50 Under-appreciated Post-2000 Hip Hop Albums | Part 5: Discussing ‘best ever’ Hip Hop albums is fun, but at the same time often a futile exercise. It’s fun because it forces you to think and sometimes to re-evaluate, and it’s fun because talks with others can make you discover some great albums you otherwise might have slept on. But at times it’s futile too because inevitably not everyone has the same amount of knowledge. Nobody has listened to EVERY Hip Hop album ever released, but someone whose exposure is limited to a couple of dozen of popular albums, and who is inclined to dismiss anything unfamiliar out of hand (lots of people are like that), obviously is not really qualified to talk Hip Hop with any sort of authority.
Trying to pitch more obscure Hip Hop titles to people who have only listened to 2Pac and Biggie or to Kanye and Kendrick – and who don’t want to look any further – can get kind of tiring. Some people seem to think these four, along with names like Jay-Z, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and OutKast are all Hip Hop ever had to offer. That’s too bad because there’s SO MUCH other great Hip Hop out there. Casual Hip Hop listeners who ARE open and willing to discover some non-mainstream Hip Hop music they have never listened to before may find this list to be of value.
For this piece, I have selected – in no particular order – another 50 of my favorite Hip Hop albums released after the turn of the millennium that I consider to be underappreciated. Some albums listed here are better known than others, but even heads who are used to digging deep may discover an album or two they have missed out on for some reason.
Sean Price - Mic Tyson (2012)
Mic Tyson is the third studio album from Brooklyn-native Sean Price, it was the last album to be released in Price’s lifetime before his death on August 8, 2015. Mic Tyson is on par with Sean Price’s best releases Monkey Barz (2005) and Jesus Price Superstar (2007), featuring his signature brand of hard-as-nails in-your-face rhymes over production provided by renown boom-bap crafters such as Stu Bangas, The Alchemist, Evidence, and 9th Wonder. This album is straight gutter, street bully rap – few have ever done this better than Sean Price did.
People Under The Stairs – O.S.T. (2002)
Los Angeles duo People Under The Stairs never missed. O.S.T. is the third album and one of their best, with some of their most famous songs – “Acid Raindrops” and “The L.A. Song” – as its centerpieces.
Step Brothers – Lord Steppington (2014)
Evidence had a good year in 2014. Dilated Peoples’ Directors Of Photography is one of 2014’s best albums, and Lord Steppington is a great effort too. Lord Steppington is Evidence’s collaboration album with producer extraordinaire The Alchemist – operating together as Step Brothers. The record was produced entirely by Alchemist with one track produced by Evidence and it includes guest appearances from Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, Blu, Fashawn, Rakaa, Oh No, Styles P, Domo Genesis, and The Whooliganz. Alchemist’s production is flawless, the bass-heavy beats are dope, the lyrics are on point, and the pacing and sequencing of the album are done just fine. Lord Steppington is a great album from the Step Brothers – hopefully, we’ll see a new Step Brothers project in the future.
Illogic – Celestial Clockwork (2004)
Celestial Clockwork is Ohio-based emcee Illogic’s third solo studio album, production is entirely handled by regular collaborator Blueprint, and it features vocal contributions from Aesop Rock, Vast Aire, Slug, and Blueprint. Lyrically complex, poetic, and intelligent: Celestial Clockwork is Illogic most personal and best album, offering one hour of top-tier left-field Hip Hop with stand-out cuts like “Time Capsule” (with Aesop Rock and Vast Aire), “1000 Whispers”, “Celestial Clockwork”, “First Trimester”, and “Stand” (with Atmosphere‘s Slug).
M-Dot - egO anD The eneMy (2017)
M-Dot’s Bandcamp blurb: “Boston award-winning emcee, M-Dot paints a lucid world that navigates vivid storyline landscapes & morbid fantasies evoking an undertone that embodies the parallels between pride & fear. The 17 track excursion showcases a genuine tour de force of a conceptually mapped out dream realm trapped in self-reflection. The instrumentation that accompanies M-Dot’s syllable acrobatics is laced by a legendary production dream team. Facilitating board work for the traverse incandescent are Hi-Tek, Marley Marl, Large Professor, Buckwild, Khrysis, Marco Polo, Snowgoons & more. egO anD The eneMy also maintains classic form with minimal guest-verse offerings, nevertheless when it does….it’s of paramount means. Method Man & Camp Lo partake in the project’s vast imagination almost seamlessly. Rounding out the all-star contributions are DJ JS-1 & 7L on scratch duties.”
