Click HERE for Link To Eric’s “25″ picks
Alright peoples, now that you’ve seen Dart’s take on the Complex list of 75 “Tunnel” bangers, here goes my 27. Yes, I said 27, being that Dart switched his list up on me late last nite to include “Karma” and “Negro League Baseball”. As you’ll notice, I also duplicated those two picks, hence the 27. However, I truly feel sorry for our “third of the trio”, Trav, who is shouldered with the task of picking the remaining 25, being that Dart and I have picked many of the more notable classics. Anyway, here goes, let us know what you think!
Found On: “I Declare War/”Step UP” 12″ (Ruffhouse, 1998)
Yet another Ski (Beatz) produced banger that came after the notoriety that can be associated with his contributions to Jay’s “Reasonable Doubt”, Camp Lo’s “Uptown Saturday Night”, yet before you youngsters discovered him via Curren$y’s “Pilot Talk”. The actual sample used for the Outsidaz’ card-carrying member can now be heard on Sean Price’s video leak, “Figure Four”. “I Declare War” also finds Ski showcasing his diggin’ skills as the track is just a basic looped sample. Still, undeniably fresh! -Finsta Bundy
Found On: “Feel The High Pt. II”/”Feel The High (orig.) 12″ (Tape Kingz, 1997)
Simply stated, Evil Dee’s stellar production is what fuels this jawn. The echoing “yeah, yeahs” that riddle the hook, the signature Beatminerz’ drums and repeated chorus that stays embedded in your membrane make “Feel The High Pt. II” one of the true gems from the budding phase of the “independent” in underground hip-hop. This sh*t still thumps, nearly 14 years later, ‘uff a “tunnel banger”, “Feel The High Pt. II” is the epitome of one! Also, dont’ sleep on THIS, damn we got some archives…
Found On:”The Unassisted/”Hip Hop Elements” 12″ (Stones Throw, 1997)
As a native of San Francisco, Rasco’s roots began as a dancer in the “Various Blends ” crew near the finish of the ’80s. Nearly half a decade later, Rasco is invited by Chris Manak (Peanut Butter Wolf, who also handled the production for the B-Side of this record, “Hip Hop Elements”) to record for his upstart, independent label, the world-renown (I hope they don’t make me take this MP3 down, LOL) Stones Throw Records. Consequently, the first single that spawned Rasco’s career as soloist was indeed “The Unassisted”. Produced by Fanatik, with cuts courtesy of Dave Cuasito, which are just as important to the overall “feel” of the record (DJ D-Styles known for his contributions to the World Famous Beat Junkies), this track is often mistaken for yet another Madlib production.
Found On: “Funk Soul../”Brooklyn Kids” 12″ (1995, Mercury)
Not necessarily one of the more “independent cuts” found on this list, there’s no argument that Jemini’s 1995 gem, “Funk Soul Sensation” isn’t the true choice of back-packers worldwide. Produced by none other than Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po aka Organized Konfusion, “Funk Soul..” finds Jemini unveiling his alter-ego (think: Slick Rick or Biggie’s “Warning”) over some funky-ass East Coast bounce provided by the lyrically-inclined duo. Damn, it’s easy to overlook, yet Mercury had the underground on lock, releasing albums that ranged from “Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop”, “Roxbury 02119″, “Theme + Echo = Krill” to Jemini’s “Scars & Pain”.
Found On: DJ Eli & Shan Boogs “Cloudkickers” EP (Fondle ‘Em, 1999)
Yo, what happened to Cage? I mean, dude useta’ MURDER ‘ish, need further proof? One listen to “And So Kiddies” and you’ll be scratching your dome and repeating the same question to yourself. Yet another Fondle ‘Em gem, “And So Kiddies” also features an uncredited appearance from Masai Bey on the hook. As dope as Cage’s lyrics are on this jawn, the real treat arrives near the 3-minute mark as the ill “lyrical” (think: Preem) cuts elevate this overlooked gem to a whole ‘notha level.
Found On: “M.I.A.”/Lock’d” (Link Inx Recordings, 1998)
Oh sh*t, they jerked the beat from Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”. Nah son, turn that statement around. Prior to Dr. Dre making a bundle of money for David Axelrod, one of my favorite rappers ever, the Beatnuts’ Al Tariq (a.k.a. “cool ass fash”) and budding indie acts Black Attack and Problemz Black Attack joined forces to form Missin’ Linx. Sadly we’d have to wait patiently for nearly two years before they released more material as a trio, as “Exhibit A” finally dropped in 2000.
