25 Excellent Hip Hop Albums That STILL Are Not On Streaming Services: The Internet has drastically changed the way in which music is consumed. Especially the rise of streaming services has caused a disruption of the business model of artists – record sales are no longer the most important source of income, but with earnings from live music and concerts mostly shrunk to tips from webcasts (because of the pandemic), artists are increasingly relying on income from streaming platforms. For music listeners, almost all music ever released is available at the touch of a button. Almost all music, but not quite all – there’s still plenty of music that cannot be found on streaming platforms.
This is a list with 25 excellent Hip Hop albums that for a variety of reasons – ranging from disputes about the ownership of the masters, licensing issues, to problematic sample clearances – are still unavailable on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
UTFO - Legal (1987)
UTFO (which stands for Untouchable Force Organization) consisted of emcees The Educated Rapper, Kangol Kid, and Doctor Ice, and DJ Mix Master Ice. Their 1985 self-titled debut album is an old-school classic thanks to the lead-single “Leader Of The Pack“, but their best album was Lethal. Some risky musical choices owing to production by funk-legends Full Force, but overall this album is dope – with a couple of excellent songs on it like “Mo’ Bass”, “The Ride”, “Ask Yo Mama”, and especially the classic “Ya Cold Wanna Be With Me”.
Biz Markie - Goin Off (1988)
A Marley Marl production from the Juice Crew golden era. Biz Markie always was the joker character from that group of artists – originally a beatboxer, but a pretty decent emcee as well. Nothing deep here, just funny rhymes and Biz’s antics over Marley’s dope beats – lots of classic joints on this LP, like “Vapors“, “Nobody Beats The Biz, “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz“, “Biz is Goin’ Off”, and “Albee Square Mall”.
De La Soul - 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
One of the biggest travesties in Hip Hop streaming is the unavailability of De La Soul’s first six albums. The first four are classics, De La Soul’s debut 3 Feet High And Rising arguably the most important of them all.
Experimental, innovative, and hugely influential – this cooperation between De La Soul and producer Prince Paul is a landmark album. This album introduced the skit to Hip Hop albums; and although skits more often irritate than add value, on this album they work. Clever wordplay, deft rhymes, playful production, positivity, and fun: 3 Feet High And Rising represented a new direction for Hip Hop, clearly a reaction to cliches already emerging in Hip Hop, even in its early years. De La Soul’s debut album was unlike anything Hip Hop had seen up to then, and while arguably all Hip Hop in the 1980s can be called ‘experimental’ because the genre was still in its infancy, 3 Feet High And Rising deserves to labeled thus for sure. This was the album (along with Jungle Brothers’ Straight Out The Jungle) that paved the way for acts like A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Freestyle Fellowship, Digable Planets, and many others.
Biz Markie – The Biz Never Sleeps (1989)
Biz Markie‘s second and most successful album. This time around without help from Marley Marl (for the beats) and Big Daddy Kane (for the lyrics), Biz managed to produce a dope album anyway with great songs on it like the classic “Just A Friend”, “Spring Again”, and “Things Get A Little Easier”.
Above The Law - Livin' Like Hustlers (1990)
One of the earliest N.W.A./Dr. Dre ‘sponsored’ acts, Above The Law debuts with a straight-up (West Coast) Hip Hop classic. Slammin’ west coast gangsta funk beats, produced by ATL themselves, Laylaw, and Dr. Dre. This is one of those rare albums where you don’t have to skip a track, and stand-outs like “Murder Rap”, “Ballin’”, “The Last Song”, and “Livin’ Like Hustlers”.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted Dead Or Alive (1990)
Kool G Rap is generally considered one of the greatest emcees ever, a pioneer of multi-syllabic & internal rhymes and complex rhyme schemes. This sophomore album established G Rap as one of the top lyricists in the game. More varied than his dope Road To The Riches debut, Wanted Dead Or Alive showcased G Rap’s growth and is a classic East Coast album, with lots of dope tracks on it such as “Bad To The Bone”, “Erase Racism”, “Money In The Bank”, and “Streets Of New York”.
