The 10 best underground hip hop songs of the 90’s include artists that are still vital and influential to hip hop culture today. These diverse and distinctive talents now stand side-by-side with mainstream musicians. Enjoy these underground hip hop songs of the 90’s, and trace the origins of many current styles.
- “All For One” Brand Nubian’s timeless 1990’s classic features Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar. Each emcee approaches this hard-hitting, soul-stirring track with his own version of unity. You feel like you’re hanging out with them in the back seat of an SUV – headed for the mall.
- “Come Clean” Jeru the Damaja’s incredible 90’s underground hip hop anthem sounds like it was recorded in that creepy cave from the movie “The Goonies.” A dark, unexplainable sound blends with Jeru’s pledge for authenticity. It would take a baby fresh out of the birth canal to come this clean on the mic.
- “It Aint Hard To Tell” This chilling walk through the intense labyrinth of Nas’ mind is breathtaking. Each statement is a rollercoaster ride through urban struggle depicted by a young man that sounds like he’s already lived before. Nas sums up his emergence into the 90’s hip hop arena with this one quote: “Hit the earth like a comet, invasion, Nas is like the Afro-centric Asian, half-man half amazing.”
- “Method Man” Method Man from the Wu-Tang Clan may arguably be hip hop’s first Jimi Hendrix, a rock star who’s charisma changed everything that came before him. His gruff voice uttered everything from Dr. Seuss books, peanut butter and Fat Albert, to Superman, and children’s songs. Method Man brought infectious melody to his rugged approach – and the rest was history.
- “DWYCK” When you combine Gangstarr’s G.U.R.U. with the boisterous duo Nice & Smooth, you have an unforgettable 90’s underground smash hit. DJ Premier, half of Gangstarr, gives this track more bass than Yankee Stadium. This was New York 90’s hip hop on steroids.
- “Time’s Up” O.C.’s “Time’s Up” is a perfect summary of what 1990’s underground hip hop was all about: be yourself, or somebody–like O.C.–might expose you. This “judgment day” for gangster wannabe’s was before they could hop on the internet and invent an image and release a ridiculous song about it. As the Slick Rick-sampled chorus says: “Their time’s limited, hard-rocks too.”
- “Live at the Barbeque” If you wondered how the undeniable lyricist Nas got his start, you can hear it on this 90’s classic from Main Source. This mesmerizing 90’s hip hop song also feature’s Main Source’s Large Professor, Akinyele, and Joe Fatal. The beat is so raw that sounding like trash would be easily detected, but that’s impossible here.
- “Dead Presidents” Jay-Z’s description of the life of a drug dealer comes complete with the glamorous highs, and the drastic lows. The sweeping score to his lyrics sounds fresh out of a Martin Scorsese-directed mob epic. This 90’s underground hip hop song has the eye-witness accounts that make you believe it must be autobiographic.
- “Who Got Da Props?” A contagious track full of cool strings and a rugged drum track keeps Black Moon’s Brooklyn anthem flowing lovely. In the 90’s, underground hip hop DJ’s couldn’t ignore this one. Considering that they’re still releasing music, Black Moon definitely stills has the props.
- “That’s When Ya Lost” Souls of Mischief’s whimsical warning about becoming a loser captures that carefree teenage energy. This hilarious underground hip hop song showed a side of California that was often neglected when gangster rap was running the West Coast scene. These incredibly gifted lyricists possessed enough personality, sarcastic wit, and Ivy League-level vocabulary to make you rethink rapping as a career.
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