Found On: “Fakin’ Jax”/”Props” 12″ (1996, Soul Brother/Elektra)
Again, not exactly an independent release, but we’re talkin’ backpacks and Walkmans, right? InI began work on their debut album alongside the legendary Pete Rock in the mid-90s, and eventually signed a deal with Rock’s Soul Brother Records, with distribution through Elektra. Sadly, Elektra eventually shelved the album, releasing only one 12″ single, the “Impeach The President”-freaked, “Fakin’ Jax”, the track soon became an instant favorite amongst the underground. However, their debut album “Center Of Attention” eventually became one of the most bootlegged unreleased albums ever. Finally, in 2003 it saw an official release, along with “The Original Baby Pa” LP was part of Pete’s “Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics”.
Found On: B.I.G.’s “Unreleased & Unleashed” Vinyl (1995, Bad Boy)
Essentially a more abrasive version of GZA’s “Labels”, “Every Record Label..” is often overlooked as most cats opt for the Biggie-laced and just as abrasive, “Cu*t Renaissance”. Thankfully, you can now find this gem on R.A.’s “Legendary Classics Vol. I”, which released just last year. You’ll also be glad to know that you can also find “Every Record..” on Dibbs’ shelved 1994 LP, “Night Of The Bloody Apes”, you’re welcome….
Found On: “Negro League Baseball”, “They Lied”/”Bum Deal” 12″ (Ekapa RPM, 1996)
Yo, who’s that chick sandwiched in between the male emcees on “Negro League Baseball”? She’s niiice! Yepper, Natural Resource, the crew that gave the world Jean Grae, dropped their clever take on the recording industry with the Main Source-influenced, “Negro League Baseball”, which was also accompanied by “They Lied”, and “Bum Deal” and an interlude, “Say What”. And you say “indie classic”……
Found On: “Karma”/”Cincinnati” Max-Single (1997, Blunt)
With featured production from none other than Cincy’s very own, Hi-Tek, the trio of Main Flow, Donte & Jahson (who along with Tek is responsible for all of the album’s production) delivered an underground favorite with the release of their debut LP, “Doom” on Blunt in 1997. The lone single from the album, “Karma” also turned out to be the biggest hit for the group that served as a launching pad for the aforementioned Hi-Tek, yet still featured one of the game’s most underrated emcees in Main Flow.
Found On: “Funcrusher” 12″ (1995, Official)/later on “Funcrusher Plus” LP
With in-house production from the twisted, yet extremely talented, El-P, Company Flow can be better classified as the definitive underground trio. It’s arguable that Co. Flow’s “Funcrusher Plus” is the #1 independent album of all time, with “8 Steps To Perfection” serving as a huge stepping stone for the group. Comprised of intelligent lyrics, mind-bending production and a raw overall feel, the term “classic”, permeates through the whole album.
(Originally) Found On: “Bucktown”/”Let’s Git It On” 12″ (Nervous, 1994)
In what may be the most recognizable cut on my “25″ of the B-House “75″ may the Smif-N-Wessun classic, “Bucktown” (although many of you probably feel that “Sound Bwoy Burreill” is more deserving), yet “Bucktown” serves as only the beginning, releasing near the origins of the underground explosion, thanks to the brains at Nervous. I gotta’ admit, this is probably one of my favorite cuts of all-time. I mean, you talk about blunted? Even though Nice & Smooth would utilize the same sample as “Bucktown” for “How Many Blunts” (from their “Old To The New”) it couldn’t light a match to the formula that Tek & Steele exhibited on this record, and “Dah Shinin” for that matter.
Found On: “Visualize”/Why Don’t Cha” 12″ (1997, Raw Shack)
While the A-Side of this 12″, the bouncy DJ Spinna-laced “Visualize” may be Mr. Complex’ biggest hit to date, the Pharoahe Monch-assisted “Why Don’t Cha” is the true gem here. Still, this is one helluva’ dual side, with two things going for it: both cuts were blessed by DJ Spinna, during a time where Spinna’s beats were in circulating heavily. Secondly, the inclusion of Monch and Apaini on the A-Side, “Visualize” make this record a must have for any backpacker.
Taken From: “My Kinda Moves”/”War Out Here”/”All The Flava” 12″(1995, VZQ Records)
Real talk, could the utilization of the echoed Ol’ Dirty Bastard vocal slice have been implemented any more effectively than Curt Cazal (of JVC Force) did it with “My Kinda’ Moves”? Yes, Q-Ball is iight on the mic, but nothing really to write home about. Effective, but certainly not astounding or jaw-dropping. Yet, this one has remained in steady rotation thanks to the booming hook that fuels “My Kinda’ Moves”. Also, be sure to check for the similarly titled “Makin’ Moves” which was released only one year prior to this heater, on the same VZQ imprint.