Organized Konfusion - Organized Konfusion (1991)
With this album, Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch redefined lyricism. This album has it all: consciousness, politically juiced tracks, party anthems, story-telling – there are socio-political songs such as “Prisoners of War”, “Releasing Hypnotical Gases” (with a truly brilliant Pharoahe Monch verse), and “Open Your Eyes”, street commentaries like on “Rough Side of Town” and “Roosevelt Franklin”, some straight fun tracks like “Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken?”, and displays of pure lyrical dexterity, such as “Walk Into The Sun”, “Organized Konfusion”, and “Audience Pleasers” – Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch pull off a perfect display of clever lyricism and dope wordplay while keeping things varied and captivating throughout. Organized Konfusion is a cult classic that is a must-have not just for Pharoahe Monch fans, but for anyone who likes clever, layered Hip Hop.
De La Soul - De La Soul Is Dead (1991)
De La Soul Is Dead is a long album, but packed with brilliance, musically and lyrically. “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays‘”, “Bitties In The BK Lounge”, “Afro Connections At A Hi 5”, “Keepin’ The Faith”, “My Brother’s A Basehead”, “Ring Ring Ring” and the monumental “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa”, the album is stacked with awesome songs.
A marked change in style and feel to their equally brilliant debut 3 Feet High & Rising, De La Soul Is Dead showed a darker and more contemplative side of De La Soul. Gone is the happy-go-lucky positivity of their debut, instead we get De La’s disillusioned vision on the state of Hip Hop, which would turn out to be highly prophetic. This album was so ahead of its time, Hip Hop still hasn’t caught up yet.
Hijack - The Horns Of Jericho (1991)
The Horns Of Jericho is a ‘britcore’ classic and of our favorite British Hip Hop albums of all time. Not streaming, so hard to find these days, but people who have never listened to this monumental album miss out if they don’t go looking for it.
Lord Finesse - Return Of The Funky Man (1992)
Lord Finesse is one of the sickest punchline emcees in Hip Hop history, together with fellow DITC member Big L. Lord Finesse’s debut album Funky Technician is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in 1990, and his second album Return Of The Funky Man is almost as good. Finesse’s braggadocious rhymes are on point, with the often hilarious punchlines he was known for, and production (by Finesse, Showbiz, Diamond D, with some help from Aladdin and SLJ) is what you would expect from the DITC crew – nothing less than top-notch. Great beats, great rhymes – Return Of The Funky Man is a great album. Funky Technician is finally available on streaming, Return Of The Funky Man sadly is not.
Hard Knocks - School Of Hard Knocks (1992)
School Of Hard Knocks arguably is the most underappreciated album of the early 1990s. School Of Hard Knocks holds 12 tracks which are all good, with powerful and conscious rhymes and tight production – this is an excellent album. It’s a shame it isn’t streaming on Spotify and Apple Music – thankfully it is available on Youtube.
Da Lench Mob - Guerillas In Tha Mist (1992)
This album is HARD. Hard beats, and hard-as-nails lyrics that may be difficult to digest for some. But that was just the intention, wasn’t it? Da Lench Mob is an Ice Cube project and it shows. It bears a lot of similarities (sonically and content-wise) with Cube’s 1991 classic Death Certificate – the same anger and hunger can be felt here. Da Lench Mob’s second and final album Planet Of Da Apes (1994) is available for streaming, but the way superior Guerillas In Tha Mist sadly is not.
Tung Twista - Runnin' Off At Da Mouth (1992)
This debut album was released after (Tung) Twista entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s fastest emcee. Since 1992 there have been plenty of other rappers who are as fast or even faster as Twista is on this album, but (together with Chip Fu from The Fuschnickens) Twista was one of the pioneers of speed-of-light rhyming.
De La Soul - Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
De La Soul‘s third album, De La Soul’s third masterpiece. Buhloone Mind State probably is the most underappreciated album of De La Soul’s first four. The reason for that probably is that it has less commercial appeal than the others (“It might blow up but it won’t go ‘pop’”). Artistically it is every bit as strong, though – cohesive and consistent throughout. Buhloone Mindstate signified another artistic peak for both De La Soul and producer Prince Paul, with classic De La Soul cuts such as “Area”, “I Am I Be”, “Eyepatch”, “Breakadawn”, “Ego Trippin’ Pt 2”, and others.
Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (1994)
Gravediggaz was a supergroup consisting of Prince Paul (The Undertaker), Frukwan (The Gatekeeper), Poetic (The Grym Reaper), and RZA (The RZArector). Two superproducers working together, that has to result in something special, right? This pioneering album is perhaps the best and best-known album of the ‘horrorcore’ sub-genre. Taken as the fantasy it is, it is a fun album with a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Excellent production and top-notch emceeing – this is a classic, strangely enough with underground as well as mainstream appeal. 6 Feet Deep is available on Apple Music, but not on Spotify (save for three songs).
Organized Konfusion - Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994)
Following their eponymous debut LP, Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po had a lot to live up to. They admirably succeeded in creating an album with similarities to the first album, while doing something completely different at the same time. Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch come with unparalleled lyricism on this dark, dense, complicated, and intellectual album. This album was way ahead of its time in vision and execution. Some albums from this era sound dated now but Stress: The Extinction Agenda sounds as fresh today as it did on the day it was released – the mark of a true classic.
In terms of wordplay, flow, delivery, AND content – this is the gold standard. Pharoahe Monch is and has always been the better rapper of the two, but Prince Po is perfectly able to hold his own – which is incredible enough. Both emcees manage to step up their already considerable game from their debut, they come with phenomenal rhymes and complex flows – bar for bar lyrical Hip Hop doesn’t get much better than this. Whether they are storytelling, philosophizing, joking, bragging, being conscious, or simply throwing out battle raps – their lyrical performances are top-tier in every aspect – there is NOTHING cliche or run-of-the-mill about the lyricism on Stress: The Extinction Agenda. Some of the tightest and most inventive rhymes you’ll ever hear are on this album, with the conceptual gem “Stray Bullet” being a particular lyrical highlight.
The mostly self-produced beats on Stress: The Extinction Agenda are dope as f too – dark and menacing, but jazzy at the same time: musically this album comes off as a hybrid of the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan – combining the best of both worlds.
Stress: The Extinction Agenda is one of the most underrated albums released in the 1990s – this truly is a one-of-a-kind kind of album. If you’ve ever wondered why many consider Pharoahe Monch a GOAT emcee – study this album and you will know. Stress: The Extinction Agenda is an all-around brilliant album that should not be overlooked.
Eminem - Infinite (1996)
Infinite is Eminem‘s forgotten debut. While in the general public’s eye The Slim Shady LP is usually seen as Em’s debut album, in actual fact that one was his (multi-platinum) sophomore breakout album. Infinite was his official debut recording, and pretty much completely slept on upon its release. It is an interesting album, however: fun and enjoyable. Although nowhere near his lyrical peak yet, Eminem’s cleverness and trademark delivery are already on (tentative) display here. The album’s production is hit-and-miss, though, generic boom-bap that never really shines. Still: more than worth checking out and a must listen, at least for Eminem fans.
De La Soul - Stakes Is High (1996)
Stakes Is High is another De La Soul masterpiece. All of their first four albums are classics in their own right, this one arguably is the most mature and confident effort out of the four. Over three decades in and still going strong, De La Soul easily is one of the most consistent acts in Hip Hop ever and they are truly Hip Hop’s elite.
Controversy arose in early 2019 after Tommy Boy Records announced that the catalog of its formerly signed group De La Soul would finally be made available on streaming services soon (after streaming was already long-delayed by clearance issues related to the albums). The announcement prompted the group to begin a “Tommy Boycott” campaign, due to the fact that they would receive only 10% of revenue generated by streams, with the other 90% going to Tommy Boy. In response, Tommy Boy postponed the deal and announced their discography would not be available on streaming services as previously scheduled. Long negotiations to come to an agreement were unsuccessful.
“After 30 years of profiting from our music and hard work and after 7 long months of stalled negotiations, we are sad to say that we’ve been unable to reach an agreement and earn Tommy Boy’s respect for our music/legacy,” De La Soul wrote on their Instagram page.
Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus (1997)
Underground Hip Hop at its finest. A hate-or-love-it kind of album for many due to its innovative and experimental nature, but doubtless a classic. Company Flow, consisting of El-P (beats & rhymes), Big Juss (rhymes) & DJ Mr. Len (beats & scratches), dropped this gem to bless Hip Hop in a time period where shiny suit rappers and gangsta posers were starting to get most of the spotlight. Ahead of its time and very influential, Funcrusher Plus paved the way for countless left-field Hip Hop acts, who were and are instrumental in keeping the genre fresh.
