Our most shared article on G-HOLY.COM (so far) is part one, so it’s only right we do the remix! No, actually they were both formulated at the same time and split into 2 posts. Over time, Hip-Hop has had many turns, shifts and “business” folies that have squandered potential classic moments. Here’s Part 2:
1. Rick Ross – Trilla March 11, 2008 198,000 1st week
WHY & HOW: Not only was 2008 a pivotal year in the south continuing to establish its dominance, but the sound hadn’t been fully accepted nationwide, yet. Make no mistake, Trilla is a “down south” album, but its not a “deep south” album. If you didn’t know, ‘Ricky Rozay’ is a Hip-Hop aficionado. His knowledge of the game expands far past his Miami roots and goes back to the earliest of rap days. He’s often cited Dana Dane, EPMD & LL Cool J as his idols on the mic, but models for his sense of fashion and lifestyle. All of that to say, we just didn’t get it. He infused so many elements into this project that it went over our heads (not mine, “our” is just proper to write). Take “We Shinin'” produced by Bink!. If this beat is given to Jay Z, it’d be an instant “Blueprint-Like” classic but with Ross’ gravelly voice and southern accent, it hits different. The bulk of the production was this luxurious, ultra-rich sound we’ve never heard. It literally sounds the “Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous” theme song, with hard drums. Last but not least, ‘The Boss’ is rappin’! The most underrated aspect of Rick Ross‘s arsenal is his ability to craft a decent 16. He blessed every single moment of this album lyrically. Not the most dense. Not best “wordplay”, but hard-hitting, clever, witty and downright funny BARS. This is a straight-through listen. No skips. [Last but not least, can we PLEASE call out Pitchfork for their BS rap reviews. 2.4? Really?]
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Maybach Music” featuring Jay Z
2. The Game – 1992 October 14, 2016 32,000 2st week
HOW & WHY: The Game appeared on our last list, with ‘Jesus Piece‘. For some reason, people just forgot he was that n***a at some point. The lack of promotion didn’t help. Game had gone back indie (Blood Brothers/EOne). To pile on, Chuck’s beef with Meek Mill overshadowed the project instead of propelling ‘1992’. I think he thought it would, though. In the past, he and 50 Cent were no strangers to those type of promotional tactics. 50 STILL does it. Also, remember that weird “Block Wars” thing that dropped the same year? It ended up being a soundtrack to an android video game, or something. Total confusion. Anyway, ’92 is packed with plenty of reasons to pop it in on a lazy Sunday. A myriad of the tightest beat flips from popular songs in the early 90’s. A well-seasoned Game going bar-for-bar, and some of the best overall execution of a themed album we’ve ever seen in Rap. I think this is just a classic example of an album being too big for the label it came out through. This was one of The Game’s most critically-acclaimed albums. The awareness just wasn’t there. Had this come out on ‘Atfermath’…Tuh.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Young Niggas”
3. Freddie Gibbs – Cold Day In Hell October 31, 2001 N/A
HOW & WHY: Even with all of Gibbs’ success and underground classics since, Cold Day In Hell still may be his most complete, well-rounded and even most lyrical album to date. It also seems more prototypical “Gangsta Gibbs” than his later projects. If you’re familiar with Freddie Gibbs’ earlier works like ” The Labels Tryna Kill Me“, you may know there is a sound and feel that Gibbs has alone that gets somewhat compromised when he collabs with producers like Alchemist and MadLib for whole projects. In 2011, Gibbs was signed to Jeezy‘s “CTE” imprint. He was just becoming more known, nationally. Freddie’s biggest look at the time was appearing in the “Above The Rim” inspired “Ballin” video with then “Young” Jeezy and Lil Wayne. He didn’t have the steam it took to get the full push or recognition for this album, though it did fair well critically.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Two’s And Fews”
4. Lil Wayne – FWA July 4th, 2015 N/A (10.1k on 2020 re-release)
HOW & WHY: Top 3 Lil Wayne album top to bottom, period. Birdman and Weezy were in the middle of a (now settled) dispute over monies owed. Wayne ran to who he did the last time he and Baby didn’t see eye to eye, Jay Z. ‘FWA’ was a Tidal exclusive and taken down just weeks after its release, supposedly because of Stunna and Cash Money Records. The New Orleans MC’s release then had to live on a few mixtape sites and torrent forums. It came and it went. The reviews were mixed but true Weezy appreciated him somewhat returning to old form on the 16-track project. Lil Wayne was no stranger to stepping up in the midst of adversity since he did save Cash Money from sinking previously when most of the other acts left…over money, coincidentally. This time his efforts were squandered by the machine that pushed him to over 1 million in sales in the first week alone, and nearly twice. Good rhyming. Bad timing.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “London Roads”
5. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron February 25th, 2014 139,000 first week