This a great album, maybe a bit overlong at 61 minutes. M-Dot has a dope flow that suits the boom-bap beats – this album was slept on, it deserves more attention than it got.
Oddisee - Tangible Dream (2013)
Washington DC’s Oddisee really is something else. He is an incredible producer AND a great lyricist. He is responsible for two near-flawless albums as one-third of the Diamond District trio, and he has released a string of great solo projects. Tangible Dream is his best solo effort of this decade, along with The Good Fight (2015). This album is full of great songs. “Tomorrow Today”, “Back Of My Mind”, “Killin’ Time”, “Be There” “Tangible Dream” – just a few of the stand-out tracks on this awesome project. Tangible Dream offers smooth and intelligent Hip Hop of the highest quality – this album should be a part of any serious Hip Hop collection.
Dälek – Absence (2005)
Frontrunners in industrial Hip Hop, Dälek debuted in 1998 with the captivating Negro Necro Nekros and developed their sound with their first proper full-length From Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots (2002). Dälek’s music is always dark, noisy, and atmospheric – but no album in their catalog is darker than Absence. Producer Oktopus is one of the most interesting avant-garde producers of all time, and his instrumentals on this album are unique and progressive. Emcee Dälek comes with his characteristic apocalyptic bars, but it’s Oktopus whose talents truly shine on Absence – his nightmarish industrial soundscapes provide a thick atmosphere full of menace and terror.
“A Beast Caged”, “Culture for Dollars”, “Distorted Prose”, “Asylum (Permanent Underclass)”, “Ever Somber”, “Opiate The Masses”, “Eyes to Form Shadows” nothing but highlights on what is one of the most underrated Hip Hop albums released in 2005.
Boog Brown – The Late Bloom (2013)
Boog Brown is a Detroit native who has made her mark in the Atlanta underground Hip Hop scene. She hasn’t adopted that typical Southern Hip Hop sound though – Boog Brown brings soulful boom-bap fused with jazzy vibes on The Late Bloom. It’s a shame really that so much trashy pop-rap out of Atlanta dominated the mainstream in 2013 while a gem like The Late Bloom hardly got any attention at all. Never too late to get into it though.
The Left - Gas Mask (2010)
The Left is a 3-man collaboration consisting of rapper Journalist 103, turntablist DJ Soko, and Apollo Brown. Apollo Brown is the star here, as it is his production work that steals the show. Journalist 103 is a competent emcee and DJ Soko adds extra flavor with his cuts and scratches – the first track “Change” sets the tone nicely by showcasing the trio’s synergy. At 19 tracks Gas Mask is not a short album but the same level of quality is maintained throughout – this album is a perfect representation of the strength of Detroit’s underground Hip Hop scene. Booming beats and fine lyricism – Gas Mask is a must-have.
Intellect - Out Of Left Field (2018)
Los Angeles emcee Intellect’s debut album, Out Of Left Field, is an exhibition of clever wordplay and storytelling, paired with smooth, melodic production. You probably slept on this album, now’s the time to check it out.
Typical Cats – Civil Service (2004)
Typical Cats – emcees Qwel, Qwazaar, Denizen Kane, and DJ/producers Natural and Kid Knish – are one of the big acts on indie Chicago label Galapagos4. They debuted in 2001 with an excellent self-titled debut album, in 2004 they returned with an equally strong sophomore effort: Civil Service.
The 3 emcees all have an own, distinct style and DJ Natural’s well-crafted, groovy beats mixed with live instruments serve as the perfect backdrop for their entertaining lyrics. Highlights include “Style Wars Theory”, “Can’t Save”, “Easy Cause It Is” and “The Trouble”, but the album is smooth and fresh from start to finish. Civil Service is a great album and a nice counterweight to the non-creative, soulless music that dominated the mainstream in 2004.
