Hip-Hop is a great genre bursting with new artists daily struggling to meet and surpass the legacies of rap elder statesmen. However, some have been in the “game” for so long and are still not being recognized for their geniuses.
When speaking of the greatest rappers, names like Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem always receive accolades. But some artists could go toe-to-toe with these heavyweights yet remain obscure. Here, we explore 12 rappers with the most underrated and underappreciated discographies.
1. Big K.R.I.T.
Big K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time) is a king most people forget about. Starting his music career in 3005, he isn't precisely old-school; still, any listener can tell the likes of Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, and UGK inspire his music.
4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is a mighty great album to start exploring his discography. Asides from that, his best works aren't available on streaming platforms — they are underground and would require some digging.
Redman is one name that popped up consistently in this conversation. He was prominent in the 1990s and has written songs with Method Man, with whom he has a strong bond, and the lyrical kingpin, Eminem. Still, music geeks underrate his talent.
Redman is also notable for his versatility — he is a rapper, DJ, record producer, and actor. Check out the sitcom Method & Red if you're looking for some on-screen action.
3. Sean Price
Sean Price, also formerly known as Ruck, was a member of the Hip-Hop collective Boot Camp Clik. Until his untimely demise, Sean Price's artistry personified the gritty nature of Brooklyn's golden age of Hip-Hop.
His best works include his debut album, Monkey Barz. His “jungle” personality dominates the hardcore Hip-Hop album, even on tracks such as I Love You, which grapples with the complexities of a love-hate, do-or-die relationship. The song also inspired a line in Jay-Z's rap verse in LoveHappy.
4. Lupe Fiasco
Suppose you're more interested in the intricacies of rap and enjoy deciphering rap bars. In that case, Lupe Fiasco is an artist you should pay more attention to — I call him a modern-age Canibus — another artist on this list.
There are uncredited rumors that he writes for Jay-Z, too. It would be no big surprise if confirmed, as his pen game is almost unmatched. Check out his Drill Music in Zion, which is deservedly on this list of greatest Hip-Hop albums of 2022.
5. Black Milk
One fan says they never understood why Black Milk doesn't have a vast following when he's “probably the closest Detroit heir apparent to Dilla and has churned out half a dozen great albums.”
His best works include Album Of The Year, which could have contested for the album of the year, and explores the tragedies he faced the previous year.
One thinks he is probably the greatest rapper/producer of all time. Still, only a few people have heard of him. Interestingly, he is also one-half of Step Brothers with legendary DJ and record producer The Alchemist.
Evidence is a notable figure in West Coast Hip-Hop since the 90s, starting with the group Dilated Peoples.
7. Devin The Dude
The first time I heard Devin The Dude, the simplicity of the tracks blew me away. It was not about being the most lyrical, technical, or talented — it was about making music for the love of it.
One is only sometimes in the mood to decipher rap bars or search for hidden metaphors in verses. Devin The Dude is the rapper for “lazy days,” when you just want to enjoy good sounds and rhythm and laugh.
“Cormega might have the most solid first 3 albums ever,” a fan writes, although they are disappointed by his recent outputs.
Still, the Queens is one of the most talented rappers of the 90s, so much so that Nas gave him his flowers in his song, One Love, which raised awareness of his artistry.
Ab-Soul is the trinity — a singer, rapper, and songwriter. Internet sources describe him as “a prolific wordsmith who weaves thought-provoking philosophies and confessions into his introspective rhymes.”
10. 2 Chainz
It's fantastic to see 2 Chainz gaining recognition from core rap fans — it's now for the rest of the world to acknowledge his virtuoso.
“Severely underrated lyricist, divine stage presence, incredible features, timeless instrumentals,” a fan writes, adding that the genius of his lyrics is bared in its simplicity. If you're in doubt, listen to Rap or Go the League and Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
11. Kool Keith
Born in the Bronx, Kool Keith has been a pioneering Hip-Hop force for over three decades, yet his contributions often go unacknowledged. He's best known for his work with Ultramagnetic MCs, and his solo career is equally impressive.
Kool Keith has influenced countless rappers with a unique flow, uncanny cadence, and surreal lyrics. Yet, they rarely mention his name alongside the greats. His albums, like Dr. Octagonecologyst and Black Elvis, are testaments to his genius. Still, they've never received the attention they deserve.
Canibus debuted in the late 90s with Can-I-Bus, which featured some of the most intricate and complex rhymes ever recorded. He was hailed as the next big thing in rap, but his subsequent releases failed to live up to the hype. Despite this, Canibus has continued to release music that showcases his lyrical prowess.
His collaborations with Kool G Rap and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA are among his best work, but they've gone unnoticed. Canibus may not have the mainstream appeal of other rappers, but his ability to craft intricate rhymes and convey complex ideas through his lyrics makes him a true unsung Hip-Hop hero.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Boloere Divine Seibidor, fondly called B.S., is a Nigerian-based writer and poet. Her favorite topics include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She's been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sights. When she's not writing, she's delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.