What’s good folks! Glad to see you once again. I’ve definitely been getting a LOT of feedback with my most recent list of the top albums of the past fifteen years. Keep it coming. This particular list is a little different. These are albums that we’ve been waiting on and waiting on – and although most of the albums on this list were actually completed, they were never officially released to the general public. These albums could’ve been career milestones for some of these artists, but due to label politics or artist fallout, they were shelved (indefinitely). They are not completely lost though – you can still find them on various torrent sites or the like. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Ol' Dirty Bastard - A Son Unique
The late ODB was one of the most fascinating characters in all of Hip Hop. While on the surface he was seen as an off the wall, unorthodox figure that was a part of one of the most influential groups in Hip Hop history – the almighty Wu-Tang Clan – he was actually just as much an emcee, like a for real emcee. Most times there was a method behind his madness, as we saw with his still much talked about debut album, Return To the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.
A Son Unique was his supposed to be his third album and his Roc-A-Fella debut, but due to turmoil within the company, the album was left to Dame Dash for his troubled label, Dame Dash Music Group – and it never saw an official release. Understand this, there was HEAT on A Son Unique – like the Raekwon, Meth, and Macy Gray-assisted “Intoxicated” and the collab with M.O.P. “Pop Shots”. God Bless the late Big Baby Jesus!
Joe Budden - The Growth
Joe Budden was one of Def Jam’s most promising new acts in the early part of the millennium. Due to problems with the label, he was dropped after his self-titled debut album, just as he was in the process of delivering his sophomore album for them, The Growth.
The Growth, based on the few leaked songs, sounds like it could’ve been a tremendous album for him. Cuts like “Outcast”, “Serious”, and the dramatic “Dumb Out” (which would later appear on one of his Mood Muzik mixtapes) were steps up from his debut. Although it was somewhat of a bummer that he left, he ended up making music that reemphasized his excellent lyrical abilities with albums like Padded Room and his most recent triumph, All Love Lost.
Ali Vegas - Generation Gap
At the end of the nineties, there was an upstart teen from Queens that had the streets OPEN. His name was Ali Vegas, and he was known for his FIRE cut off the soundtrack for the movie In Too Deep.
From there, anticipation had built for this protege of the famed Trackmasters for his debut, Generation Gap. Billed as “baby Nas”, this cat had all it took to live up to that title with insane cuts like “Narcotics”, “Lyrics & Melody”, and “Bullets Bust By”. In every aspect, this could’ve been a classic that we would’ve been bumping for many years to come.
Generation Gap was later released as a mixtape, but imagine this as a full-length album being released when it was supposed to.
Call O' Da Wild - Straight Out The Wilderness
OMG!!! These two Manhattan cats known as Call O’ Da Wild (consisting of Barron Ricks and Angelo Capanioni) were a duo from the Cypress Hill camp.
First making their appearance on the Bad Boys soundtrack with the very ominous “Clouds Of Smoke”, then being followed by their appearance on DJ Muggs’ first Soul Assassins album with the standout track “New York Undercover”, they became a talked about duo and their debut was highly anticipated. Due to Sony thinking there were no radio singles, this lost treasure was shelved.
Straight Out The Wilderness was a practically flawless album however, filled with zoned out lyrics and some of the best board work you’ll hear from Muggs, Sean C & LV and The Alchemist. If you can find this album, you WON’T be disappointed in the slightest.
Mobb Deep - Murda Muzik (original version)
Could it have been possible for the Mobb‘s third album, Murda Muzik, to be any better than it actually was when it was released?
Due to excessive bootlegging, the original version of the album had songs like the haunting “Perfect Plot”, the incredible “Nobody Likes Me”, and the sinister-sounding Prodigy solo cut “Power Rap” replaced with the Nas-assisted “It’s Mine” and the Raekwon-assisted “Can’t Fuck Wit”. Those weren’t bad cuts at all, but if the aforementioned tracks and other menacing cuts like the Onyx-assisted “QB Meets South Suicide”, “Pyramid Points”, and “Thrill Me” had been included as well, the original version of Murda Muzik would’ve been an even bigger QB masterpiece.
Nas - I Am...The Autobiography (original double album version)
To say this would’ve been the new Hip Hop standard during its time (’97-’99) would’ve been an understatement. The original version of Nas‘ third album, I Am, was scheduled to be a double album, in which we would see his life from birth through death and then into the afterlife.
Once again, this album became doomed because of the bootlegging demon, with cuts such as “Amongst Kings”, the intense “Drunk By Myself”, and the vivid “My Worst Enemy” being dropped from the album, only for them to resurface on other albums such as The Lost Tapes and Nastradamus.