Army Of The Pharaohs – In Death Reborn (2014)
In Death Reborn is the fourth studio album by the underground collective Army of the Pharaohs. The album features AOTP members Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Blacastan, Block McCloud, Celph Titled, Crypt The Warchild, Demoz, Des Devious, Doap Nixon, Esoteric, King Magnetic, King Syze, Planetary, Reef the Lost Cauze and Zilla. Nothing new or revolutionary here – just an hour of booming beats and hard raps. In Death Reborn is not even AOTP’s best, but still heads and shoulders about most mainstream rap album released in 2014.
Antipop Consortium - Tragic Epilogue (2000)
Tragic Epilogue is one of those albums that went tragically unnoticed in an era where materialism and jigginess were the norms. Addressing exactly that kind of mainstream Hip Hop cliches, this album offers quality and originality – intelligent lyrics over innovative, boundary-pushing instrumentals. Maybe not for everybody due to the experimental nature of the musical backdrops and the off-kilter rhyme styles of the three emcees but this is an excellent album nonetheless – with plenty of highlights such as “Lift”, “Your World Is Flat”, “Heat Rays”, “What Am I?”, “Nude Paper”, “Laundry”, and “9.99”.
Apathy - Handshakes With Snakes (2016)
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Apathy sticks to what he has been doing for twenty years: creating authentic boom-bap Hip Hop reminiscent of the days when lyrics and lyrical skill counted. From the opening track “Pay Your Dues”, which incorporates the Supremes hit “You Can’t Hurry Love” ( and the piano loop for Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge Is Over”) to great effect, to the album-closing “Handshakes With Snakes” – this album is as solid as it gets. Handshakes With Snakes is steeped in classic Hip Hop vibes, but it’s never generic or stale – Apathy knows exactly what he’s doing to keep things fresh. Top-notch punchlines, wordplay, flow, and bars combined with dope beats and samples – with features from frequent collaborator Celph Tilted, as well as from real emcees like O.C., Ras Kass, Blacastan, and the late Pumpkinhead (among others), Handshakes With Snakes is one of Apathy’s best albums.
Semi.Official – The Anti-Album (2003)
Semi.Official is a collaboration between I Self Divine of The Micranots and DJ Abilities of Eyedea & Abilities fame. The Anti-Album offers an hour of raw and gritty lyrics and beats, laced with dope samples and intricate cuts & scratches – this is pure and undiluted Hip Hop.
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Gonna Eat That? (2011)
Irish cook Mary Mallon, AKA “Typhoid Mary,” was known as the first carrier of typhoid fever in the United States in the late-1800s. A strange inspiration for a group name you might say, less strange maybe if you know it’s a group consisting of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz. On Are You Gonna Eat That? Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic carry on with the experimental noise they were known for in their DefJux time, DJ Big Wiz adds some fantastic turntablism to the mix. Not for everybody maybe, but those appreciative of hard-hitting soundscapes and fun-filled lyrics with dope metaphors and punchlines, will love Are You Gonna Eat That?.
Rakaa – Crown Of Thorns (2010)
Crown of Thorns is the solo debut studio album by Los Angeles-based Rakaa, a member of the Dilated Peoples crew. To take care of production duties Rakaa recruited a bunch of top-tier beat-crafters like Alchemist, El-P, !llmind, Exile, Oh No, Evidence, DJ Honda, Rhettmatic, and of course Dilated People’s, own DJ Babu. In addition to the production talent, there are enough guest emcees too, KRS One most prominent among them. “Delilah”, “Human Nature” (with KRS-one), “Aces High”, and “Mezcal” are among the standouts – but Crown Of Thorns is a consistently dope album from start to finish.
Johnson & Jonson (2009)
Johnson & Jonson is the collaborative debut studio album from Johnson & Jonson, better known as Blu and Mainframe. Following on Blu & Exile’s low-key classic Below The Heavens (2007), this album went virtually unnoticed – unfortunately, because this project is dope as f too. Owing to Mainframe’s production Johnson & Jonson is totally different from Below The Heavens in style, but not in quality. Blu is on fire with his wordplay here, and Mainframe beats are innovative and different. Johnson & Jonson is one of the most under-appreciated Hip Hop albums released in 2009.
