Where were you during the 1995 Source Awards?
Some were barely even born, while others hadn’t even been thought of being conceived yet. However, for the handful of hip-hop heads that can recall either witnessing the event on TV or actually being in the Paramount Theater in Madison Square Garden on that iconic night in August 1995, they’ll be quick to tell you how iconic the night was for the genre in general and future rap award shows that would follow.
As we continue to celebrate Hip-Hop History Month for all of November, we’re taking a moment to look back on a night that changed hip-hop forever and how we look at the importance of awarding rappers with the accolades they deserve.
Not even 20 minutes into the show, Southern-based rap dup Outkast set the tone for the night after they won for “New Artist of the Year, Group.” During a time in hip-hop when the now-infamous East Coast/West Coast rap war was reaching its peak, many overlooked what was coming out of the South altogether and it was made apparent when Andre 3000 and Big Boi were literally booed as they went to the stage to accept the award. However, 3Stacks’ classic acceptance speech turned that all around when he simply and boldly closed his speech by stating, “The South got something to say!” It was the first major award the duo received in their career, but certainly wouldn’t be the last; 6 GRAMMYs, 6 BET Awards, 5 VMAs and 4 AMAs later just to name a few, and we still look at these guys as the legends they fought so hard to become.
However, it all started with that first award received at The 1995 Source Awards that set everything into motion, which is the key point in understanding why it’s so important to give our hip-hop heroes their flowers while they can still smell them.
That sentiment would become even more apparent that night when it came to The Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie was truly the star of the night at the ’95 Source Awards, both in accolades and attention alike. Winning for “New Artist of the Year, Solo,” “Album of the Year” for his classic 1994 debut LP, Ready To Die, “Lyricist of the Year” and “Live Performer of the Year, or as he comically put it during the press conference, “The One That Be Rockin’ The Shows The Best,” Biggie proved his dominance in the game that night. Much like Outkast, it was the first set of awards Biggie would receive in his short-lived career that tragically ended just over a year and half after this night when he was killed in a still-unsolved drive-by shooting on March 9, 1997. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020 is a testament that B.I.G. would’ve gone on to continue racking up awards if fate had given us more time with the undisputed King of New York Rap.
You can tell by his performance that night how much The Notorious B.I.G. was loved, respected and had left to share with the world.
As dominant as Biggie was at the ’95 Source Awards, it was the all-stars of West Coast rap that truly made the night unforgettable for both good and bad reasons. From Snoop Dogg receiving “Artist of the Year, Solo” and “Video of the Year” for his epic 1994 short film “Murder Was The Case” to Dr. Dre accepting “Producer of the Year,” Ice Cube winning for “Best Acting Performance” in John Singleton’s classic 1995 film, Higher Learning, and the late Eazy-E rightfully being honored with the night’s prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” after dying just under 5 months prior to the ceremony, you can say that the West Coast was represented right as well.
However, it was Suge Knight’s unforgettable speech while accepting the “Soundtrack of the Year” award as executive producer of the Above The Rim soundtrack that would set off a rapture of events and truly ignite the East Coast/West Coast beef.
On the flip side of rightfully awarding those who deserve it, there’s something to be said about honoring those who have more nefarious intentions. The soundtrack itself deserved the recognition — 2x platinum certification, #1 on Billboard’s Hip-Hop Albums chart and a chart-topping single with Nate Dogg & Warren G’s “Regulate” are definitely award-worthy accomplishments — but Suge took the moment and created an energy that would translate from the studio to the streets. Many believe that both Biggie and the late West Coast icon 2Pac, who died eerily similar to B.I.G. a little over a year after the awards aired, would still be alive if it weren’t for the perpetuated beef that pit them against each other. Award shows give a platform for people to speak their piece, and unfortunately this may have been a moment when it backfired at the expense of losing two legends in the game.
With that said though, Suge did ignite a fire in Snoop Dogg that gave us the classic “Y’all don’t love us?!” moment while Dre accepted producer of the year, which actually sums up the point of showing love in the first place.
Overall, there would be no Hip-Hop History Month without award ceremonies like the ’95 Source Awards. Although The Source Magazine doesn’t produce it anymore, with BET’s annual Hip-Hop Awards being the only one still solely dedicated to giving rappers their respect, we’ll always have love for the events of that night, the superstars that made it iconic and those we’ve lost in the game since then.
Relive that unforgettable night of the 1995 Source Awards in its entirety below:
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