What's good folks?! With a new year comes a new series being done here in this blog. This series is focusing on the most underrated/underappreciated albums of the decade per year. Now that it's 2018, we're inching closer and closer to the end of the 2010s and approaching the 2020s. Make no mistake about it, this decade has been one of the most musically rich periods ever heard in hip-hop. Landmarks like To Pimp A Butterfly, Laila's Wisdom, Black America Again, all three Run The Jewels releases, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy changed the scope of how far hip-hop can go. Socially, musically, and spiritually, these and more refined the art of the game as we know it today. What about other albums that weren't as mainstream recognized or acclaimed as these others that got more awards, plaques, and overall props/ This is where we come in. With that, let's get into the most underrated albums of 2010. Let's go!
It's well known that The Alchemist is one of hip-hop's most incredible producers, and has especially emerged as such within the span of close to two decades. Along with being such a highly regarded producer, he's also a part-time emcee, and not a bad one either. He's joined by Madlib's younger brother, Oh No (who himself is a very decent emcee/producer) to become Gangrene. Their debut album, Gutter Water, was grimy yet comical, dirty yet mischievous, and it struck on all chords. Although it wasn't a terrible lyrical album, the production on the project was the story, as Al crafted some of his best work, while Oh No started to come into his own and hang with Allan The Chemist.
Production: artist, Oddisee, Kev Brown, others
Diamond District member, yU, is arguably the most sharp lyrically of the trio consisting of him, Oddisee, and Upton XO. He displays this great talent on Before Taxes with precision and confidence. Throughout the album, yU is on point over some excellent production and a concept that basically has him displaying how much more fun and important hip-hop was before it became such a commercially-driven business. Honest, personal, and provoking, yU dropped an album worthy of more attention than it received.
18. Freddie Gibbs
Production: Beatnick, K-Salaam, Kno, others
One of the first real times we got exposed to Gangsta Gibbs was his EP entitled Str8 Killa. The Gary, IN native brought that realness over menacing production and was a raw as one could perceive. Although many believe it was Cold Day In Hell that was his true door opener, he cracked the door open with this one, and it thumped.
17. 7L & Esoteric
Production: artist, Statik Selektah, DC The Midi Alien
Boston's 7L & Esoteric are considered among the most respected in underground hip-hop. A fairly consistent discography up to 2010 was known, as albums like The Soul Purpose and A New Dope were rotated and acclaimed for boom-bap production and hitting lyrics from Esoteric. With 1212, they continued with the knocking sounds they had been known for, plus we got a tease of things to come with a Czarface cut, "12th Chamber". One of these duo's best efforts.
16. Black Milk
Album Of The Year
Curtis "Black Milk" Cross was deemed as the next to uphold the torch Dilla left behind in the D. He did a very valiant job in attempting to do so, as he was among the most revered emcee/producers to come from the motor city. His album, Album Of The Year, was more of the same incredible production (mostly live instrumentation) that we had been knowing from him. His sound was becoming progressively more live instrument driven, but regardless if you copped this release, you played the hell out of this quite often.
15. Homeboy Sandman
The Good Sun
Production: 2 Hungry Bros, Ski, Psycho Les, Core Rhythm, others
Queens emcee Homeboy Sandman is a very well-rounded lyricist. He has a complex and vast array of styles and can adapt to seemingly anything. An under-the-radar emcee since his emergence in '07, HS has always needed that bigger platform to display his tremendous talents. On The Good Sun, the teacher-turned-emcee comes correct with multi-syllabic layers and flows that are often repeat-worthy. He's also a great conceptual writer, as evidenced with cuts like the homeless-ode "Angels With Dirty Faces" and "Mean Mug", an ode to fake thuggery. One of his best efforts to date, Sandman started to really find his own route as an emcee on this one.
14. DJ Muggs & Ill Bill
Heavy Metal Kings
Production: DJ Muggs
Non-Phixion member Ill Bill is known for his in-your-face, aggressive delivery and his knack for writing rhymes centered around apocalyptic themes and anti-government rhetoric. He collabs with legendary Cypress Hill producer, DJ Muggs for Heavy Metal Kings. Dark yet intense, Bill pulls no punches with the listener and sounds like he needs to do a lot more projects with Muggs more often, as this project was head to toe DOPE.