Dark Time Sunshine – ANX (2012)
Seattle-based alternative Hip Hop duo Dark Time Sunshine – rapper Onry Ozzborn and producer Zavala – brought a breath of fresh air to 2012 Hip Hop with ANX, their second collaborative album. Lots of deeply layered beats and drum breaks laced with synths and electronic sound effects on ANX, all of it complemented by Onry Ozzborn’s mix of abstract lyrical imagery and deeply personal accounts, plus guest spots of other left-field Hip Hop greats such as Aesop Rock, POS, and Busdriver – this album is not a straightforward or an easy listen. ANX will not be for everybody, but those with a taste for something different once in a while will no doubt appreciate this Dark Time Sunshine project.
Fort Minor – The Rising Tied (2005)
The Rising Tied is the debut and only studio album by Fort Minor, the Hip Hop side project by Linkin Park rapper Mike Shinoda. This self-produced album features guest appearances from Common, Black Thought, Styles of Beyond, Celph Titled, Linkin Park DJ Joe Hahn, alt-funk rocker Kenna, John Legend, and Holly Brook. The Rising Tied is much better than Collision Course, which Shinoda and the rest of Linkin Park did with Jay-Z – the instrumentals on The Rising Tied are dope, and Shinoda’s subject matter is diverse and his lyrics are meaningful. Shinoda is not a natural emcee, but he’s a competent enough rapper who effortlessly manages to keep the listener’s attention for an hour. Plenty of great songs on The Rising Tied, such as “Kenji”, “Cigarettes”, “Where’d You Go”, “Remember The Name”, “In Stereo”, “Slip Out The Back” and “High Road” just a few of them. The Rising Tied is an original, tasteful creation – one of the finest Hip Hop albums released in 2005.
Rasheed Chappell – Future Before Nostalgia (2011)
Remember the days when Hip Hop artists actually had something to say, and when they were in the game not just for the sake of record sales or to promote some gangsta-wannabe image? Well, authentic Hip Hop artists have always been around – they just lost the spotlight, unfortunately. New York emcee Rasheed Chappell is one of those authentic Hip Hop artists – his long-awaited debut album, with beats crafted by veteran producer Kenny Dope, offers Hip Hop in its purest form. With the added touches of DJ Scratch and DJ Mell Starr, Rasheed Chappell and Kenny Dope kept it real to the true essence of Hip Hop. Superb production and top-tier wordplay – in a year where Lil Wayne’s Carter IV and Drake’s Take Care were the biggest sellers, people slept on Rasheed Chappell & Kenny Dope’s way superior Future Before Nostalgia – and that’s a damn shame.
P.O.S – Audition (2006)
Following his excellent debut album Ipecac Neat, P.O.S doesn’t disappoint with his sophomore effort Audition. Like all of his albums, Audition offers a potent blend of Hip Hop and other musical styles like punk-rock – with P.O.S dropping his challenging semi-abstract, metaphor-heavy, anti-conformist lyrical imagery. The music on this album is amazing, with lots of live instrumentation, electric guitars, drums, etc. Standout tracks include: “Bush League Psych-Out Stuff”, “Bleeding Hearts Club” (both featuring Atmosphere‘s Slug), “De La Souls”, “A Teddy Bear And A Tazer “, and the razor-sharp rap-metal fusion of “Half-Cocked Concepts”. Fans of acts like Doomtree or Sage Francis should not sleep on Audition.
Dephlow - Deph Threats (2015)
Dephlow made his debut with Dephacation (2014) – a collaborative album with fellow Virginia emcee Awon and Portland, ME producer Phoniks. He later reappeared on a pair of tracks on Awon and Phoniks’ Knowledge Of Self LP – one of the best Hip Hop albums of 2015. Deph Threats is Dephlow’s debut solo album. Produced by Phoniks, Deph Threats clocks in just under an hour with 14-tracks that focus on inequality, social injustice, and self-reflection. Features include Awon, Anti-Lilly, Envy Hunter, F. Draper, Tiff The Gift, Nehemiah Bell, and My Main Man Keion. Don’t Sleep Records is one the most interesting record labels out there – Deph Threats is just one of the excellent Hip Hop albums they’ve released in the past decade.
