Today’s industry is wholly reliant on streaming and algorithms, which is in some ways kind of amazing. For one, having instant access to back catalogs means that one can explore the timeline of the genre on a whim.
In short, having your music on all the various DSPs is — without a doubt — an absolute necessity. But, what if you aren’t able to make it available?
Here at HipHopDX, we’ve compiled a list of must-listen albums that for various reasons, ranging from master ownership to sample clearances and licensing, aren’t available on platforms — sadly making them not exist to a grand portion of the population.
Drag-On – Opposite of H2O
Drag’s forgotten Ruff Ryders/Interscope debut — following the success of his single “Down Bottom” and features on DMX’s first three solo LPs — peaked at number five on the Billboard’s Hot 200 and was certified gold by RIAA a year after it’s release.
Notable Songs: “Here We Go” f. Eve, “Niggas Die 4 Me” f. DMX, “Ready for War” f. LOX
Beatnuts – “Stone Crazy”
Almost certainly a victim of licensing issues, the duo’s sophomore LP, which included the mainstream hit “Off The Books” featuring Big Pun and Cuban Link, stands as the highest-charting body of work from their catalog.
Notable Songs: “Off The Books,” “Do You Believe,” “Give Me The Ass”
Westside Gunn – Flygod
For those unable to afford the resale price tag for the rare physical copies, YouTube is the only place to hear Flygod’s seminal, sample-heavy classic.
Notable Songs: “Dunks,” “Gustavo,” “Mr. T”
Freddie Foxxx – Crazy Like A Foxx
Bumpy Knuckle’s sophomore LP was meant to be his first as a part of Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit but was ultimately shelved only to see the light over two decades later courtesy of Fat Beats Records.
Notable Songs: “So Tough,” “Can’t Break Away”
Rawkus Records – Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II
1999 was a stellar year for Rawkus Records, and — aside from debuts by Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch — Soundbombing II is possibly the best full-bodied encapsulation of the era.
Notable Songs: “1999” by Common and Sadat X, “Any Man” by Eminem, “Next Universe” Mos Def, “B-Boy Document ’99” by The High & Mighty, Mos Def and Skillz
Defari – Focused Daily
There is a lot to love about the Likwit MC’s Tommy Boy Records debut; Aside from the top-tier bars, there’s a massive amount of production by Evidence (eight tracks worth), as well three joints by Alchemist among others. Also, some fire vintage Xzibit bars.
Notable Songs: “Focused Daily” f. Evidence, “Likwit Connection,” “Bionic”
Marley Marl – In Control, Volume
The saddest part about this album’s exclusion from streaming services is the history it holds in the genre — standing as the only true Juice Crew album, and housing one of the greatest posse cuts in Hip Hop history, “The Symphony.”
Notable Songs: “Duck Alert” f. Craig G, “The Symphony” f. Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and Masta Ace
Kool G Rap – The Giancana Story
Meant to be his debut on the storied Rawkus Records — only to be all but shelved and later (finally) released via Koch — this underrated, filler-less gem of an album was universally praised by critics.
Notable Songs: “Where You At” f. Prodigy, “My Life Remix” f. Capone-N-Noreaga
Jungle Brothers – Raw Deluxe
When the Native Tongue crew was “reinstated” in 1996, the JBs’ fourth album offered an updated, maturely polished production sound compared to their bouncy, eclectic sample loops, playful rhyme cadences and Afrocentric aesthetic of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Notable songs: “True Blue,” “How Ya Want It” f. De La Soul and Q-Tip,” and “Brain.”
Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus
Two decades before Run The Jewels was an independent rap marketing juggernaut, the trio’s resident producer/rapper El-P burgeoned his “independent as fuck” career ethos with former cohorts Big Jus and DJ Mr. Len for their sole album that became a cornerstone for the late 90s New York City underground rap scene and their fledgling boutique label Rawkus Records.
Notable songs: “The Fire In Which You Burn” f. J Treds and Breeze Brewin, “Vital Nerve,” “Lune TNS,” “Krazy Kings” and “Last Good Sleep”
Masta Ace – Take A Look Around
The Brownsville, Brooklyn MC was the first to be heard on Marley Marl’s epochal “The Symphony” and began his solo career with influential rhyme patterns, humor, acerbic battle rap prowess, and political awareness in rap’s most popularly conscious era.
Notable songs: “Me And The Biz,” “Music Man,” “Four Minus Three,” and “Take A Look Around.”
De La Soul’s 1st 6 Albums
The fight continues for this legendary trio versus its original label Tommy Boy Records to have for fans enjoy the legally forbidden fruits of their labor from the first half of De La’s 30-year career including its 1989 landmark debut 3 Feet High & Rising, De La Is Dead (1991), Buhloone Mindstate (1993), Stakes Is High (1996), Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000), AOI: Bionix (2001).
