Hey, y'all. This article was originally supposed to be on Complex's website, but I guess it didn't fit their site. But why waste a good article? So here it is. Do your favorites make the cut?
Some people will tell you that underground rap is impossible to define since there are so many factors that go into it (Do you base it on how socially conscious it is, how independent it is, how unknown it is? What?). Well, we’ll agree that it’s hard to peg what exactly puts an album beneath the surface, but we wouldn’t say that it’s impossible. Really, as true blue fans of the genre, we just seem to know when an album is underground. These were the albums that backpackers used to rave about. They were the stuff of legend.
Today, pretty much all rappers who try to get famous on YouTube or get their music out there without any airplay or promotion could be considered underground, and more power to them. Maybe they too will one day have a classic album that will make a list like this. But these albums right here are the classics that you already know and love. Or maybe, you don’t know and love them. And that’s the great thing about underground music, you’re always hearing something new. So, without further ado…
25. Necro-Gory Days
Released in 2001
Label: Psychological Records
Perhaps the self-proclaimed master of the macabre’s most complete album, Gory Days, is definitely the best solo record Necro has ever released. It has the perfect mixture of hardcore porn and hardcore violence that fans of the rapper came to know and expect after his debut album, I Need Drugs, hit the scene. From its brutal beginning (“Bury You With Satan”) to its fitting end (“Morbid”), Necro covers everything from pimping to stealing a scalpel in a doctor’s office, to how to get rid of a dead body quickly. Necro kills it on every single track. As the rapper would say, “Die!”
Best track: Gory Days
(Image taken from: newsroom.mtv.com)
24. Killah Priest-Heavy Mental
Released in 1998
Awash with religion and introspection is Wu-tang side member, Killah Priest’s debut album, Heavy Mental. What makes this album such a winner is the consistency and drive of Killah Priest’s purpose, which is to murder it lyrically and to also get his points across. This couldn’t be any clearer than on tracks like “One Step,” “Blessed Are Those,” and “Cross My Heart,” which all come one after the other in succession on this album. “One Step” even made it on MTV a few times. Thus was the power of the Wu-tang Clan back in the late 90s. They even made the underground recognizable to the general public.
Best track: It's Over
(Image taken from: hip-hopalbum.blogspot.com)
23. Talib Kweli-Quality
Released in 2002
You may think that Talib Kweli skirts the lines of being commercial and underground since he’s done tracks with Kanye West (The song “Get By” was actually a pretty big hit when it was first released), and Jay-Z has name-checked him a few times, but this is where we get back into the whole, backpacker phenomena. The album has generally been forgotten by the public, but fans of the underground still trumpet this decade year-old release for its eclectic track selection (“Shock Body” sounds nothing like the West Coast flavored, “Put it in the Air”), and stellar beats. It’s a certified classic,
through and through. We still bump this today.