Homeboy Sandman – First Of A Living Breed (2012)
Over the years Homeboy Sandman has put together a strong catalog filled with a potent mix of fun and thought-provoking content, delivered in an instantly recognizable flow, and backed by often unconventional musical choices. First Of A Living Breed is one of Homeboy Sandman’s best albums – musically diverse with glitchy and sound-effect heavy beats and with rhymes worth listening to. “Rain”, “Whatchu Want From Me?”, “4 Corners”, “Illuminati”, “Couple Bars”, “Mine All Mine”, “The Ancient”, and especially “Not Really” all are dope Homeboy Sandman joints, confirming his status as one the freshest and most original voices in modern-day Hip Hop.
Superstar Quamallah – Invisible Man (2009)
Brooklyn-born, California-based emcee, DJ, and producer Superstar Quamallah’s Invisible Man is one of the most slept-on albums released in 2009. Superstar Quamallah’s deep and soothing voice complements the summertime vibes projected by the smooth beats and the sharp nostalgia-inducing samples and vocal scratches. “We Got Plots”, “88 Soul” and especially the single “California Dreamin’” are highlights, but the strength of Invisible Man is its consistency – this is 50 minutes of laidback, jazzy boom-bap Hip Hop reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest, and in some parts of Gang Starr even. Invisible Man is a memorable album with nothing but dope beats and dope bars – do yourself a favor and check this album if you’ve slept on it up to now.
Ugly Duckling – Moving At Breakneck Speed (2011)
Ugly Duckling’s Andy Cooper, Dizzy Dustin, and Young Einstein are masters of upbeat throwback Hip Hop – Moving At Breakneck Speed is the Los Angels trio’s fifth full-length album and it’s another banger. Funky fresh drum breaks and loops, laced with dope samples and complemented by positive and fun lyrics – Ugly Duckling never misses. Fans of other West Coast acts like Jurassic 5 or People Under The Stairs will also love Ugly Duckling.
O.C. & A.G. Oasis (2009)
Oasis offers an hour of Hip Hop excellence from the legendary D.I.T.C. crew. With beats from E-Blaze, Showbiz, and Lord Finesse and nothing but dope rhymes from O.C. and A.G. Even though this album came out in 2009, it sounds like the classic 90s NYC Hip Hop. Strong beats plus great lyrics and nice flows from both emcees – Oasis is FIRE.
Black Milk – No Poison No Paradise (2013)
The concept-driven No Poison No Paradise is Black Milk’s fifth and best album. No Poison No Paradise is centered around a young man’s survival on the streets of Detroit, the narrative making this Black Milk’s most emotionally charged and deepest album to date. Black Milk expertly meshes synthesizer production with dusty soul/jazz/rock samples, with a bit of a darker and rougher edge to the beats than on some of his earlier projects. No Poison No Paradise is a great album from an underrated producer and rapper.
Danger Mouse & Jemini – Ghetto Pop Life (2003)
Ghetto Pop Life is a collaborative album by Danger Mouse & Jemini, with guest appearances from Tha Alkaholiks, J-Zone, Prince Po, and The Pharcyde. This is a superb album, mainly because of the atmospheric and layered soundscapes Danger Mouse provides. Jemini holds his own on the mic, but this is a producer’s album to its core. The album has a throwback vibe to it but has its feet planted firmly in the 2000s at the same time, so it should appeal to old and new heads alike. It’s hard to imagine anybody not liking Ghetto Pop Life.
Brother Ali – Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color (2012)
Brother Ali is one of the stalwarts of the lost art of conscious Hip Hop. He has never released a sub-par album, his discography is one of the strongest and most consistent in Hip Hop, and Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color is another jewel in his crown. Although Ali did most of his very best work with Atmosphere’s Ant on the boards, Jake One is a more than competent producer as well, providing subdued soundscapes here for Ali’s lyrics to shine. Ali comes with the same politically and spiritually conscious fire that he’s known for. Lots of standouts, cuts like the heartfelt ” All You Need” and especially “My Beloved” are classic Brother Ali, as are songs like “Letter To My Countrymen”, “Mourning In America” and “Only Life I Know”.
The Circle Of Tyrants – The Circle Of Tyrants (2005)
Usually bracketed in the ‘death-rap / horrorcore’ section of Hip Hop, artists like Necro and his brother Ill Bill have definitely created a niche for themselves, but it is also a niche that regretfully prevents them exposure to a larger audience. For The Circle Of Tyrants album, Necro and Ill Bill teamed up with Goretex en Mr.Hyde to produce a project that’s actually dope as hell (pun intended).