Lā The Darkman – Heist Of The Century
One of the youngest and lone midwestern Wu-Tang Clan affiliate released his debut solo album near the tail end 90s heyday with his incisive storytelling with a balance of aggressive, punchy beats and bluesy, melodic production from 4th Disciple, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, RZA, Mobb Deep’s Havoc and Six July.
Notable songs: “Heist of the Century,” “Spring Water” f. Raekwon, “4 Souls” feat. Shotti Screwface,” “Polluted Wisdom,” and “Gun Rule.”
Organized Konfusion – Organized Konfusion & Stress: The Extinction Agenda
Pharoahe Monch and Prince Poetry were the seminal Queens, New York duo who helped planted the seeds for fast rapping MCs and conceptual songwriting in their pivotal debut and sophomore albums in 1991 and 1994, respectively, that legendary acts such as Nas, Outkast, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar co-opted and eventually became commercially palatable.
Released: 1991 & 1994
Notable songs: “Fudge Pudge” f. O.C., “Releasing Hypnotical Gases,” “Wrong Side Of Town” and “Roosevelt Franklin” from Organized Konfusion; “Stress,” “Bring It On,” “Why?” and “Stray Bullet” from Stress: The Extinction Agenda.
Timbaland – Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Bassment
Two decades before DJ Khaled’s reign, Virginia native Timbaland was Hip Hop’s most sought-after studio producer. Taking Quincy Jones’ concept from his Grammy award-winning album Back On The Block (which billed the studio producer as headlining artist over his clientele), he fused an all-star lineup including Missy Elliott, JAY-Z, Nas, Ludacris, Twista and the late Aaliyah for his debut solo album.
Notable songs: “Lobster & Shrimp” f. JAY-Z, “To My” f. Nas and Skillz, “John Blaze” f. Aaliyah and Missy Elliott
Eminem – Infinite
Dismal album sales of the Detroit rap god’s debut album Infinite doesn’t translate to the quality of Eminem’s pre-Slim Shady days before he stormed back with a vengeance on the music industry and pop culture at large in the early 2000s.
Notable songs: “It’s OK,” “Open Mic” and “Never Too Far.”
MC Lyte – Eyes On This
The original femme fatale turned heads and reloaded her arsenal on her sophomore album with a sharp wit, thick-as-molasses funky production and inspired a generation of female rappers including her fellow Brooklynites Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and contemporaries such as Nicki Minaj and Rapsody.
Notable songs: “Cha Cha Cha,” “Cappucino” and “Stop, Look and Listen.”
Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra
Before the often elusive Frank Ocean sealed his place in music with the seminal Channel Orange, his Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape (which included the smash “Novacane”) put him on the map — catching the attention of Kanye West, who gave the singer a spot on Watch The Throne. He’s essentially been a superstar ever since.
Notable songs: “Novacane,” “Swim Good”
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Arguably the artist formerly known as Mos Def’s second-best solo album, after his classic 1999 debut Black On Both Sides, the title’s multidimensional meaning was inspired by a 2002 novel of the same title. In a recent interview with Vibe, he touched on why the album is no longer streamable: “The ownership of that album has come out of the hands of the corporation that owned it, previously … that’s why it’s not there anymore.”
Notable songs: “Auditorium” f. Slick Rick, “Priority,” and “History” f. Talib Kweli
Prodigy – H.N.I.C., H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 and H.N.I.C. 3
In Y2K, Bandana P took a brief hiatus from Mobb Deep to craft his widely acclaimed, gold-selling debut solo release, featuring production from Rockwilder, Just Blaze, The Alchemist (obviously), Havoc, EZ Elpee and more. He followed up the LP with two sequels.
Notable Songs: “Keep It Thoro,” “Y.B.E,” “H.N.I.C.”
Aaliyah – One In A Million & Aaliyah
At this point, not being able to freely explore the catalog of such an enduring legacy artist is silly; One In A Million was not only a breakthrough for the singer but a massive milestone for both Timbaland and Missy who wrote and produced a large portion of the LP. Her follow-up, the self-titled Aaliyah was released five years later — a month before she was killed in a plane crash.
Notable Songs: “Hot Like Fire,” “One In A Million,” “4 Page Letter,” “Rock The Boat”
Honorable Mention: Big Sean – “Control” f. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica
It was the shot heard around the (Hip Hop) world. Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Control” was one of the most triggering assembly of bars over the past decade. It was originally set to appear on Big Sean’s sophomore LP Hall of Fame but was removed at the last minute amid sample clearance issues.