1994 was a big year for Hip-Hop. It was arguably the biggest one that the genre had seen since 1988. In just 365 days, the highlights include, but aren’t limited to, Nas, Biggie, and OutKast all putting out their proper debut albums, West Coast rap continuing to hold their own with the release of Warren G and Nate Dogg’s G-funk classic, “Regulate,” and Da Brat dropping, Funkdafied, the first album by a solo female rapper to ever achieve platinum status.
However, even with Hip-Hop history being made time and time again in that 12-month stretch, there were still great projects from that year that didn’t receive their just due. But because great music is timeless, AllHipHop.com has put together a list of 10 missed LPs from ’94 deserving of the recognition that eluded them 20 years ago.
These are the ten best overlooked albums from 1994. And if you don’t know, now you know.
10). Blowout Comb by Digable Planets: “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” cast a shadow over Digable Planets that the group was never able to get out from under. That didn’t stop them from making great music though. Their sophomore album, Blowout Comb, is superior in production to their debut. The group’s use of live instruments and political lyrics brought a straightforward dose of substance to the sub-genre of jazz rap that was previously unheard. The album may not have done well commercially, but, all things considered, Hip-Hop is definitely better than it would’ve been if Blowout Comb had never been been created.
09). It Takes a Thief by Coolio: Coolio is best known for his Grammy-winning smash, “Gangsta’s Paradise,” and album of the same name, but the downside to all that success is that it eclipsed this solo debut from just a year before. The thing that made the release unique and refreshing is that it brought a less menacing perspective to the same content that gangsta rap was addressing so aggressively (i.e. crime, poverty, etc.). And while the “Fantastic Voyage” single certainly made its mark, the whole It Takes a Thief album never truly got the credit it deserved.
08). 6 Feet Deep by Gravediggaz: The reason this album is on the list is because Hip-Hop fans were more interested in karate flicks than slasher ones. But because of that, this horrorcore album was ignored by the majority. Yes, the content is bleak. However, The RZA’s involvement with it as well as Prince Paul’s, keep it an intriguing listen. From “1-800-Suicide,” a song which suggests ways to kill yourself, to “Diary of a Madman,” where the rappers explain why they are insane to a judge, there is clearly an approach to the music beyond just hyper violence.
07). Street Fighter Soundtrack: The fact that this soundtrack was slept on isn’t because the music was bad. Perhaps it was because the film wasn’t critically acclaimed? Or that the majority of press that the film received had to do with Raúl Juliá’s passing before the movie’s release? Regardless, this collection of records includes contributions from Ice Cube, Nas, Public Enemy, The Pharcyde, LL Cool J, Craig Mack, Ras Kass, and Ahmad. In other words, it’s a who’s who of Hip-Hop in 1994 and the songs don’t disappoint. “One on One” from Nas is an especially strong standout.
06). Fear Itself by Casual: Casual, a member of Oakland underground crew Hieroglyphics, took a tougher approach to this album than most probably expected. Whereas many fans predicted stellar abstract Hip-Hop, Fear Itself actually ended up boasting content more akin to N.W.A than Souls of Mischief. Whether the topic was one-night stands or packing heat, Casual’s hardcore rhymes held their own atop dope funky tracks. And even though the album was a bit more belligerent than No Need for Alarm or ‘93 Til Infinity, other Hieroglyphics members like Extra Profile and Del the Funky Homosapien still made solid guest appearances on this relatively edgy LP.
05). Fadanuf Fa Erybody!! by Odd Squad: Before Devin the Dude made notable appearances alongside Scarface and Dr. Dre (“F**k Faces” and “F**k You” respectively), he, Jugg Mugg, and Rob Quest made up a trio called Odd Squad. Their only album as Odd Squad was a perfect balance of humor, sex, and weed. And even though it didn’t sound like anything else in Rap-A-Lot’s catalog, Scarface still referred to it as the label’s best release. But considering its 17-tracks of diverse production and playful poetics, it’s a very well-supported opinion.
04). Funk Upon a Rhyme by Kokane: This is a project which lived up to its title. It strongly incorporated the bouncing bass of 70s funk and infused it with the Hip-Hop sounds of the day. And while Kokane certainly deserves props for his George Clinton-inspired delivery, one can’t overlook Cold 187um’s work behind the boards. In fact, by 1994, Dr. Dre had popularized the sound that 187 established and so it’s not surprising that Kokane used the album closer, “Don’t Bite the Phunk,” to take a few shots at the D-R-E.
03). Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik by DJ Qbert: In 2014, it is not unheard of for a DJ’s name on a release to merely reflect a collection of his or her exclusives and / or their presence as the host of a mixtape. However, this DJ project is all about getting down on the 1’s and 2’s. There are standard breaks (i.e. “Impeach the President,” “Funky President”), but it’s the other things that are incorporated like the scratching and samples that really make Demolition something special. The way Qbert brings everything together is amazing; it is proof positive that work on the wheels of steel is truly an art form.
02). Genocide & Juice by The Coup: As the title suggests, this album is a swipe at the hardcore Hip-Hop culture that was so prominent in the early to mid 90s. One of the things that makes this release so great is that it blends funk sounds with lyrics that have a real message. Therefore, it caters to both people that “ just hear” and “really listen to” music. The way that the first three songs are woven together is an early indicator that Genocide is an extremely smart and inventive release, and the rest of it doesn’t disappoint either.
01). Criminal by Scientifik: Illmatic is not the only ten-track gem that was released in 1994. Boston area rapper Scientifik released his album, Criminal, too. With production provided by the likes of The RZA, Buckwild, and Diamond D, the beats are outstanding. Then in terms of flow and lyrics, from start to finish, Scientifik’s raps are worthy of the instrumentals he is blessed with. Tragically, Scientifik’s life was cut short before he would ever really be embraced by the masses. However, the music lives on. And after one listen, Scientifik very well could be to Hip-Hop what Earl “The Goat” Manigault is to basketball: the greatest that was never known.
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