The Beatnuts - Stone Crazy (1997)
Stone Crazy is The Beatnuts’ second full-length album, most notable for the hit single “Of The Books”, with features from Cuban Link and Big Pun. The Beatnuts – much like their West Coast counterparts Tha Alkaholiks – knew how to keep Hip Hop FUN, never taking themselves too seriously. Stone Crazy may not be as good as The Beatnuts’ 1994 eponymous debut album is, but it’s a shame it isn’t streaming.
De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000)
After 4 straight creative masterpieces (3ft High & Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, and Stakes Is High), it was almost inevitable that De La Soul would one day release an album that is not an absolute classic. Even though Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump may not be their most memorable or greatest effort, it still is heads and shoulders above a lot of the other Hip Hop released at the turn of the century. Everybody knows the singles “Oooh” (with Redman) and “All Good” (with Chaka Khan), but the standout track here is “Set The Mood”, with a crazy beat and dope bars from Pos and guest emcee Indeed. There are a few tracks and beats that do not really work, but overall AOI: Mosaic Thump is a good, if not great, De La Soul album.
De La Soul - AOI: Bionix (2001)
AOI: Bionix is an underappreciated album in De La Soul’s catalog. But even if it is better than AOI: Mosaic Thump (the first part of what was intended to be a trilogy), it is not perfect as De La’s first four were. Unlike on their first albums, the skits on this one distract a little, which takes away some enjoyment – but the majority of the actual songs hit the spot. Some great and very clever tracks on AOI: Bionix – “Baby Phat” and “Held Down” come to mind – some great guest spots (Slick Rick, B-Real, and Cee-Lo Green in particular), and some great variety on the production side make this one another De La Soul keeper.
Techno Animal - The Brotherhood Of The Bomb (2001)
Techno Animal’s The Brotherhood Of The Bomb is one of the landmark records of industrial/noise Hip Hop. Half instrumental, half with vocals from experimental Hip Hop acts like Dälek, Antipop Consortium, El-P, Vast Aire, Sonic Sum, and Rubber Room – The Brotherhood Of The Bomb truly is a classic of the subgenre. Fans of Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, El-P’s Fantastic Damage, and Dälek’s first three projects better not sleep on the breathtaking hellscapes that make up The Brotherhood Of The Bomb, even if you have to go to Youtube to listen to it.
Killah Priest - Elizabeth (Introduction To The Psychic) (2009)
Elizabeth (Introduction To The Psychic) is Killah Priest’s 8th solo album and the most generally underrated album in his vast discography – for us, Elizabeth is Priest’s very best album, just edging out the equally excellent The Psychic World Of Walter Reed (2013). Killah Priest’s metaphysical deep and thought-provoking lyrics are not for everybody, but those who are in tune with Killah Priest’s particular style will LOVE this album. With 23 songs on Elizabeth and at over 77 minutes of playing time, this is another LONG Killah Priest album but it holds no filler material. There are no features and all production is handled by DJ Woool, which makes for a super consistent presentation that is able to keep attention despite its length – the production really stands out. Priest’s pen game is as good as it ever was too – “Drama”, “Sword Clan”, “The 7 Crowns Of God”, “Rise”, “Diagnose”, “Murdah Murdah At Dawn”, and especially “Jacob Never Died” and “Street Matrix” are some of the best tracks he has ever crafted. Elizabeth is a top-quality listen – an experience with a lot of replay value that will have you coming back to it again and again – even if it’s not streaming and you have to listen to it on Youtube.
Mos Def – The Ecstatic (2009)
The Ecstatic is Mos Def’s fourth solo album, after his magnum opus Black On Both Sides (1999), the misunderstood The New Danger (2004)) and the disappointing True Magic (2006). While Black On Both Sides will forever be seen as Mos Def’s best and most defining work, The Ecstatic is just about as excellent, if not better – without a doubt the best Hip Hop album released in 2009. Sonically creative and lyrically astute – this album is standing the test of time and will always have a place among the best Hip Hop albums of all time.
Due to label disputes about ownership, involving Mos Defs home label (Rawkus Records) and the label which the album was released under (Downtown Records), The Ecstatic was pulled from streaming services.