Throughout the history of Hip-Hop there has been forgotten gems or under appreciated, and underrated artist. There are so many artist to name that is was a very difficult process. Music Life Social has put together our top 5 ( in no particular order) artist who deserve their props in the game. Let the debates begin.
Guru is one half member of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr, along with DJ Premier. Guru dropped some of the most thoughtful rhymes on wax with one of the best producers of all time. During their career Gang Starr helped pioneer the New York City hardcore hip hop sound. The entire Gang Starr catalog, especially Step in the Arena (1990), Daily Operation (1992),Hard to Earn (1994) and Moment of Truth (1998) are well respected among underground rap fans and critics. Guru was always a jazz lover and it influenced his music. For his solo projects he dropped the Jazzmatazz Series. For whatever reason Guru is forgotten when top ten wordsmiths are mentioned.
Arguably described as the most underrated lyricist ever, AZ first became known by appearing on Nas‘ landmark 1994 album Illmatic on the song “Life’s a Bitch”. AZ signed with EMI, and soon released his debut album Doe Or Die in 1995 to critical acclaim, but meager commercial success. The album’s lead single, “Sugar Hill”, became AZ’s only major commercial success as a solo artist, reaching #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and achieving Gold status. AZ’s EMI contract was transferred to sister label Noo Trybe/Virgin Records when the EMI Label Group was shut down. In 1997, he and Nas appeared in a Sprite commercial. Also in 1997 the group The Firm with AZ, Nas, Nature, and Foxy Brown released their only album as a group. The album featured production from well known producers such as Dr. Dre and the Trackmasters and generated much hype. The group disbanded after just this one album. In 1998 he released his second solo album, Pieces of a Man. The album fared well but did not chart quite as well as his debut and did not feature a crossover single like “Sugar Hill”. The same year AZ made a cameo appearance in the movie “Belly” starring Nas, DMX, and Method Man.
After this album’s release, AZ signed with Motown/Universal Records and released 9 Lives. In 2002, he released Aziatic. A single from the album, “The Essence,” (featuring Nas) was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
In 2004 AZ was planning on releasing his would-be 4th studio album, Final Call, however, it was eventually scrapped due to heavy leaking and released as Final Call (The Lost Tapes) in 2008. He released his 5th and 6th studio albums A.W.O.L. and The Format in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
AZ is often consider to be on the same level as his counter part Nas lyrically. I think the lack of promotion and marketing has played a role in his lack of mainstream success and him being under rated.
3. Rah Digga
Rah Digga was one of the dopest female emcees in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. She was member of Busta Rhymes Flipmode Squad and could spit fire. Her debut 1999 album Dirty Harriet received some press but failed to go gold. Criminally underrated.
4. Ras Kass
Pitchfork Media called Ras Kas “one of the best rappers of all time”, and he very well maybe. Ras Kass sent waves through the hip-hop world with his debut independent single release “Remain Anonymous,” earning him a Hip-Hop Quotable in The Source Magazine. Before his signing with Priority/EMI Records, Ras Kass began making guest appearances on several records and freestyles on numerous radio shows, further solidified the emerging lyricist’s notoriety. Recorded guest appearances include Sway & King Tech’s “Come Widdit”
Ras Kass has released several independent albums and had many collaborative efforts. To me his best albums has been Soul on Ice (1996) and Rasassination (1998). Label issues and Incarceration led to him not getting his props.
5. Tech N9ne
Tech N9ne is the most underrated rapper ever but thanks to his incredibly loyal fanbase, he’s also one of the most successful independent rappers ever. Tech was certainly ahead of his time when it came to business. He found ways to win independently throughout the 2000s by building his Strange Music label from the ground up on the foundation of his top-notch rapping.<\/p>
Lol Wayne gave him a chance to shine on Tha Carter IV<\/em> (of course he killed his verse) and he even scored a Billboard<\/em> hit with his album, All 6s and 7s<\/em>. Bottom line: in 2012, he landed at number 20 on Forbes annual list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings. But he was winning even before then. In 2008, the three rappers who made the most money from touring were Jay-Z, Kanye West, and…guess who?