There are no complaints about the final retail version of I Am, as it’s the most under-appreciated Nas album within his entire discography. However, if the original plans of the double album were to have stuck, this would’ve been among Hip Hop’s greatest efforts, bar none.
Last Emperor - Legend Of Bigfoot
Philly rhyme animal, Last Emperor, was poised to be one of Hip Hop’s brightest new lyricists, with a distinctive flow and highly intelligent rhymes. He was making enough buzz to where he caught the attention of the good Doctor and got signed to Aftermath. As usual, it didn’t work out and he then sent his talents to Rawkus to start recording his Rawkus debut. Unfortunately for him, Rawkus shut its doors and he became an indie artist, releasing his debut retail album, Music, Magic, Myth to critical acclaim.
It was his much talked about proper debut, Legend Of Bigfoot, that heads were so highly anticipating. An undisputed underground classic, this prodigious emcee had some simply incredible jewels like “Black Magic”, the ode to the mighty ganjah “Legend Of Suzie Wong”, “Mediatation” and the touching “Heaven”.
With work on this album from Da Beatminerz, Diamond, Prince Paul, DJ Muggs, and Ayatollah, this is a production prize. It’s not hard to find this album, and quite honestly, if you’re a Hip Hop head that values something fresh, conceptual, lyrical, and overall superb talent, this album is an absolute MUST.
50 Cent - Power Of The Dollar
This was the album that started it all for “fiddy”. Power Of The Dollar was among the most anticipated albums in the streets due to his inflammatory singles “How To Rob” and “Life’s On The Line”.
With guests such as UGK, N.O.R.E., and even Destiny’s Child on the rather dope “Thug Love”, this would’ve put 50 on the mainstream radar. Due to troubles with Sony, the album was shelved but chances are, you have this album from your favorite bootlegger or a torrent site. While many think Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was his debut, this was his OFFICIAL one, and it was an ill one.
Young Zee - Musical Meltdown
The Outsidaz are a CRAZY group of sick lyricists that can probably destroy most crews in Hip Hop today. We first heard of them in ’96, as they ran with emcees like Rah Digga and a young Eminem.
One of their standout emcees was Young Zee. The husband and baby daddy to Rah Digga, this cat is ZERO jokes on the mic, and his debut, Musical Meltdown, was sure to highlight that. Going off the strength of “Everybody Get High”, this debut was as gutter as you can imagine it would be. Produced by Ski Beatz and KRS-One among others, this album is raw Hip Hop. It ended up getting re-released last year but had this been released during its time, this would’ve been a monster to this day.
Lord Have Mercy - Thee Ungodly Hour
If there was an NYC album more anticipated in the streets in ’97, it was Flipmode’s brutal bass, Lord Have Mercy. While there wasn’t really a weak chain within Flipmode, this may have been the MVP, at times outdoing the crew’s leader Busta.
Lord Have Mercy hit the streets with the crazy hit “Home Sweet Home”, which M.O.P. (who was already originally assisting on the track) ended up putting on their monster effort, Warriorz. The album was not finished. Only eight tracks were done and mastered, but if these eight joints were ANY indication of the ferocity of the album, this album would’ve SLAYED everything in its path, including fellow Flipmode members. With Nottz, DJ Scratch, and Havoc reportedly behind the boards, this was a classic waiting to happen.
Rah Digga - Everything Is A Story
Rah Digga, the first lady of Flipmode, delivered one of the late nineties most checked for albums with her scorching debut Dirty Harriet. This gold-selling album marked a new leader when it came to women in Hip Hop. With Flipmode Records jumping ship from Elektra Records to J Records, the pressure was on for her to replicate the success and acclaim of her prior album, thus came Everything Is A Story.
We were already open with her version of Biggie’s “Party & Bullshit”, but sadly J Records decided to shelf the album. The album floated around online and on torrent sites, and it was clear this album was another dope effort from Dirty Harriet. While more upbeat and more accessible than her grimier debut, this was still a hot effort from one of the most feared lyricists, male or female, in the game.
Flipmode Squad - The Rulership Movement
HOLY GOD!!! If you were able to get your mouse onto some tracks from Flipmode’s much-anticipated follow-up to their beyond nuts debut The Imperial, you found out that this album could’ve shut EVERYTHING down in 2002-03.
Based on cuts like “You Don’t Want It” and the Slick Rick-featured “Hey Young World”, this album would’ve been every bit as hard as their debut. With reported production from Nottz, DJ Scratch, Da Beatminerz, Havoc, and others, one can only hope someone will leak the whole album at some point.
Q-Tip - Open
After Tip‘s mixed reviews for his debut solo album Amplified, the pressure was on for him to be the Abstract Poet again. His original follow-up was to be Open, instead of The Renaissance, which is a definitely all-time Hip Hop classic.
