

95‘November Rain’

Overblown? Guns N’ Roses? Nah, the original version of ‘November Rain’ was (reportedly) only a piffling 18 minutes long; the video cost a mere $1.5 million to make. But it’s that ridiculous bluster that makes ‘November Rain’ such a killer tune, from the highfalutin’ deployment of the orchestra to Slash’s never-ending solo. Grandiose guitar blowouts don’t come much more epic.

94‘Open Up’

A potentially great UK Number One that was robbed of the top spot by cruel coincidence? Production duo Leftfield were onto a sure-fire winner when they put their brain-pummelling electronica in a blender with John Lydon’s sneering vocals, but his yelp of “Burn! Hollywood Burn!” chimed uncomfortably in the wake of the Californian forest fires that spread the same week the track was released.


Don’t let that innocently jangling melody fool you, folks. ‘Laid’ saw Tim Booth getting hot and heavy with lines such as “The neighbours complain about the noises above, but she only comes when she’s on top,” and subsequently found himself an audience on US college radio. And who could resist that snare roll...

92‘Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’

And lo did Dr Dre introduce the world to G-Funk, a new strain of West Coast rap with its slow, deep grooves and fat bass. The good physician wasn’t operating alone, though – Snoop Doggy Dogg provided the star turn, his languid drawl oozing machismo. “Before me dig out a bitch I have to find a contraceptive,” he purred, one eye already on a future in directing pornography.


On the cusp of greatness, or at least mainstream recognition, Pulp released one of their best-loved songs, a tale of fancying your girlfriend’s sister and hiding in her wardrobe. And who can say they haven’t done that? It hurtles along, and when Jarvis protests, “I only went with her ‘cos she looks like you… My God!” – well – 1992 peaks, doesn’t it?

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