HOW & WHY: Its not that people don’t know that ‘Oxymoron’ is dope. Its not that TDE doesn’t have a huge fan base. Its not that critics didn’t like it. Its that a specific group of fans slept on this project. The real Hip-Hop heads. The ones that were screaming “these new rappers” at the time. The ones who caught the Kendrick Lamar wave as part of his run. They all skipped over this album. This album is so underground. So gritty. So in the mud. Some of Oxy’s production was flat out boom bap. If you take a few tracks off, like “Hell Of A Night” and the kick-off single “Collard Greens“, this doesn’t even sound much like a major release. Oxymoron marks the first album on the list that could’ve benefited from a less commercially targeted rollout. It’s indie classic turned pop mid.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Hoover Street”
6. Heltah Skeltah – Nocturnal June 18th, 1996 ??? (debuted #35 on Billboard 200)
HOW & WHY: Heltah Skeltah‘s whole career and catalog is slept on. Nocturnal is a near flawless album and their next 2 are arguably just as good, if not better. Even more puzzling, Sean Price is heralded as an underground hero. That light though, never shined retrospectively to his origins. The main reason Noc dons the list is not the group, Rock & Ruck’s chemistry, or reception in general. It’s production. This is one of the most well produced, and executive produced albums EVER. Da Beatminerz, Buckshot, Shaleek, Shawn J. Period, Supreme, E-Swift, Lord Jamar and Sean Price all did their thing to collectively make a classic landscape. The laid back instrumentals and aggressive flows are musical peanut butter and jam. ‘Nocturnal’s head-nodding production may just be one tier below ‘Doggystyle’, ‘The Blueprint’ and “Illmatic”. Most underrated group, all-time.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Sean Price”
7. Sheek Louch – Walk Witt Me September 16, 2003 64,000 First Week Sales
HOW & WHY: The last of The LOX members to release a solo, Sheek Louch had far less anticipation and subsequently less expectation. Some would say the placebo of that lesser expectation is why Sheek’s debut album, Walk Witt Me may seem to be the most well put together of the three. No. Louch’s album was better crafted. Don’t get me wrong. 2002’s ‘A Gangster and a Gentleman‘ by S.P is a classic but it ran long and production was spotty at times. ‘Kiss The Game Goodbye‘ was all over the place and had too many commercial attempts. WWM sat at 14 songs and every one was solid. The single “Mighty D-Block” having the success it did not only is a testament to Louch’s ability to have a “joint” without crossing over, but is really what you’re going to get for most of the album. Street anthems. Being 3rd man in the trio, combined with the growing success of New York’s own Dipset and G-Unit knocked Sheek out of the box before he could even get a taste of what he put into The LOX, as a solo act.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “Walk Witt Me”
8. Smoothe Da Hustler – Once Upon A Time In America March 19, 1996 ??? (debuted #93 on Billboard 200)
HOW & WHY: Everyone knows “Broken Language”. They may even know a few other singles from “Once Upon A Time In America“, but this nearly classic debut album was largely slept on. The themes and perspective of the Brooklyn emcee’s 1996 LP are eerily similar to Jay Z’s 1996 debut, ‘Reasonable Doubt“. Having a monstrous moment out of the gate, and not having a follow-up as potent was a SURE way to become a one-hit wonder in Hip-Hop at this time. Group Home, Luniz and Coolio all fell to similar fates that same year. Nobody had ever heard anything like “Broken Language” in their life. Still haven’t. Its an enigma of a record. The bar was set WAY too high. “Once Upon A Time…” may be the most descriptive, authentic, on the ground version of street life ever told by anyone. Do yourself the biggest favor. Press play.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “My Brother My Ace”
9. Common – Finding Forever July 31, 2007 155,000 First Week
HOW & WHY: Everybody thinks ‘Finding Forever’ is ‘Be’. It’s like it’s one album to the public. They actually came out over 2 year apart. The feels are different. The beats are different. The messaging is different. Pretty much the only common denominator besides Common is Kanye (and Common’s classic brown-ish album covers. Why does he love that?). If anything, FF is the B-Side to Be. It’s like its more rugged cousin. The one that lives in the hood that you visit for 1.5 months over summer vacation. Common has a much more aggressive delivery, and so is the soundtrack, comparatively. The beats are much more jagged. Sure, the album is top-heavy, or maybe it seems that way because most of the first half are singles WITH accompanying music videos. The latter half isn’t bad though. It at least justifies calling this a dope album. It reminds me of Tribe’s ‘Low End Theory’ and ‘Midnight Marauders’, except people overrated MM because of LET’s success, similar to the way Ye’s first 2 outputs were received. Long story short, Common has two dope albums from the “Kanye West Era”. You should check out both.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SONG: “The Game”