“South Of Heaven”, “The Four Horsemen”, Carnivores”, “Tyrannical” and “The Black Wings Of Apocalypse” are highlights, but there are more. Necro’s and Ill Bill’s“ love for Metal shows in “Necrotura” en “The Ultimate Revenge”. As can be expected the subject matter is not very varied – violence, blood, death, and sex – but it is done with some humor and creativity, and all emcees (except Mr. Hyde perhaps) have skills on the mic too. All in all, a perfectly enjoyable album (if you can stomach the subject matter) and you could do worse than check it out.
Chuck Strangers - Consumers Park (2018)
Pro Era is an NYC boom-bap collective headed by Joey Bada$$. In 2019 Pro Era emcee/producer Chuck Strangers dropped his full-length solo debut Consumers Park – a project that offers a dose of that good old boom-bap Hip Hop, nothing but straight Golden Age beats and bars. No weak tracks on this album, but a special mention goes out to “Style Wars”, which has Chuck Strangers and Joey Bada$$ taking shots at this era’s crop of mumble rappers.
Shock G – Fear Of A Mixed Planet (2009)
Fear Of A Mixed Planet (a reference to the late Shock G’s own mixed racial background) is an understated masterpiece – the album title being an obvious play on Public Enemy’s classic third album Fear Of A Black Planet. Fear Of A Mixed Planet went largely unnoticed in 2004 and that’s a shame. Maybe it was released ten years too late? Whatever the reason for its obscurity – Fear Of A Mixed Planet really is a brilliant album. Digital Underground’s genius frontman Shock G takes the listener on a journey through his mind – the result is an album with dope beats and simultaneously thoughtful and witty lyrics.
Sage Francis – Copper Gone (2014)
Providence, Rhode Island native Sage Francis has put together a pretty impressive set of albums since his official debut album Personal Journals in 2002. Copper Gone is his fifth solo album, and one of his best. Inspired by some traumatic events in his life, Copper Gone is noticeably darker and more personal than Li(f)e (2010), the album preceding Copper Gone. Events Sage Francis talks about, like the death of a parent (“Thank You”), a failed relationship (“Grace”), and self-imposed years-long seclusion (Make Em Purr”), prove that emotion often spurs artists to create their best, most resonant work.
Killah Priest - The 3 Day Theory (2010)
The 3 Day Theory is one of Killah Priest’s most overlooked albums. It is kind of an a-typical Killah Priest album: at 48 minutes, it is more concise than most of his other projects, there are quite a lot of guest rappers (Canibus, Cappadonna, Last Emperor, Ill Bill, and others), and Kount Fif’s production is more polished and accessible than what we usually get from Killah Priest too. That said: the beats on The 3 Day Theory are dope as f, and Priest’s bars and those from his guests are tight. Don’t sleep on The 3 Day Theory.
Recognize Ali - Allah’s Favorite (2017)
After successful releases Too Visible To See (LP) & Diary Of A Wild Child (EP), Ghana’s heavyweight emcee Recognize Ali dropped the highly anticipated full-length Allah’s Favorite. This one has DJ TMB on all the cuts, with features from Hus Kingpin, King Magnetic, Verbal Kent, Ruste Juxx, C-Rayz Walz, Reef The Lost Cauze, and others. Bars, beats, and turntablism – this is one for the Hip Hop purists.
Murs & 9th Wonder – Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition (2004)
In his 25 years in the Hip Hop game, Murs has released a whole bunch of excellent albums – solo as well as collaborative efforts. This may very well be one of his best, the first collaboration album he did with producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder. Murs is another one of those rare personalities in Hip Hop who is always completely real. No fronting, no posing – just honesty and real emotion. The collaboration with 9th Wonder works perfectly – the soundscapes 9th Wonder provides all serve to enhance the strength of Murs’ intelligent lyrics.
Standouts include the Phonte-featuring “The Animal”, “Bad Man”, “And This Is For…”, “The Pain”, and especially the genius “Walk Like A Man”, which has three different beats to match the mood of the deep and insightful story told. But it is all good – at 10 tracks the album is short but there are no weak spots.
