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1994: The 10 Most Overlooked Albums from 20 Years Ago

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.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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  • Qudus

    Great list ‘shad2487’ but I totally detest the making of some ‘best’ list like you are the authority on what’s dope or not in Hip-Hop. No matter how tight some LP’s on that list of yours are, it still remains YOUR list – your 10 Most Overlooked Albums from 20 Years list.

    If I go digging in my CD crates, I’ll find close to 10 dope albums that are to MY liking from that era that’s not on your list. So please, as a writer, refrain from using your preferences as a yardstick to form any ‘best’ list – that’s if you want to be considered a journalist worth his salt anyway.

    And FYI, you are the only one I’ve read anywhere that considers ‘Blowout Comb’ by Digable Planets an ‘overlooked’ album. Every track on that album was a classic, and it goes without saying, the whole album itself…makes one wonder where you head was at when it dropped.

    • Then submit YOUR list to AHH.

      Shad’s Top 10?
      Maybe, but ease up Brah & appreciate the reminder of some great slept on albums & respond with your Top 10 Most Slept on, etc.

      I just learned about KoKane & just learned he’s been out 20yrs, so many others could learn from your list too!

      Peace!

  • Shad Reed

    Qudus,

    Your points are well-taken and understandable; I really do appreciate your feedback. And as far as what’s the ‘best,’ you are correct that at the end of the day- it all comes down to a matter of taste and opinion. However, if many people were to be asked about the albums on this list (as a result of the topic of it), there very well could be overlap in what I selected and what someone else would’ve. True -there could be nothing in common either, but I hope for the former and that is where the courage to put “best” on these types of lists come from (by myself and many other writers too). Personally, I then believe it’s very important that selections and placements are well-defended so that even if there is disagreement about something, the reasoning for it can be explained and the opinion expressed can ultimately be respected – even if it isn’t shared.

    That being said, you are very right about ‘Blowout Comb’ being a critical darling- both when it dropped and stll today. But Biggie, Outkast, Nas, DP’s “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” etc. are often named as benchmarks for mid 90’s excellence in rap more so than ‘Blowout Comb’ in my opinion. And so from that vantage point, I feel it is overlooked.

    Thanks for reading and posting your comment. Hope all is well and take care.

    • GraveDiggers wasn’t overlooked. It was in the movie Demon Night” with Billy Zane & Jada Pinkett.

      That whole album was fiyah!

      Kokane on the other hand, IMHO, just started getting propz, even though he’s been beasting 20yrs?

      Other than Grave Diggers, the list is on point, but then again, I was up on Grave Diggers, KillArmy & Sunz Of Man, so for others, yeah, don’t sleep, it bangz through & through, even if not into Horror-Core.

      Good article, keep ’em coming!

      Good Luck, Welcome to AHH & PEACE!

      • Shad Reed

        Thanks for the kind words and taking time to read the piece.

  • $18592567

    All this West Coast mess.smh

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  • brotha_man

    I still think AG-2-A-KE is the most slept on album of all times

  • soyhiphop

    Biggas fish was. My shit loved the video for get down

  • johnblacksad

    I surely did not overlook Digable Planets and definitely not Gravediggaz’ first offering!

  • CaliTransplant

    Coup! That was my shit! Gravediggaz dope!

  • Don

    Dig lists like this, give me a chance to go back n check some music I mighta missed. 1

  • leftcoast13

    THUG LIFE album ? I slept on it for years and now I love that album

  • leftcoast13

    Above the Law album ? Black Superman I can keep going on even Fugees album was dope Fugeela I think

    • Qudus

      Nobody, I repeat nobody sleeps on The Fugees 1996 classic banger LP ‘The Score’

  • David Gonz

    anything from the bay was overlooked in 94!