DAR Hip Hop: 10 Underrated Albums From 2008

By @TrueGodImmortal

10 years sure feels like a long time. Think about it. Where were you 10 years ago? Truthfully, where I was 10 years ago and where I am now are a world apart. Think about your life. 10 years feels like a lifetime ago, but also not that far away, right? With music, sometimes 5 years can be an eternity, as projects don't always age that well, so looking back just 10 years could have some albums aging badly.... which is the case for a lot of the popular albums and top sellers from 10 years ago (Tha Carter 3, Paper Trail both sound much worse than I remember though still decent to solid pieces of work). However, there are some albums from 2008 that have aged well and some even sound better now than they did back then. With that being said, I wanted to take a look back at 10 albums that are turning 10 this year that were either underrated or underappreciated back when they dropped. Let's take a look.

*Jean Grae- Jeanius 

-I have gone on record to say that besides Lauryn Hill, my top female MC of all time is Jean Grae. Her wordplay, her lyricism, and her all-around aura as an artist is amazing. This project was due out years prior, but due to the holdup and rampant leaking of the album, it wouldn't officially drop until the summer of 2008, but the album is top notch and one of the greatest female hip hop albums ever. Working with 9th Wonder on the project, Jean delivers some of her best work on tracks like "Don't Rush Me", "The Time Is Now", "My Story", "American Pimp", and many more. This album is nearly flawless, and asserts Jean as one of the greatest women to ever do it IMO. This album turns 10 in a few days (July 8th). Give it a listen again and appreciate the vibes, or listen to it for the first time and enjoy.

*Prodigy- H.N.I.C. Pt 2

-I will say time and time again that Prodigy in his later years definitely took a fall lyrically, but his vision and the way he put verses together as his flow became more unconventional was excellent. One example of that has to be the sequel to his solo album H.N.I.C, which was released around the time he had legal issues coming from everywhere. This album features production from the usual suspects like The Alchemist, Havoc, and Sid Roams, as Prodigy attempts to find his way again on the solo vibe. He seems comfortable on this album, and though this album isn't nearly as good as the Return Of The Mac project that dropped a year prior, P drops gems like "Illuminati", "Young Veterans", and "I Want Out". This album turned 10 at the end of April. RIP to Prodigy.

*Blu and Mainframe- Johnson&Jonson 

-The truth is, Blu is probably the most underrated MC in the entire game, probably ever. He has classics in his arsenal and is one of the most lyrical independent rappers of all time. There aren't too many MCs, whether popular or indie that have albums quite as good as Below The Heavens and Good To Be Home, and you can add Johnson&Jonson to that list as well. Produced by Mainframe, the album has a similar tone and vibe to Below The Heavens, but with a more free flowing and fun sound to it. When the vibe does get somber on the album, it works to perfection as well, with Blu crafting some gems like the John Lennon sampled "Hold On John", or the smooth "Only Way". Other tracks work very well here, such as the catchy "Up All Night", the Miguel featured "In The Building", "The Oath", and "Wow", which could have possibly been a hit if it reached the masses. All in all, Johnson&Jonson was a project that should have received much more attention and love. This album turns 10 in September.

*9th Wonder and Buckshot- The Formula

-I am not the biggest fan of Buckshot, but can recognize that he is a good MC. His work with Duckdown is well known and respected, so when he sat down with 9th Wonder to create a new album, I was prone to listen to this. 9th is one of my favorite producers and he has chemistry with just about every artist he has worked with. Buckshot is no different. The two craft an album that is on par with their first effort together, as 9th delivers another steady batch of solid production throughout. My favorites on this album include "Throwin' Shade", "Hold It Down", "Here We Go", and "Whassup With You". This album turned 10 in April.

*Elzhi- The Preface 

-I think one of the most underrated rappers in the history of the game has to be Elzhi, without a shadow of a doubt. He is one of the most lyrical artists I've heard overall and his debut solo album is nearly a masterpiece. Backed by production from Black Milk (who handled the majority of the work), T3, and others, Elzhi coasts over instrumentals that fit his voice and style. It is a very Detroit record in so many ways, as he features Royce Da 5'9, Guilty Simpson, and Phat Kat, while dropping some of the best verses of the year on high powered tracks like "D.E.M.O.N.S.", "Transitional Joint", "Talking In My Sleep", and many more. This album turns 10 in August and I think it actually sounds better today than it did then, which is rare.