A.J. Munson – Cigarettes & Coffee (2019)
Huntington Beach’s A.J. Munson styles himself as a ‘raw boom-bap’ beatmaker. Cigarettes & Coffee is a producer album, with guest appearances from underground artists P Dirt, DJ Jason D, Verbal Kent, Pawz One, Big Pooh, DJ TMB, Wake Self, Ruste Juxx, M-Dot, Tha Soloist, Recognize Ali, Reks, Red Pill, MORris Done, Ren Thomas, Banish, Supreme Cerebral, Rick Mal, Nepaul, DJ L Nasty, and Exit Prose – at 14 tracks full tracks Cigarettes & Coffee has plenty of dopeness to offer.
This album is straight boom-bap with beats sounding like they come straight from the early ’90s. And even if there are plenty of this kind of throwback-sounding albums around these days, this particular one is one of the best ones released recently – it’s diverse enough to keep your attention and A.J. Munson’s ear for sampling adds another layer of quality to his instrumentals.
Mr. Len – Pity The Fool (2001)
Ex-Company Flow DJ Mr. Len’s Pity The Fool is an incredibly ambitious project, a 67-minute monster filled with Funcrusher Plus-esque instrumentals and an impressive roster of emcees to take care of the vocals: Jean Grae (who steals the show), Murs, The Juggaknots, Chubb Rock, and many others. Not as good as Funcrusher Plus of course, but plenty good anyway – fans of Company Flow’s masterpiece will also love Pity The Fool.
Junk Science - And The Hundred Dollar Sandwich (2015)
Junk Science is a Brooklyn-based duo, consisting of emcee Baje One and beatmaker Snafu. And The Hundred Dollar Sandwich is a great album, with an a-typical, left-field kind of boom-bap sound. Junk Science once was affiliated with the iconic Def Jux label, which should tell you something about what these guys are about.
Cali Agents – How The West Was One (2000)
Cali Agents is a collaboration between West Coast emcees Planet Asia and Rasco. How The West Was One has gotten more recognition over the years but has always been underrated – it’s one of Hip Hop’s better albums of 2000, filled with great beats and dope flows.
Sick Jacken - Psychodelic (2016)
Psychodelic is Psycho Realm founder Sick Jacken’s long-awaited follow up to Stray Bullets (2009). Nothing surprising or revolutionary here, just an excellent collection of hard boom-bap beats and raw lyrics straight from the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles.
Vordul Mega – Megagraphitti (2008)
As one half of Cannibal Ox, Vordul Mega is responsible for one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time: the Def Jux classic The Cold Vein (2001). Megagraphitti is Vordul Mega’s second solo album. The top tracks on Megagraphitt are “AK-47”, “Stay Conscious”, “Megagraphiti”, “Opium Scripts”, “Trigganomics”, and the El-P-produced “Keep Living” (with billy woods) – but most of the album is strong, a couple of weaker songs (like “Light” and “Beautiful”) cannot ruin Megagraphitti Not on par with The Cold Vein, but this is a dope project nonetheless.
billy woods - Dour Candy (2013)
Not as heavy and impactful as its predecessor History Will Absolve Me (2012), Dour Candy is still better than most other Hip Hop released in the first half of the 2010s. In comparison to billy woods’ other releases in the 2010s, Dour Candy falls a bit short – mainly because the smooth instrumentals are just there, less effective in enhancing billy woods’ complex imagery compared to the outstanding soundscapes on History Will Absolve Me, Known Unknows (2017) and Hiding Places (2019). Make no mistake though: Blockhead’s production is more than solid, and as always Dour Candy first and foremost is all about billy woods’ perspective and personality, but the sum of the parts here is not as big as on some of billy woods’ other releases this decade. Dour Candy is solid billy woods nevertheless and even a mediocre billy woods release is better than most rapper’s best.
Pharoahe Monch – Desire (2007)
Desire is the second solo album from Pharoahe Monch, released eight years (!) after his critically acclaimed solo debut, Internal Affairs. Where some artists seem to favor quantity over quality when it comes to their output (we’re looking at you Kool Keith), in the case of Pharoahe Monch it clearly is the other way around. Eight years is a long wait for a follow-up, but Desire was worth the wait. The album offers hard-hitting boom-bap beats with Pharoahe Monch exercising his insane flow with extreme precision and style.
