If you are just a mainstream hip-hop listener or have only followed the genre for a few years, you may not be familiar with these 10 best underground rap songs. This list can act as an introduction to the underground hip-hop subculture that often provides more varied subject matter and creative rap songs than can be found on the radio.
- Nas—"Half TIme" This gritty debut single showcased Nas, then known as Nasty Nas, as a poet of vivid urban details that you could only possess if you actually witnessed them. "Half Time" was produced by Large Professor, was featured on the soundtrack to the film "Zebrahead" and led to Nas' classic album "Illmatic."
- The Notorious B.I.G.—"Party and Bullsh*t" Although this Diddy-discovered lyricist could never be considered an "underground rapper" with his unbelievable success and fame, this 1993 first single paved the way for his Brooklyn bad boy sound. Much like Nas, this song found B.I.G. with a different alias: Biggie Smalls, a soundtrack placement for the movie "Who's The Man?" and a classic 1994 album debut soon to follow.
- Pharoahe Monch—"Simon Says" If a complex rapper ever created a party-starting underground rap song, it would be difficult for it to compare with the sheer adrenaline rush that is "Simon Says." This song manages to mix Godzilla movie samples and an addictive chorus with clever boastful lyrics.
- Gang Starr featuring Nice & Smooth—"Dwyck" Two popular New York City-based duos combined for an explosive early 1990s up-tempo underground rap song. It manages to mix hardcore swagger with music that makes you move.
- Wu-Tang Clan—"Protect Your Neck" Nine rappers rarely combine on the same song and even more rarely are they all in the same group and sound so completely different as Wu-Tang Clan does on their debut single "Protect Your Neck." This rugged underground rap song is a warning to all corny wannabe rappers and music industry sharks that wrongfully expect to exploit this self-contained squadron.
- Black Moon—"Who Got the Props?" This underground hip-hop party song introduced the world to an explosive Brooklyn trio back in 1992 that still exist in 2010. The "Who Got the Props?" music video also helped make the backpack a popular hip-hop accessory and to this day, many underground rappers are referred to as "backpack" rappers.
- Slum Village—"Fall N Love" Before two of Slum Village's three founding members passed away (J-Dilla and Baatin), they managed to make melodic underground hip-hop songs that girls could also get into, which is rarely the case. This early Slum Village gem explores the trio's gripes with the idea of selling your soul for success.
- Big L—"Ebonics" Unfortunately, along with J-Dilla, Baatin, The Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan's Old DIrty Bastard, Big-L also died way before hitting his prime. "Ebonics" is an incredibly creative "slanguage" dictionary filled with Big L's personal definitions for popular urban vernacular.
- Blackstar—"Definition" This Brooklyn partnership of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, two prolifically radical rhymers, managed to create an underground hit out of the subject of stopping violence in hip-hop. Speaking of which, it even samples "Stop The Violence" by Boogie Down Productions.
- Mos Def—"Universal Magnetic" Much like Jamie Foxx and Will Smith, Mos Def has become an undisputed Renaissance man, equally talented in acting as well as music. This introductory single captures Mos Def's combination of thrill-seeking, mental expansion and an engaging sense of humor in an irresistible package that you can take seriously.
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