*G-Unit- T.O.S: Terminate On Sight 

-So, I never thought I would put a G-Unit album on the list, and most people probably don't even agree that this is underrated or underappreciated, but in essence, to me, it is. This is the last official G-Unit album, unless you count the two EP deal of The Beauty and The Beast, which I do not. Still, this was an album that was more like a mixtape and for G-Unit, that's a good thing. 50, Banks, Yayo, and occasionally Buck are pretty solid on this album, giving us the murderous G-Unit music we have all grown accustomed to. This album was slightly ignored by the masses due to the departure of Young Buck, but that was a mistake IMO, because The Unit sounds just about as focused as they had in years. Over production from Ron Browz, Tha Bizness, Ky Miller, Jake One, and Swizz Beatz, the group makes an album that feels as gritty as a multi platinum street centered rap trio could. Songs like "Casualties Of War", "Piano Man", "Let It Go", "Ready Or Not", "No Days Off", and "You So Tough" capture the essence of what made G-Unit such a force. This album turned 10 this past weekend at the beginning of July.

*Black Milk- Tronic 

-One of the most underrated producers in the entire hip hop landscape delivered his third album 10 years ago, and it was one of the better projects of the year. When we talk about producers that can rap, Black Milk should definitely be a part of your list, and this album is probably his most famous release, with maybe Popular Demand being on the same level. Self produced and rapped albums are hit or miss, but this album connects more than it misses. With appearances by Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Royce Da 5'9, and more, Black Milk delivers tracks like "Try", "The Matrix", "Overdose", and "Give The Drummer Sum", all of which are classic songs. Tronic turns 10 officially in October.

*Scarface- Emeritus

-Intended to be the final Scarface album, this project wasn't as good as his previous album MADE, but it was a good album overall, providing Face with what would have been a solid sendoff. Of course, rappers don't retire, so this was more of a hiatus album than a retirement album. With production from Nottz, Cool & Dre, Illmind, Mike Dean, and others, alongside appearances from Lil' Wayne, Bun B, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Bilal, and more, Scarface seems comfortable on his tenth release, and delivers some top notch tracks from "Can't Get Right" to "It's Not A Game" to "High Note" among others, adding yet another well rounded project to his already legendary catalog. Emeritus turns 10 in December this year.

*Q-Tip- The Renaissance 

-For many, this was the album of the year. To me, it was. However, I've seen a number of pieces on albums like Tha Carter 3, even an album like Untitled from Nas, but not much has been mentioned about this album. Q-Tip is a legend who is capable of making legendary music, but what he did with The Renassiance was special. Using minimized production, with mostly just drums, soul samples, and minor instrumentation, Q-Tip creates an album that received accolades and nominations, but not the proper commercial success it deserved. Still, with appearances from Norah Jones, D'Angelo, and Raphael Saadiq, the focus is mostly on Tip and his rapping, which shows him in prime form at times. Tracks like "Move", "Believe", "Gettin Up", and others round out an album that doesn't have a weak track on it. Is this a classic? I would say so personally. The Renaissance turns 10 officially in November.

*The Roots- Rising Down

-When you talk about The Roots, very seldom do you see certain albums mentioned among their best work. The Tipping Point is usually regarded as their worst, Game Theory is usually regarded as their best early Def Jam work and perhaps their album of the 2000s, but is it really? If you ask me, Rising Down is actually the second best Roots album from their Def Jam run, or at the very least, it is tied with UnDun for that second spot under How I Got Over. Regardless, The Roots delivered an album that was equal parts versatile and honest, with features from Mos Def, Styles P, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Talib Kweli, Dice Raw, Wale, and Common, as songs like the title track, "Lost Desire", "The Show", and "75 Bars" being top standouts for the project. Rising Down is a seminal album to the year 2008 and I'm surprised it doesn't get more love. This album turned 10 in April. 2008 wasn't the greatest year in hip hop, but this was one of the many highlights along with the other albums listed here.



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