MA Doom: Son Of Yvonne (2012)
MA Doom: Son Of Yvonne is another Masta Ace concept album, this one dedicated to Yvonne – his late mother. Most of the album focuses on Masta Ace’s formative years. MA Doom: Son Of Yvonne is sometimes billed as a collaborative album from Masta Ace and MF DOOM, but it really isn’t: on MA Doom: Son Of Yvonne Masta Ace raps over existing MF DOOM beats taken from DOOM’s old Special Herbs albums, a series of instrumental projects he released in the first half of the aughts under the name Metal Fingers. MF DOOM shows up for one verse though, on “Think I Am” next to Masta Ace and the iconic Big Daddy Kane.
“Think I Am” is one of the stand-outs, alongside tracks such as “Son Of Yvonne” (one of the best and most recognizable MF DOOM beats on the album), “Me and My Gang”, “Home Sweet Home” and “I Did It”. MA Doom: Son Of Yvonne is a warm and well-rounded album, underrated in Masta Ace’s catalog.
Ill Bill – The Hour Of Reprisal (2008)
Ill Bill’s second and most personal album, The Hour Of Reprisal is a deep and powerful release – a stand-out in his solo discography and even counting his work as part of Non-Phixion, Circle of Tyrants, and La Coka Nostra. Ill Bill handles most of the production duties on this album himself, with some tracks being produced by the likes of Ill Bill’s brother Necro, DJ Muggs, DJ Premier and DJ Lethal. Featured guests on the album include Vinnie Paz, Immortal Technique, Everlast, B-Real, Raekwon, Tech N9ne, and Necro. This combined power results in a well-put-together album, that is sorely underrated by the larger Hip Hop audiences.
Skyzoo & Torae – Barrel Brothers (2014)
Skyzoo and Torae knocked it out of the park with this long-awaited collaboration. The album features guest appearances from Blu, Sean Price, Sha Stimuli, Livin Proof, and Guilty Simpson. Raw, NY boom-bap production was provided by DJ Premier, Illmind, Black Milk, Jahlil Beats, Oh No, and AntMan Wonder amongst others. Both Skyzoo and Torae brought their A-game to the table, as is evident in the quality of bars and hooks. Great beats, great lyrics, and great chemistry make Barrel Brothers a great album.
Zion I - Mind Over Matter (2000)
This Oakland-based crew is one of the many examples of how real Hip Hop managed to survive the gangsta craze and was still alive and kicking around the turn of the century, also on the West Coast. Positive, socially conscious lyrics over innovative beats and live instrumentation – this is an awesome album.
Cambatta - LSD: Lunar Solar Duality (2020)
From the album’s Bandcamp blurb:
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), is a hallucinogenic chemical compound, first synthesized in 1938. Upon its introduction into popular culture in the 1960’s it quickly shifted not only the mind of the artist but also the person experiencing the art.
Hip Hop artist Cambatta is known for his thought-provoking and psychedelic-inspired rhyme techniques. His newest album entitled, “LSD”, is just as the title insinuates- mind-bending and consciousness-shifting. This album was created throughout four years of psychedelic usage and reality-based life-changing events. This process has made the album a duality of both real and surreal interpretations. The album’s title is also an acronym for “Lunar Solar Duality,” alluding to the album’s dichotomy of light and dark conceptualizations and countless other polarizing and multi-entendre-latent compositions. Whether you have ever experienced LSD or not, this album is sure to impact anyone receptive and perceptive enough to take a dose.
The album sure is a trip, a total mindf*ck. LSD offers well over an hour of dense lyricism, full of Cambata’s musings on subjects like life, history, science, religion, spirituality, mythology, existentialism, culture, and drug(ab)use. The beats on LSD are fine, and Cambatta’s voice and flow are a pleasure to listen to – but what makes this album something truly special are Cambatta’s deep lyrics. His varied lyrical approaches and themes are fascinating – this album can’t really be compared with anything you have heard before. In sound, style, and content Cambatta is like an amalgamation of Killah Priest, Kool Keith, Canibus, Cage, and Immortal Technique – making Lunar Solar Duality a truly unique experience, an album that invites multiple listenings to really try to appreciate what’s going on. This is another Mello Music Group winner.