During Hip Hop’s Golden Age so many classic albums were released each year, that every year almost inevitably has a few excellent albums that were overlooked and forgotten. For this list – the second part in this series – we have selected one slept on gem for each year, from 1988 through 1996. Do you know them all?
1988 - Lakim Shabazz "Pure Righteousness"
“Peace as I unleash / Style of the wild, tell a lyrical masterpiece” (Pure Righteousness)
Chronically underrated, Lakim Shabazz was a dope emcee with a very distinctive voice. With the always competent hands from the 45 King on the boards, no doubt this album is a slept on gem.
Top tracks: Pure Righteousness | All True And Living | Black Is Black | First In Existence
For the best albums of 1988 check: Top 30 Hip Hop Albums 1988
1989 - Low Profile "We're In This Together"
“Mic check, now in effect / Suckers still comin short / That’s why I’m callin order in the court / It looks like a lotta suckers gotta learn the hard way / It doesn’t pay when you tamper with my deejay” (Aladdin’s On A Rampage)
Low Profile is a collaboration between World Champion DJ Aladdin and rapper WC before he formed WC & The MAAD Circle. This album is a real Hip Hop album; with a WC on the mic before he started gangster posing and a DJ with dope turntable techniques. Consistent throughout, this is a slept on West Coast classic.
Top tracks: Aladdin’s On A Rampage | How Ya Livin’ | Pay Ya Dues | Keep Em Flowin
For the best albums of 1989 check: Top 40 Hip-Hop Albums 1989
1990 - Intelligent Hoodlum "Intelligent Hoodlum"
“I’m slippin syllables, wiser than Solomon / So yo, pass the mic, so I can rock the Metropolitan / I write just like a novelist, no one’s as hard as this / Step from thestage, because I’m sparkin it like Spartacus” (Microphone Check)
Intelligent Hoodlum a.k.a. Tragedy Khadafi started out as the youngest member of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew. Marley Marl produced this dope debut album (with two tracks done by Large Professor). A very solid album start to finish – dope beats, conscious lyrics, good emceeing. This album was somewhat overlooked when it came out, but shouldn’t be forgotten. An impressive debut, and an East Coast classic.
Top tracks: Intelligent Hoodlum | Back To Reality | Arrest The President | No Justice, No Peace
For the best albums of 1990 check: Top 30 Hip Hop Albums 1990
1991 - Freestyle Fellowship "To Whom It May Concern"
“What am I now, what am I now, what am I now, a waste of flesh? / Mama, leave me on the doorstep, why don’t you, wouldn’t that be best unless she wanna see me starve / Look and address, suppress, life’s hard….” (Here I Am)
Talk about a slept-on group. Hailing from Los Angeles, Freestyle Fellowship had more in common with groups like De La Soul than with the L.A. gangsta rap scene. A little rough around the edges production-wise – this album is all about the emcees who showcase some clever, deep and skillful lyricism. Ahead of its time.
Top tracks: 7th Seal | Here I Am | Legal Alien | Cornbread
For the best albums of 1991 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1991
1992 - The Goats "Tricks Of The Shade"
“Now you’re poundin’ sand for another man’s sins / To each his own to each his to each they say / But I’ma blow a bone, and you can march ’til the cows come home / Your life’s alone; that means you rent your own dome / But when you come home in a box / Green draws, green pants, green socks / Typical American, kid, I think not” (Typical American)
A very original concept album, ahead of its time. Not easy to get into though, mainly because they overdid it a little bit with all the skits. If you can get past the skits, you’re in for a highly original and intelligent, political album. An early underground classic.
Top tracks: Typical American | Whatcha Got Is Whatcha Gettin’, | Ru Down Wit Da Goats | Tricks Of The Shade
For the best albums of 1992 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1992
1993 - The Coup "Kill My Landlord"
“Cash is made in lump sums as street bums eat crumbs / So I defeat scum as I beat drums…”
Oakland’s The Coup always occupied their own little niche in Hip Hop. Thoughtful, intelligent and socially conscious lyrics over Boots Riley’s fantastic funky beats – this debut album is an underrated and slept on gem, the first in a series of excellent albums. Don’t sleep on The Coup.
Top tracks: Dig It | Not Yet Free | The Coup | Kill My Landlord
For the best albums of 1993 check: Top 40 Hip-Hop Albums 1993
1994 - Boogie Monsters "Riders Of The Storm: The Underwater Album"
“I can see your only eyes, locked into your skull / My backbone the zone and when I roam my mind is full / Guess who? I’m swoopin through the air like pestilence / I know your nerves are shot and skin is tight from my presence” (Recognized Thresholds Of Negative Stress)
Not nearly as successful as it should have been, this dope album is yet another example of an album that slipped through the cracks and got overlooked in a period when so many excellent Hip Hop albums were released.
Coming out of left-field, Boogiemonsters quickly got dubbed Christian rappers and went largely ignored. Too bad, because this creative, dynamic yet laidback album definitely deserves more recognition than it got.
Top tracks: Altered States of Consciousness | Recognized Thresholds Of Negative Stress | Bronx Bombas | Juggaknots
For the best albums of 1994 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1994
1995 - The Grouch "Don't Talk To Me"
“In a time filled with rhymes we forced minds to climb / Way up above all that bull shit you love / Keepin’ your soul in tact, with the rap / This otherworld underworld ninety six-fat” (Oh)
The debut album from Living Legends member The Grouch immediately sets the tone for a respected career in the L.A. underground. A true emcee and storyteller, on this album The Grouch gives us Hip Hop with substance. No gangsta cliches, but intelligence and emotion – that’s what’s on display here. Don’t sleep on The Grouch and the rest of the Living Legends.
Top tracks: Car Troubles | Invisible Man | Oh | Disappointments
For the best albums of 1995 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1995
1996 - Poor Righteous Teachers "The New World Order"
“Take your hands off your nuts, and your lips off that blunt / Stand for something, stand erect, stand for this / You’ll fall for anything cause you don’t stand for shit / I murder slime, come wicked every time / And fill your mind with conscious rhyme” (Conscious Style)
PRT’s fourth and last album. As always, PRT comes with provocative and thought-provoking lyrics – touching on sociopolitical subjects, the stupidity of gangsta rap and much more.
Guests like KRS-One and X-Clan’s Brother J and others bring extra quality and intelligence to the table. Arguably their very best album, The New World Order is a slept on gem.
Top tracks: Conscious Style | Word Iz Life | Gods, Earths, & 85ers | Miss Ghetto
For the best albums of 1996 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1996