For a genre that churns out dozens of both raw and polished records every day, it’s easy for a few gems to fall through the cracks. Here are 20 underrated records that either haven’t received just due or deserve a re-evaluation.
“Dogs Gonna Getcha”— Tim Dog (1991)
Tim Dog was ahead of his time. His lyrical abilities were subpar, but once the East versus West beef died down, he seemed to lose relevance. His anybody-can-get-it approach on the record and larger-than-life antics are similar to some of today’s rappers and is insanely entertaining, too.
“Wild For Da Night”—Rampage feat. Busta Rhymes (1997)
In the late 1990s, party records could sound like the soundtrack to ones nightmares. Rampage spit fire on this Flipmode cut, but Busta delivers one of the illest hooks ever in the history of sound.
“Secret Wars”—The Last Emperor (1997)
Rappers are entertainment superheroes but nobody really contemplated fantasy matches between them and classic comic book characters until The Last Emperor. And instead of just talking about it, he allowed the MCs to speak through him with spot-on impressions and realistic outcomes on this slept on record.
“Sweet Love”— Method Man feat. Cappadonna and Streetlife (1998)
Method Man may have resented being the most marketable face in Wu-Tang, but he delivered some of the rawest songs and baby-making anthems. On “Sweet Love,” Meth and Wu-affiliates Streetlife and Cappadonna trade graphic tales of sexual conquest and earn that parental advisory sticker.
“Super Brooklyn”— Smif-n-Wessun a.k.a. Cocoa Brovaz (1999)
Before playing video games was cool in hip-hop, Brooklyn, Brownsville duo Smif-n-Wessun (as Cocoa Brovaz) spit over this forgotten classic comprised of 8-bit Nintendo sounds. Though they couldn’t get the sample cleared, the record proved their worth.
“Galaxies: The Next Level”—Mountain Brothers (1999)
Mountain Brothers were the first Asian-American rap troupe that garnered national recognition in the U.S. With its simplistic chant and casual rap boasts, their self-released single “Galaxies: The Next Level” was an underground hit that made backpackers from the East to the West coast cop its vinyl.
“Quality Control,”—Jurassic 5 (2000)
The California clique, known as Jurassic 5, was one of the first to successfully blend Golden Era styles with modern flavors to cultivate an underground hit. “Quality Control” is an entertaining chant along that a listener can’t resist.
“Ecstasy” Bong Thugs-n-Harmony (2000)
A lot of rappers make references to MDMA these days, but the Bone Thugs wrote an ode to the love drug more than ten years ago. The way they crafted this song to complement the experience is quintessential Bone that’s often overlooked.
“Get Your Walk On” —Xzibit (2000)
It seems that whenever a song is introduced with a dance craze, the two become linked so that one can lose relevance on some guilty by association. This may have been the case with this Xzibit classic, but it is one of the hardest club records ever made, lyrically and beat-wise.
“Where Have You Been”— Jay-Z feat. Beanie Sigel (2000)
Beanie Sigel rhyming while fighting back tears? Jay-Z turning success into revenge only to spite a dad who was never there? Rappers playing psychiatrist to themselves to unravel their criminal motives? Classic on so many levels.
“Eastern Conference All Stars”—Tame One, Copywrite, J-Zone, Cage, Mr. Eon, and Mad Skillz (2001)
What made this posse cut so ill was that it showcased the versatility of the underground. There were weirdos, pimps, lyricists and battle rappers. Surprisingly, they kept it gimmick-free and the skills were undeniable.
“State vs. Kirk Jones”— Sticky Fingaz feat. Rah Digga, Redman, Canibus, Scarred 4 Life, Lord Superb, and Guess Who (2001)
Instead of doing a generic collaboration track, The Onyx front man created a court drama with rappers playing the role of witnesses, attorneys etc. Oh yeah, and Rah Digga is the judge.
“The Hurt”—Mr. Len feat. Jean Grae and Murs (2001)
Jean Grae is the reason all the up-and-coming female rappers (and male rappers) just sound mad decent. On “The Hurt,” she’s right at home on a rugged Mr. Len production claiming she’ll, “Get my ass kicked and talk shit while it’s happening.”
“Freaky Thangs”—Ludacris feat. Twista (2001)
At first glance, this is just another obligatory song for the ladies featuring a fellow guest verse killer. But what happens when you get two masters of flow and song structure playing off each other’s bars? A subtle masterpiece.
“Dr. Hellno and the Praying Mantus”— El-P feat. Vast Aire (2002)
Here’s one reason why some heads might not buy into the weirdo rap trends prevailing on hip-hop blogs today. The Def Jux clique did it before and better. Peep Vast Aire and El-P spit trippy rhymes about Great Adventure bats and having sex to Chill Rob G’s version of “I’ve Got the Power.”
“R&B”— Devin the Dude (2002)
When Drake made statements about being the first to successfully blend singing and rapping, a lot of people mentioned Andre 3000 or Cee Lo Green. But who else can create a hip-hop classic, crooning in a hillbilly accent? Don’t sleep on Devin the Dude, kid.
The Wu-Tang genius already created verses with names on “Labels.” But on “Fame” he flipped the concept over one of the more commercially accessible beats he’s ever come across. It never really caught on commercially, but it remains one of the best examples of GZA’s lyrical prowess.
“I Ain’t the One”—Scarface feat. WC (2002)
When a song is on a classic album like The Fix, there are instances where great records will still get overlooked. Here are two of the most authoritative voices in hip-hop linking up to spit OG shit. A needed reminder when wack rappers need teaching.
“Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story”—Jedi Mind Tricks feat. R.A. the Rugged Man (2006)
To fans of “Suffolk County’s most rowdy,” this song is already held in high esteem. But to the unfamiliar, whom never had the war experience been able to so vividly capture the history, and at such brutal speeds, this song deserves to be praised.
“Watch Your Step”—Percee P (2007)
A Bronx battle champion of legendary stature, Percee P has been an underground staple, whose lines have been quoted by The Source, and earned the respect of true-school MCs throughout the ‘90s. The veteran MC’s first solo album Perseverance was completely molded by Madlib, and its single “Watch Your Step,” featuring a “baby’s arm” size gun-toting Vinnie Paz, a sinister Guilty Simpson, and an automatic pistol-like bars spewing Percee P makes this joint one of the best, but highly underrated trio cuts of 2007.
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