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 third part in this series – we have selected one slept on gem for each year, from 1988 through 1996. Do you know them all?
1988 - Tuff Crew "Danger Zone"
“Smashin’ those who stand in my path / Countin’ them down, like math…” (My Part Of Town)
Tuff Crew is a slept on group from Philadelphia, who dropped a few of pretty solid albums in the last half of the 1980s. Danger Zone is one of them and will remain notable if only because it contains the banger My Part Of Town – which is a trademark Tuff Crew track: competent emceeing over raw beats and aggressive scratching.
Top tracks: My Part Of Town | Northside | Bound To Ike | Smooth Momentum
For the best albums of 1988 check: Top 30 Hip Hop Albums 1988
1989 - Chill Rob G "Ride The Rhythm"
“It’s a pity the way the city treats the poor / I got congressmen, councilmen – tell me, what are they for? / I write letters, or better, I even give them a call / But they kick back, cool out in my city hall” (Court Is Now In Session)
Listen to Chill Rob G if you want to learn about multi-syllable rhymes and complex rhyme schemes. Great voice, flow & delivery. This guy was the real deal and this album is a forgotten classic.
Top tracks: Court Is Now In Session | Bad Dreams | Let The Words Flow | Dope Rhymes
For the best albums of 1989 check: Top 40 Hip-Hop Albums 1989
1990 - Grand Daddy I.U. "Smooth Assassin"
“Here it is, a world premiere / Crystal clear in your ear, so listen here / Yeah, it’s something new, but I ain’t no new kid / So don’t fool yourself with garbage that you did” (Something New)
Another forgotten and sadly out of print album. Produced entirely by Biz Markie (with Cool V), Grand Daddy I.U.’s debut album is a slept on gem.
Top tracks: Something New | The U Is Smooth | Mass Destruction | I Kick Ass
For the best albums of 1990 check: Top 30 Hip Hop Albums 1990
1991 - Chubb Rock "The One"
“The Chubbster, a man that came out about 1986 / With the help of Dr. Ice in the mix / And even then, kickin lyrics that was quite potent / Howie by my side, with his pesticide for the rodents…” (The Chubbster)
Chubb Rock’s third album and probably his best. A rock solid album filled with dope tracks and smart word play. Chubb Rock is probably one of Hip Hop’s most underrated lyricists ever. Is this where Biggie got his flow from?
Top tracks: Treat Em Right | The Chubbster | What’s The Word | The One
For the best albums of 1991 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1991
1992 - Rough House Survivers "Straight From The Soul"
“Smoother as I ever been / Rougher than a pelican / No skates, hit the brakes / I got what it takes…” (Can You Dig It?)
Bass heavy boom bap with horns and jazz breaks – this Mount Vernon crew clearly took lessons from neighbourhood legend Pete Rock. Along with highly energetic lyricism and good chemistry from the emcees, the dope production makes this album a forgotten gem and a must-have for fans of that Pete Rock type of production.
Top tracks: We Come To get Wreck | Can You Dig It | So! Surivers, We Can Rhyme | On The Flex
For the best albums of 1992 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1992
1993 - MC Ren "Shock Of The Hour"
“In ’93 I’m wrecking shit so you can fuck what ya heard / I’m dropping plenty shit like a motherfucking bird”
Underrated and slept-on, like most of MC Ren‘s solo work. Lyrically diverse (with lyrics that maybe hard to digest for some) and sonically consistent (dark, eery and atmospheric) from start to finish – this is a more than a solid album from N.W.A.’s ruthless villain.
Top tracks: Fuck What Ya Heard | Same Old Shit | Mayday On The Frontline | Do You Believe
For the best albums of 1993 check: Top 40 Hip-Hop Albums 1993
1994 - Down South "Lost In Brooklyn"
“Clap your hands and hear the voice who’s so damn illuminate / I rock a jam and let the public consume and let’s / Chill before I let the horns hit ya / For now goin, goin, gone, but yo, I get with ya” (Sittin Here)
Another forgotten album, one that is perfectly enjoyable nonetheless. The funky instrumentals are typical mid-90s NYC, and Down South sound a bit like a tuned down Onyx – which just might make this an album that is suited for those who do not dig the over-the-top screaming style of Onyx, but who love their beats. The beats were crafted by underrated producer Shawn J (who also produced for Mad Skillz, Black Star, Artifacts and Da Bush Babees), along with The Beatnuts and Stretch Armstrong. You could do worse than to check this album out.
Top tracks: Tractors, Rakes & Hoes | Lost In Brooklyn | Sittin Here| The Carbonated One
For the best albums of 1994 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1994
1995 - Show & AG "Goodfellas"
“We had to lounge now I’m furious / Fake hip-hoppers can they do it in ’95, I’m curious / Cause my squad has sickness, crazy sickness / Hit the herb, let the words start flowing with the riches” (Check It Out)
After their critically acclaimed debut album Runaway Slave in 1992, DITC members Show & AG came back strong with this sophomore effort. Sorely slept on and underrated, Goodfellas offers boom bap Hip Hop of the highest quality. Markedly darker sounding than their almost perfect debut record,Goodfellas is an excellent album in its own right.
Top tracks: Next Level | Check It Out | Got The Flava | Medicine
For the best albums of 1995 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1995
1996 - Chino XL "Here To Save You All"
“My crew parleys while your girl braiding my braids / MC’s are afraid in so Many Different Ways!” (Many Different Ways)
Chino XL – a.k.a. King of Ill Lines & Punchlines – drops a lyrical gem with Here To Save You All. This album would have in the top 10 if the instrumentals were at the same level as the lyrical display, but unfortunately the beats fall flat at times. However, that does not take away from the fact that this is an outstanding album by one of the illest lyrical emcees EVER.
Top tracks: Feelin’ Evil Again | Kreep | Riiot! | Many Different Ways
For the best albums of 1996 check: Top 40 Hip Hop Albums 1996