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Pigeons & Planes Top 30 Underground Hip-Hop Albums of All Time
Pigeons & Planes published this list, which was linked from RG’s Facebook page.. But the Pigeons & Planes site was really difficult to load. Here’s the list from the site.
- Canibal Ox: The Cold Vein
- Aesop Rock: Labor Days
- Company Flow: Funcrusher Plus
- Deltron 3030
- Black Star
- Little Brother: The Listening
- El-P: Fantastic Damage
- Binary Star: Masters of the Universe
- Atmosphere: God Loves Ugly
- Jedi Mind Tricks: Violent By Design
- Typical Cats
- Jaylib: Champion Sound
- Dilated Peoples: Expansion Team
- Dr. Octagon
- Hieroglyphics: 3rd Eye Vision
- MF DOOM: Operation Doomsday
- Blu & Exile: Below the Heavens
- Souls of Mischief: 93 til Infinity
- People Under the Stairs: OST
- Atmosphere: Overcast!
- Edan: Beauty and the Beat
- CunninLynguists: A Piece of Strange
- Blackalicious: Blazing Arrow
- MF Doom: Viktor Vaughn
- Cage & Tame1: Leak Pros
- J-Live: All of the Above
- Non-Prophets: Hope
- Brother Ali: Champion EP
- Soul Position
First, it’s a decent list, and no one’s ever going to agree with any list other than their own. That said, lists like this are made to be discussed. No one makes a list like this and expects (or hopefully wants) for it to just be accepted as gospel. Here are my thoughts:
- The top 5 is pretty good. I could nitpick, but I won’t.
- Some of the rankings are strange. Dr. Octagon and Operation Doomsday are way low — below Typical Cats and Expansion Team???
- Souls of Mischief 93 Til Infinity doesn’t belong. It is the oldest album on the list by three years. There were videos on BET Rap City. You could buy the CD in any record store in 93-94. If 93 Til qualifies as “underground” then a whole slew of records from 93-95 also qualify, and the whole list should be dominated by 93-95 albums. And, if you’re going to count 93 Til it should be a lot higher than #19!
- If Blackstar counts, and I think it probably should, then Black on Both Sides probably should too, and it should be in the top 5. Instead, it’s not even on the list.
- Sage Francis Personal Journals is better than Non-Prophets Hope.
- The list completely ignores the Project Blowed crew: Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude & Tribe Unique, etc. Also, Living Legends probably deserve some spots here, too.
Needs more Atmosphere albums tbh. Also a peice of strange should be higher.
Below The Heavens should be way higher up than 18
3 of the top five and 4 of the top 10, released under DEF JUX , two of them were his own.EL-P is probably the most important underground Hip-Hop personality.
^ I agree. Funcrusher Plus is the quintessential underground hip-hop album — I’m not saying it’s the best, or even close to the best, but it is the one. It really delineated the line between mainstream and underground. New York underground rappers at the time were making 12-inches; few were making full albums before (or immediately after) Funcrusher. There was west-coast underground stuff like Project Blowed and Living Legends, but that stuff got totally ignored by this list.
Some of those albums aren’t underground. Dilated Peoples was signed to a major when they dropped Expansion Team. And no Wu? So everything the Wu dropped was mainstream including the Wu killer Bee material? Also Freddie Fox’s Industry Shakedown should be on that list.
I can agree with that list
I absolutely loved the fact that DOOM had 3 albums on the list, one of which being number one. But Doomsday could be at least Top 13, and VV1 was better than 25. And for the reason why certain albums aren’t on there: they went by GREAT UNDERGROUND albums, which are usually released by shallow-end-of-the-underground rappers, and not so-underground-no-one’s-ever-heard-of-him-but-he’s-dope underground rappers. Personally I think Violent By Design was a tad high, and Below The Heavens or Dr. Octagon could easily be in its place.
Oh, and absolutely replace Champion Sound with Donuts.
Great Indie Albums Released 1996-2004 That Were Not Included
Off the top of my dome:
Aceyalone A Book of Human Language
Juggaknots Clear Blue Skies
Mos Def Black on Both Sides
Sage Francis Personal Journals
Deep Puddle Dynamics The Taste of Rain… Why Kneel?
Sole Bottle of Humans
The Grouch Fuck the Dumb
Eligh As They Pass
All Natural No Additives, No Preservatives
Danja Mowf Word of Mouf
Abstract Rude P.A.I.N.T.
Soundbombing I & II
J-Dilla Welcome to Detroit
Pete Rock Petestrumentals
Murs Murs Rules the World
Mountain Brothers Self Volume 1
Quasimoto The Unseen
Rebel Alliance LP
Jedi Mind Tricks The Psycho-Social, etc.
There are tons more.. A few of these are questionable, but a few definitely should have made it (Aceyalone & Mos Def, first and foremost).
Was Yasiin REALLY that underground at that point? And a lot of those albums are by, as Pigeons and Planes describe them, way underground. That JMT album is a stretch, seeing that VBD was their best album and pretty much nothing they made was close… Sage Francis I can agree with, but not Petestrumentals, seeing that he’s had a hand in some of the greatest beats rap has to offer. I’m just really upset they missed Donuts.
Black on Both Sides came out just one year after Blackstar, on the same label. It could be argued that neither of the albums were underground, and it could be argued that only Blackstar was, but it’s all kind of subjective, I guess.
Pete Rock is not, or at least wasn’t always, an “underground” artist, but Petestrumentals was part of the same series that produced Welcome to Detroit, so I think they both have to count as underground albums (if Jaylib does).
I personally cut things off at around 2004, because the industry got so shaken up shortly thereafter, that pretty much everything but the very most mainstream stuff became “underground.” I think “underground” should be used to describe the music that was being released and distributed independently prior to the implosion of the record industry as a whole.
Below the Heavens deserves higher than 18
glad to see you included binary star’s masters of the universe….its a really underappreciated album that, for lack of better phrasing, does not get as much exposure as other underground albums.