DAR Hip Hop: 7 Underrated Albums From Shady & Aftermath Records
Once upon a time, Shady Records and Aftermath Records ran the hip hop world. With Dr. Dre in place as the head honcho and Eminem eventually rising to take his place as a label owner as well, eventually the two forces would combine to make the ultimate conglomerate. Their full peak was reached in 2002 as Eminem took his throne as the biggest mainstream hip hop star with 50 Cent borrowing it the very next year and beyond. Together, Shady, Aftermath, and later on G-Unit would have a true stranglehold on hip hop for a few years. During that time, they released a number of classic albums and high selling projects. Today, we aren't here to talk the favorites and the greatest albums, but rather underrated album released from these labels. Which albums make the list? Let's take a look.
*The Firm- The Album (1997)
-This was the first release from Aftermath Records that actually registered on my radar, as the Aftermath compilation that came in 1996 was nothing important. This was an album that took the talents of AZ, Foxy Brown, Nature, and Nas and put them together for an album mostly produced by Dr. Dre. It was Dre's first attempt at working heavily with East Coast artists and it was met with mixed reviews. Personally, I think lyrically it's a very solid album, and the production isn't bad by any means, although it does lack a certain cohesiveness. Still, tracks like "Firm Fiasco", "Phone Tap", "Executive Decision", and more helped round out a solid effort that should have been the start of something big for Aftermath, but it was just a one off album that did manage to reach platinum.
*The Wash Soundtrack (2001)
-There are some soundtracks that tend to go slept on and this is one of them. Released in a joint venture with Doggystyle and Aftermath, this soundtrack released for the Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg film featured some really good music and it's rarely mentioned among the best soundtracks, but it has a lot of the West Coast sound that Dre and Snoop made popular in the 90's. Dre and Snoop aren't featured heavily here, but there are plenty of other artists who get chances to showcase their talent like Truth Hurts, Bilal, Yero, Shaunta, Daks, Joe Beast, and Knoc-Turnal. There were popular names on the project as well like Xzibit, Eminem, and Busta Rhymes, and I think the soundtrack had a nice blend of talent with differing styles. The best tracks here to me are "Riding High", "The Wash", "On The Blvd", and "Bring 2", but the whole project doesn't have too many misses in general, which is the mark of a solid soundtrack.
*Obie Trice- Cheers (2003)
-It's criminal that Obie Trice doesn't get much discussion, but the truth of the matter is, he was a viable artist on Shady Records. His debut album is actually one of the better releases of 2003, and it is a lot more concise and cohesive than I expected. Obie was a solid lyricist who could spit serious or throw jokes into his rhymes, and he excels at that on this project. This album features production from Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Timbaland, so Obie actually had the heavy hitters on his debut from a sound perspective. The features were also pretty solid with his Shady and Aftermath family coming through for him, as Dre and Em appear, along with 50 Cent, D-12, Lloyd Banks, Busta Rhymes, and Tony Yayo, along with the mandatory feature (two of them) from the legend Nate Dogg. Tracks like "The Set Up", "We All Die One Day", and "Don't Come Down" help to round out the album that deserves more credit.
*Busta Rhymes- The Big Bang (2006)
-When Busta signed to Aftermath, it was a bit concerning to me for a few reasons. For one, I wasn't sure what a legend like Busta would create under the sound of Dr. Dre, and I was also skeptical that his album would actually get released considering the history of Aftermath, but when the album dropped, I was extremely surprised. Surprised in the best way possible. This album is as close to a classic as Busta has minus his first two, but this is less of the outlandish Busta and more of a serious and focused Busta and I actually appreciate the result. With production from Dr. Dre, Swizz Beatz, DJ Scratch, Sha Money XL, and J. Dilla among others, this might be the best produced Busta album of his career. The sounds were lush and with features from Nas, Q-Tip, Raekwon, Stevie Wonder, and more, he had a flawless supporting cast. Tracks like "Been Through The Storm", "Get You Some", "Cocaina", and "You Can't Hold The Torch" makes this album special and one of the more underrated releases in the Aftermath history.
*Eminem Presents The Re-Up (2006)
-This compilation was released at the tail end of the legendary run of these labels. 50 was falling off some, Eminem had taken a fall, and the rest of both of the labels seemed to be in a struggle somewhat. For Eminem, this was an attempt to gather the whole crew together and being some momentum back while introducing newer Shady Artists like Cashis, Stat Quo, and Bobby Creekwater. With a majority of the production handled by Eminem and The Alchemist, this project flows well, and allows the artist featured a chance to show what they're made of. My favorite songs here are "You Don't Know", "The Re-Up", "We Ride For Shady", and of course "No Apologies", which is one of the better anthems in Em's career. Overall, this was a good project and one that I rarely see mentioned, thus it makes the list.
*50 Cent- Before I Self Destruct (2009)
-It is quite rate to see a 50 Cent alvum be considered underrated or even slept on, but this is one of my favorite pieces of work from the label and it of course came at a time that 50 was in the middle of a career decline musically. Still, when the project was released with a low budget movie included in the deluxe edition, I was surprised at how smooth the listen was and how 50 deserved more credit for a very concise and solid project. 50 opted to go with a different set of producers than he used before, and aside from three beats from Dr. Dre and a feature from Eminem, most of the faces and names here are not as familiar with 50 and his albums. He gets production from Ty Fyffe, Lab Ox, Tha Bizness, Rick Rock, Rockwilder, Havoc, and more for an interesting sound throughout the album. My favorite songs On the album are "Do You Think About Me", "Crime Wave", "Could've Been You", "Then Days Went By", and "Strong Enough", which are all classic 50 songs. Before I Self Destruct definitely serves more credit.
*Bad Meets Evil- Hell Da Sequel (2011)
-Anytime you put Eminem and Royce Da 5'9 on the same project together, you're bound to have some eyes and ears giving the album a listen. This extended EP that was really an album arrived and actually was slept on considering. While I wasn't excited to hear about it when it first came out, one listen surprised me with how well I enjoyed it. It's meant to be fun and an album for Royce and Eminem to go back and forth, and of course, it does just that. With production from Havoc, The Bangladesh, Mr. Porter, and more, as well as features from Slaughterhouse and Bruno Mars, the duo delivers a solid piece of work that deserved some more recognition. Tracks like "Loud Noises", "Fast Lane", "Above The Law", and "I'm On Everything" all round out this EP (album if you count the deluxe edition) that is a bit underrated, much like every album on this list.