PRAISE OF FUTURE PAST: 8 Criminally Overlooked Hip Hop Albums

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
The Cold Vein is simply amazing. The eccentric blend of El-Producto’s intergalactic production and the futuristic lyricism of Vordul Mega and Vast Aire. This is one of those albums that make you just lay on your back with headphones on, letting the sounds take you clear into orbit. The emcees no longer work with El-P anymore, which is a shame considering that they created an instant Hip Hop classic. Alas, it was good while it lasted. A perfect example of their cosmic collaboration not surprisingly has ‘galaxy’ in the title, with a beat that sounds like an alien fleet invading Harlem.

Hot Tracks: Ox Out The Cage, Scream Phoenix 

Poison Clan - Strait Zooism
JT Money will never ever get his due respect. Although the stench of Luke Records definitely helped hide this album, the B-Izer still didn’t do it any favors by making most of it radio unfriendly. Whatever. Partnered with the equally underappreciated Mike Fresh, the man that made 2 Live Crew worth listening to, JT rips through track after track. Clan members Big Ram, Uzi and Madball bring their own hype styles into the mix, collectively destroying the following posse cut.

Hot Tracks: Ahead Of My Time, Peep Tha Flava

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
This has to be the most unique album I’ve ever listen to. Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automater and DJ Kid Koala decided to drop tracks straight from a distant dystopian future. This concept album is Hip Hop’s Ziggy Stardust, no joke. Not enough can be said about Del’s otherworldly flow and razor sharp lyrics, the perfect compliment to Automater’s cinematic beats. The title track is just beyond words. Seriously, how does anyone create music like this?

Hot Tracks: Mastermind, Things You Can Do

Smooth Ice - Smooth Ice
Chocked full of Run-DMC aesthetics, the self titled debut for Smooth Ice is a fun album. Thanks to Jam Master Jay’s top notch production, Smooth does his moniker justice with his laid back style and rhythmic cadence. Coupled with his stripped down clever lyricism, he has an MC Lyte type of flow that can switch tempos at a moment’s notice. Although there’s a lot to love about this album, no other track gave it to us like the infectious debut single.

Hot Tracks: Smooth But Def, Trunk Of Funk

Cru - Tha Dirty 30
Thirty damn tracks. Thirty! Who drops that many tracks on a debut?? Well, the Rhythm Blunt Cru ain’t your regular rhyme spitters. Chadio, Mighty Ha and Yogi trade clever bars over this psychotic display of excess. A few surprisingly cameos (Antoinette!) makes the album veer from one style to another, with Cru member Yogi providing a ton of dope beats. There’s a lot to choose from, but their best effort is easily the track teased at the end of the Just Another Case video.

Hot Tracks: Just Another Case, Bluntz & Bakakeemis

Nine - Nine Livez
It’s hard to have a natural voice for hip hop AND have the bars to back it up. Bronx rapper Nine has both in spades. His tone is just as unique as his take on the NYC rap style. This distinction is exactly what puts his debut album Nine Livez ahead of many other efforts from the Big Apple. Cool, calm and collected is a perfect description of Nine’s delivery. Paired with a catchy classic soul sample on top of a banging bassline and you get the following sublime track.

Hot Tracks: Whutcha Want, Redrum

El Da Sensei - The Unusual
Bow down to Da Sensei. You already heard his unusual flow on the Artifacts tagging anthem Wrong Side Of Da Tracks. Throughout this expertly crafted album is El’s trademark cleverness, somehow able to sound old school without being dated in the slightest. There’s a lot of banging beats on this one, with El not having any problem taking every track to the next level. Speaking of which, the song Crowd Pleasa might contain the weirdest sample you’ve ever heard.

Hot Tracks: The Unusual, Up In Da Spot!

Little Brother - The Minstrel Show
The self-appointed younger siblings of the Native Tongues collective showed all the way up on this masterpiece. Rapper Big Pooh, Phonte and 9th Wonder have hurled North Carolina into the Hip Hop scene with a vengeance. Although they has since proven their individual greatness by working on many other projects, Minstrel Show showcases the trio at their peak powers. This is easily one of my favorites albums of all time, and just a quick listening will show you why.

Hot Tracks: Lovin’ It, Beautiful Morning

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