Death Is Silent
If there was a list of highly talented, yet underrated, producers in hip-hop, Cunninlynguists' Kno must be near the top. Just as much known for spitting as he is constructing dark and melodic beats, Kno steps from the shadow of his group mates Deacon and Natti to create Death Is Silent. Beautifully orchestrated, Kno's debut solo effort is something that elevated Kno's ability to create cinematic soundscapes. A mesmerizing album, this is one that must be felt as much heard.
I Fuckin' Hate Rappers
Production: Marco Polo, Kno, J-Zone, Domingo, Tonedeff
Brooklyn emcee PackFM was very jaded with hip-hop. He started to hate the very thing he had loved, and this was apparent on his album, I Fuckin' Hate Rappers. Conceptually based off his own personal feelings about the state and climate of the culture at the time, the Cunninlynguists-assisted emcee made his own feelings known throughout very humorous skits and pretty dope cuts that explained how much he was just over it all. After a few listens to this, you might see you're not too far from his viewpoint yourself.
11. Big K.R.I.T.
K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
By the time 2010 hit, Mississippi's own Big K.R.I.T. was already on mixtape number six, and boy was it impressive. His mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, became his signature project for some years to come, as it set the bar for all future releases. Southern bumpers like "Country Shit" and "Gumpshun" exemplify his love of the 808 bump with all the flavor of sugar rich Kool-Aid in the summertime, but cuts like "They Got Us" and "Children Of The World" showed how much of a soulful writer he was as well. Fantastic mixtape and fantastic artist, K.R.I.T. was on to something big.
10. Skyzoo & !llmind
Live From The Tape Deck
One of the most consistent and skilled lyricists of the decade has been Skyzoo. We had seen his unbelievable potential with his albums Could 9: The 3 Day Theory and The Salvation before, but with this collabo album with Grammy Award winning producer !llmind, Live From The Tape Deck, he elevated his game even more. A concept meant for the listener to not fast forward through the album and to listen throughout, this was album was just that: a stellar playthough. There was no filler whatsoever on this project. From the densely layered "Langston's Pen" to the thumping 808s of "Speakers On Blast", this album serves as Sky's top effort, if not second best within his discography.
9. The Left
Production: Apollo Brown
Detroit fixtures Journalist 103 and producer extraordinaire Apollo Brown put a hard one down as The Left with Gas Mask. This is just straight ol' school boom-bap hip-hop. No more, no less. Journalist more than holds his own with guests such as Finale, Guilty Simpson, Hasaan Mackey, and the legendary Kool G. Rap, while this is first time we really see the talents of Brown, as he now is among the sought after beatmakers in the game. If you want a no-mask approach to hip-hop, peep this one out. No disappointments will be given.
8. Celph Titled & Buckwild
If you're familiar with practically any type of NY hip-hop throughout the nineties and early thousands especially, you most definitely are familiar with Buckwild. The legendary D.I.T.C. producer responsible for cuts like Black Rob's "Whoa", O.C.'s "Time's Up", Biggie's "I Got A Story To Tell", and Mic Geronimo's "Masta I.C." teamed up with Army Of The Pharoahs/Demigodz member Celph Titled to construct Nineteen Ninety Now. This album is clearly a salute and throwback to arguably the most poppin' decade ever in hip-hop and this is just a warm feeling album to those that miss that old NYC nineties sound. Buck went ten toes deep in this production, and Celph's husky baritone voice does damage to the mic on this incredible release.
7. DJ Premier
Get Used To Us
One of the game's most revered producers of all-time is the one and only DJ Premier. In 2010, he and his label Year Round Records dropped a thunderous compilation, Get Used To Us, which had the legendary producer showing his stripes once again in hip-hop. He cleverly showcasing established talent such as longtime west coast vet MC Eiht, QB massacist Blaq Poet, KRS-One and Bumpy Knuckles, as well as up-and-coming talent such as Nick Javis (where you at Nick?), Young Maylay, and Khaleel equally. Throw in other emcees such as Saigon, Papoose, Royce 5'9", and Joell Ortiz, and you have an explosion.
6. Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package
Production: Jake One
Former Roc-A-Fella soldier and State Property rhyme animal Freeway had enjoyed lots of success with his platinum debut effort, Philadelphia Freeway, and his almost equally dope follow-up Free At Last and Philadelphia Freeway 2. However, he went a slightly different route, as he collaborated with ultra talented Seattle-based beatmaker Jake One to deliver The Stimulus Package. The producer known for making fire for the likes of Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, Evidence, De La Soul, MF DOOM, and Scarface went on a killing spree with the beats on this album. With Free delivering his profound bars, this was a winning duo in 2010. Front to back, this was a knocker.
5. Bun B
Production: Boi-1nda, DJ Premier, Drumma Boy, Steve Below, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, others
When we think of hip-hop's legendary trilogies, we think of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Mobb Deep, EPMD, Kendrick Lamar, Outkast, and a few others. You can most definitely add Bernard "Bun B" Freeman to that list. His Trill series was just marvelous, and considering the circumstances each album was recorded under with partner-in-rhyme Pimp C's incarceration and later death, this series was a definite challenge. He finished it with the most overall complete of them all, Trill O.G. The five-mic certified album by The Source Magazine was indeed a hallmark moment in the career of Bun. the veteran spitting game and street tales while at times reminiscing over his late dear friend, Bun crafted one of the best albums chances are you slept on more than you should've been.
4. Rakaa Iriscience
Crown Of Thorns
Production: Evidence, Exile, The Alchemist, El-P, !llmind, DJ Babu, Oh No, DJ Honda, others
While we are very familiar with Evidence and even DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples, many aren't that acquainted with the other emcee of the group, Rakaa Iriscience. This son of a preacher man dropped his debut, Crown Of Thorns, to let us in more to his world, and are we ever glad he did. Besides the fact that this was one of the most well-produced albums of the entire year, this was also honest, poignant, and intelligent to make people remember him as not just that "other emcee".
3. Reflection Eternal
Revolutions Per Minute (R.P.M.)
In '98, Talib Kweli and Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek constructed one of hip-hop's true golden albums with Train Of Thought, ans is still revered to this day as a classic. Over a decade later, they come back together for Revolutions Per Minute, and it was definitely worth the wait. Picking up where Train Of Thought left off to a degree, we still get soulful, intelligent, poignant rhymes over melodic, thumping production from my man Hi-Tek. We truly hope we don't have to wait another decade for a third album, but this one by itself is another chapter in two already fantastic respective careers.
2. Nas & Damien Marley
Production: Damian Marley, Stephan Marley
In the entire legendary discography of the modern day god emcee Nas, a lot of people overlook this extraordinary effort with Damian Marley, Distant Relatives. Over mesmerizing production by two of the Marley brothers, including Damian himself, their lyrics and rhymes about freedom, family, and spirituality provide a blend of cultures and unite them to let us all know we all are one at the end of the day. These brothas created an album that should be valued as a timeless, epic album that sadly more people weren't able to digest fully.
1. Roc Marciano
Much like Conway The Machine of today, Roc Marciano silently became the face of gritty and grimy hip-hop from NYC with his power-packed debut, Marcberg. The former U.N. and Flipmode Squad member put his ski mask on, put his revolver in his pants, and was ready to wyle out at a moment's notice on this album, with insane knockers like "Panic", "Snow", and "Ridin' Around". This was quintessential east coast hip-hop at its most rugged, and Marciano was the kingpin.
Brotha Lynch Hung- Dinner & A Movie
Raekwon, Method Man, & Ghostface Killah- Wu-Massacre
Devin The Dude- Suite #420
Rick Ross- Teflon Don
Slum Village- Villa Manifesto
Lloyd Banks- The Hunger For More 2
Guilty Simpson & Madlib- OJ Simpson
Oddisee- Traveling Man
Without question, 2010 was an absolutely great year in hip-hop. What a way to start the decade of the 2010s. While Kanye's MBDTF was clearly the most revered album of the year and one of the most hallmark momens in hip-hop altogether, this list showed that there quite a number of others that gave West a run for his money. This decade was just beginning with greatness. Until next time!