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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