If you're like us, you're a bit eclectic with your music collection. You can appreciate all types of music from trap to mumble rap but when it's time for you to be inspired, you have to dig a bit deeper than just auto playlists on YouTube or Spotify. Nah, you? You look for those soulful beats and thought-provoking lyrics that inspire and at times put you in your feelings (and not exactly in a Drake kinda way). Like you know when there is a song that speaks to exactly what you have or are going through? That song that you can't stop listening to or when you're mad, sad or just confused, you have to turn on? Well, we got the albums that contain plenty of those songs and this is part 1 of our Clutch Underground Hip Hop Albums to listen to...ASAP.
1 - Friday Night Lights - J. Cole
This is arguably one of the best mixtapes ever assembled from a producer/rapper and I do not think any of Kanye's tapes prior to College Dropout were as good as Friday Night Lights. This literally launched J.Cole's career past the idea of being an up-and-comer to being the next-up to takeover and he has followed up with amazing albums ever since. Not only is the production amazing, but his lyrics truly speak to your heart and mind, with all it's flaws and confusion. If you don't believe me, take in Too Deep for the Intro where J. Cole starts by saying "Partially functional, half of me is comfortable, the other half is close to the Cliff, like Mrs. Huxtable" which just shows his ability to mix complex emotions with intelligent wordplay. Some other tracks you should take in Autograph for some inspiration, Back to the Topic for an amazing freestyle, Higher for an awesome radio track and Enchanted for a great conscious track. Overall, this one is a C L A S S I C.
2 - Dream Merchant Vol. 2 - 9th Wonder
9th Wonder is one of my fav producers because of his ability not make soulful beats and sample like the best of them, but it is also his amazing knack for bringing in talent. This album is straight fire from a production point and introduces you to some amazing lyrical talent. Most notably, grammy nominated artist Rapsody who is featured on all the interludes and absolutely kills it. But Dream Merchant is filled with so much talent like Brooklyn State of Mind which features Memphis Bleek, Mos Def & Jean Grae or Saved with Joe Scudda and Saigon. I can go on and on but you can put this one on and just let it run.
3 - The Preface - Elzhi
I personally think this is one of the most overlooked underground tapes. A masterfully produced album by Black Milk and near flawless lyrical execution by Elzhi. What makes this album incredible are the lyrical pattern style songs like Guessing Game, Colors and DEMONS, which all follow a certain theme that Elzhi follows. For example. Guessing Game is literally that, a lyrical guessing game where the last line of the line, is the first half of a compound and the second half is for the most part, is another word that connects the two while seamlessly beginning the next lyric. Colors takes a sample from Ice T's "Colors' but here he actually using almost every color imaginable to build rhymes. Listen carefully, you will hear a high pitched voice that accentuates each word that is a color. Take in this line: "Got the boys in blue with blackjacks, locking the new youth, who sell purples through blackberries, with the bluetooth". And with DEMONS, he uses each letter of the word as if it is an acronym to build out the song which really makes Elzhi a super creative artist.
4 - The Salvation - Skyzoo
This album is what really put me on to Skyzoo. Remember, the dude that lost to Jin on 106 and Park Freestyle Friday? If you didn't know, now you know! 9th Wonder produced a good part of the album (not the first one by Sky & 9th, take in the Cloud 9: The 3 Day High) along with iLLmind. Anyways, this album kinda took a whole Streets Preacher style element with it but really talked about specific elements of the streets from hustling, drugs, complicated relationships and dream chasing and the Necessary Evils you have to ensure to achieve them. It is a really good listen to My Interpretation or Beautiful Decay and you will see exactly what we mean.
5 - The Formula - Buckshot
A funny personal story about this album. I had heard the title track for this album Go All Out just because I follow 9th Wonder a lot. However, this album dropped during the same time as March Madness, and for some odd reason, The Score, one of the only sports channels who actively broadcast basketball was covering March Madness, and this album was featured during the commercials. Anywho, this one is great because Buckshot is from the 90s (Black Moon) so he brings that old school feel but the content is still relevant. He even talks about taking a stroll with a young lady on Here We Go, gives us a story about shady women on Throwin Shade and and follows that up with a song called Shinin' Yall where it is just straight bars.
Drop a comment if you like this list and share some of your top Clutch Albums!