The 30 Best Underground Hip-Hop Albums

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underground hip hop The 30 Best Underground Hip Hop Albums

By Confusion & Jon Tanners

Underground hip-hop doesn’t exist anymore, at least not like it used to. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what happened, but some time right around when indie rock became a genre instead of an indication of label affiliation, underground hip-hop ceased to exist in the way that we had always known it. Maybe it was when Def Jux died. Maybe it was when “underground” was replaced with internet buzz acts on the fast track to major label deals.

There are still some scenes, still independent hip-hop labels doing their thing, and still plenty of innovative unsigned artists keeping that tradition alive, but “underground” doesn’t mean much anymore. Seven or eight years ago, if you said you were into underground hip-hop, people knew exactly what you meant. It was no better or worse, but for many fans who craved more than what the radio had to offer, underground hip-hop was an extremely important scene.

Here are the 30 best underground hip-hop albums.

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  • http://www.mrsonord.wordpress.com/ Forsure Yunome

    Huge second that view of buck 65 being an omission.

  • Arthur Ryan Johnson

    Non prophets! Hello?

  • Schmatz

    Labor days was unreal

  • Jeremy Biggs

    I like to see jmt at 11 . Box cutta pazzy !!

  • Jeremy Biggs

    It gets shaky at the top ! My top 10
    1. Sean price kimbo price
    2. Ra die rugged man “and the new joint”
    3. Ill bill hour of reprisal
    4. Canibus mic club “all of bis albums”
    5. C-rayz walz black everything
    6. Diabolic liar and thief
    7. Vinnie Paz season of the assassin
    8. Louis logic sin-a-matic
    9. Kool Keith dr doom
    10. Necro die !!

  • No Pages on the Interwebs

    Can’t I just see this list in list form?

  • jimmybarlow

    the unseen and mm… food are the only blatant omissions to me. good list

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  • Tyson

    No Zion I – True & Living?

    Blasphemy!

  • Anon

    Glad to see Ali in the list, but one of his full-lengths should have made it. Super glad to see God Loves Ugly at #10, even though You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having was ten times better. Super glad to see Aesop at #3, although I liked None Shall Pass more, and Skelethon even more so, than Labor Days. Eyedea and Abilities should have made the list with By The Throat. Other than that, glad to see a list that isn’t Hopsin, Tyler, and a bunch of other cats with labels.

  • vaughn

    OK, just hear me out, or at least the album… BUT, tyler’s BASTARD album should make a list if it wasnt fixed just on old “real” hip hop… seriously.. listen to it if you haven’t and take note to what he did for a 3 piece album ensemble. It is a classic ( or will be). That album has more lines that you need to go back again and again to make sure you heard right than most albums i can think of. AND please don’t say Im some hipster dick rider cause I threw out Odd Future. BASTARD is a classic example of good rap music. PERIOD!
    check out that album if you’re 30 years old and making all sorts of assumptions without listening.
    AND yes! madvillian has been my anthem for the past year!!! glad to see it at number 1. cause it is

  • C-dark13

    The fact there aren’t at least three CunninLynguists albums on here disgusts me

  • Ikut

    Exactly, the criteria or lack of; for this list makes it all a bit silly. 93 til infinity is still in my top 5 but so is 36 chambers. Jive records/loud records, video play, promo budgets. Are/were these underground? Was the mentality underground, definitely! Maybe the list should have focused on indy releases from 97-05 or something. Was never able to get with a lot of what was often referred to as emo rap then or the metaphysical/dungeons and dragons stuff that became imo the blueprint for a lot of the new UK mcs around the millennium. Lots of dope singles but v few lps. Personally I got really bored of it v quickly.

  • Sebastian Duncan

    I thought I was a HH head. Haven’t heard of most of these albums. Knocking each one out. Blackalicious and J-Live joints are SUPERB. Thanks for providing listening list for next few weeks PP.

  • Ishmael

    I don’t know why you guys are sleeping on MF Grimm so much, but in the best interest of everyone you should really stop.

    For those who are curious, The Downfall of Ibliys: a ghetto opera is a good place to start. For MF DOOM fans, you owe it to yourselves. Grimm really helped DOOM come up, exec produced Operation, and did a couple collab projects with him. Downfall is at least 50% produced by DOOM.

    I’m not unhappy about any of the albums on here, but it would have been nice to see the Monsta Island Czars album up here, a really important piece of very underground hip hop.

  • Ishmael

    Monsta Island Czars and MF Grimm! You should have those up on your little list there too :)

  • Shoaib Aziz

    No CAGE – Movies For The Blind,

  • Shobee

    No Exile or Power Rule or De La Soul Hugh….

  • blessing jere

    I expected to seen “The Unseen” def a pretty good album madlib put together

  • ezzy

    WHAT THE **** YOU FORGOT TO GIVE US LINKS TO DOWNLOAD THE EPs!!

  • fallingidols

    all balls dont bounce. CLASSIC ALBUM

  • TBNH1980

    I enjoyed this list. Several of these are personal favorites. My only concern is that Cool Calm Pete’s “Lost” was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND ON THIS LIST!!! WHAT THE FLYING FUCK!?!?! I respected you for a hot second “Confusion” , but now.a just want to kick you in the nuts…

  • andrew harrison

    re: Aesop – Isn’t that what the underground is for – things that are meaningful but the mainstream can’t handle because the content or style is “unpleasant”?

  • andrew harrison

    They were truly underground in spirit, but they had a gold album on a major label so they probably belong on a different list.

  • andrew harrison

    Aesop is on the list.

  • massappeal

    Dope list. wish Louis Logic’s sin-a-matic and Killer Mike’s RAP Music made it, but you cant always get what you want…

  • Jeffrey Yau

    Love the Blu & Exile shoutout for sure.

  • jew

    By far the worst laughable list ive ever seen Non Phixion omitted lmao, you guys are the biggest faggot haters, no Cage?

  • salest

    It’s ok because madlib made it.

  • Matt

    Nujabes.

  • idontekno

    I agree, for a while I didn’t wan’t to concede it was better than A Book Of Human Language ….I love em both I love the artistic theme of Book Of Human Language but I think All Balls Don’t Bounce was definitely the better :)

  • idontekno

    My taste in hip hop sways more toward the west coast, however Funcrasher Plus will always be an undisputed number one for me.

  • idontekno

    hehehehe