Open was slated to drop in 2004, but due to ongoing beefs with Arista, his label at the time, this album, along with Kamaal The Abstract, were shelved. While The Renaissance is without question, THE album of his solo career, Open was almost as fantastic. With guests like Common, D’Angelo, and Andre 3000 blessing the album, it showed why Q-Tip is one of the most important artists in Hip Hop’s history.
Ras Kass - Van Gogh
Ras Kass is one of the most intelligent and ferocious emcees to ever appear on the mic. His debut album, Soul On Ice, is still regarded as one of Hip Hop’s most incredible albums ever.
His follow-up album, Rasassination, didn’t fare as well however. Lyrically, he was still a beast of an emcee, but with off and on production (more so even than on his debut) and a lack of focus, it just wasn’t the same. What Ras was missing was consistent, engaging production, and he firmly got that in his third effort, Van Gogh. Problems with Priority Records caused this album and his next album, Golden Chyld, to both be canned.
Van Gogh featured very dope production from the likes of Battlecat, DJ Khalyl, and others and would’ve been THAT album for him to officially become a mainstream star. Don’t believe me, peep “Understandable Smooth Shit” or even the title track.
Ras Kass - Golden Chyld
Golden Chyld knocked every bit as hard as the aforementioned Van Gogh. With production from Dr. Dre, Hi-Tek, Khalyl, Rick Rock, and more, this was an excellent follow-up to Van Gogh, and it showed he was still among the most revered lyricists of our time. Being assisted by Busta Rhymes and Pharoahe Monch doesn’t hurt at all either. The Premo-blessed title track, by the way, SLAPS!!!!
King Tee - Thy Kingdom Come
Compton vet King Tee had been known for west coast heaters like The Triflin Album and At Your Own Risk, but when it was announced he would become an Aftermath artist, heads were eagerly awaiting his Aftermath debut, Thy Kingdom Come.
Thy Kingdom Come was sure to be King Tee’s much overdue venture into commercial success, with board work from Dre, Quik, Battlecat, Rick Rock, and others. As is the case for most Aftermath artists, the album was shelved tragically – as this was a monstrous album which would’ve officially solidified Tee as a legend. Thanks, Dre.
Hittman - Murda Weapon
Making lots of noise on Dr. Dre’s 2001 album, people were wondering if Hittman would be the new West Coast protege of Dre. The answer became a ‘NO’, as he vaulted Hittman’s debut, Murda Weapon. You can find this one floating around, as this wasn’t a bad album. Was it an Aftermath classic in the making? I wouldn’t say so, but did it deserve some shine regardless? Hell yeah.
Bishop Lamont - The Reformation
Another Aftermath up-and-comer shelved. Ridiculous. While the aforementioned Hittman had a decent album, this particular album was BONKERS.
Lamont had heater after heater after heater on here with cuts like the important, funked out “Grow Up”, the Xzibit-featured “Hallelujah”, and the AMAZING Hi-Tek-crafted “Friends” that showcased his nice lyrical muscles over some of the craziest production one will hear. We hope one day to hear the return of Bishop Lamont on a mainstream level.
Dr. Dre - Detox
The most anticipated album for over fifteen years was Dr. Dre‘s Detox. We were always constantly teased with it… like CONSTANTLY. We finally had a brief taste of Detox life when the joints “I Need A Doctor” and the Akon-assisted “Kush” hit the airwaves. With other cuts like the Jay-Z-assisted “Under Pressure” and the Nas collab “Topless”, it started to look more and more like we would finally be getting our hands on it sooner or later.
All of a sudden, word hit that Detox was officially done but Dre didn’t want to put it out, thus the release of Compton, which according to Dre was “way better” than Detox. Some bits of Detox are floating around online however, so if you want to get the available tracks from Detox, have at it.
- Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na 2: The Fever
- Jane Doe – The Introduction
- Sunz Of Man – Nothing New Under The Sun
- Charli Baltimore – Cold As Ice
- Charli Baltimore – The Diary…You Think You Know
- Black Child – Ghetto Gospel
- Busta Rhymes – Blessed
- Nas – Death Of Escobar
Obviously, there are a lot more unreleased albums that we may never hear. Albums like Slim The Mobster’s G-Unit/Aftermath debut S.O.O.N., the original version of Stat Quo’s Statlanta, and RZA’s The Cure that are so guarded, there are NO leaks or no sign of them on torrent sites anywhere.
For now, have fun finding these lost and unreleased (commercially anyways) albums, and you’ll find out just how much prized Hip Hop we’ve been missing out on.
Until next time, One.