Found On: “Brick City Kids”/”What What” 12″ (Rawkus/Ghetto Gold Recordings, 1997)
I know what you’re thinkin’. This joint sounds almost exactly like The Beatnuts’ classic, and one of my favorite cuts from the trio, “Rik’s Joint”. Well, rightfully so, being that the ‘Nuts unofficial fourth member V.I.C. also handled the production on this jawn alongside JuJu as the Ghetto Professionals. I could never quite figure out two pertinent bits of info regarding this record: Why did the Artifacts coin themselves the “Brick City Kids” (besides the obvious Jerz connect) and why weren’t both the tracks from this 12″ included on “That’s Them”, being that they both dropped in ’97? Yet again, the syrupy, R & B vocal-laiden hook won this backpacker over, you know my steez…
Found On: “Paula’s Jam” 12″ (1996, Loose Cannon)
Yeah son, my backpack doesn’t discriminate. In ’95 the self-proclaimed “Queen of Fort Greene” made quite a name for herself with her inclusion on Masta Ace Inc.’s left coast-influenced outing “Sittin’ On Chrome”. Only one year later, Ace returned the favor, lacing Paula with this neck-snapping production under his Ase One alias. Although ’96 may have not been the best time for Paula to shine, as that time-frame also introduced the hip-hop world to the Foxy Brown/Lil’ Kim frenzy, you can’t front on girl, lyrically she drops some hefty one-liners that are no doubt “rewind-worthy”.
Found On: “Dignified Soldiers”/”Themes, Dreams & Schemes” 12″ (1998, D.I.T.C. Records)
The lyrical line-up for “Dignified Soldiers” (Remix) was pure insanity. Here we have Andre The Giant, Omar Credle, Lord Finesse and Big L catching lyrical wreck over an equally-potent production courtesy of Show B-I-Z. Ya’ gotta’ wonder if the Diggin’ In The Crates collective would have been better served continually dropping product on their own imprint, rather than jumping aboard Tommy Boy’s sinking ship.
Found On: “Lyrical Tactics”/”Shine”/”Hemlock” 12″ (1996, Fortress Entertainment)
Under the guidance of Charlemagne, one of the most slept-on producers inthe game and arguably one of the best, Mr. Voodoo emerged from the Fortress roster to offer up “Come Off Hard” in 1994. By 1996, Mister Voodoo dropped a second dose of “Come Off..” titled “Lyrical Tactics” a.k.a “Come Off Hard Pt. II.” and by this time Voodoo’s crew, Natural Elements had become a major force in the NY underground scene garnering widespread critical acclaim and blessings from underground heads alike. So much so that Mister Voodoo was anointed the coveted “Unsigned Hype” block in the Source magazine when notoriety was only being awarded to hip hop’s lyrical elite. This was largely in part due to the overall success of “Lyrical Tactics” (Come Off Hard Pt. II).
Found On: “Verbal Attack”/”Holdin’ It Down” 12″ (1997, Correct)
On what would later become the trio better known as Missin’ Linx (see: “M.I.A.” above), Black Attack linked up, once again, with the Beatnuts’ Fashion and Problemz to deliver the head-nodder supreme, “Verbal Attack” in 1997 on the Correct imprint. More or less, the second coming of the Beatnuts, it’s cuts like this that find me revisiting the Beatnuts’”Self-Titled” (or “Street Level” LP, depending on what day it is) more and more often, in search of this particular flavor. Damn, I miss those days…Oh, and don’t say I never looked out for you!
Found On: “New Hip Hop”/”Slang Blade”/”Glen Close”/”Da Fast Food Joint” EP (1999, Terrorist Records)
Senim Silla and Onemanarmy (now known as One Be Lo) blasted through with their extremely popular indie release, the “New Hip Hop” EP (or 12″, depending on whom you ask). Waxing poetic atop lo-fi production, the EP isn’t amazing but is worth checking out for “New Hip Hop” and “Glen Close” alone. This was their first release from around 98/99 before the album that truly put the duo on Hip Hop’s radar, “Masters Of The Universe’.
Found On: “Critical”/”Venus” 12″ (1999, Ground Control)
The thumping, Premier-esque production that fueled “Critical” was the second single from the Oakland Hip Hop duo of AmpLive and Zumbi, a.k.a. Zion I, released in 1999 on Ground Control Records. Featuring the lyrical prowess of Planet Asia, this cut can also be found on Zion I’s highly slept-on debut, “Mind Over Matter”. The single also included a “Critical” remix produced by none other than Madlib, and the B-side, “Venus”, was previously featured on the group’s 1997 debut EP “Enter the Woods”, and is fortunately, also included on “Mind Over Matter”.
Found On: “Must Stay Paid”/”Enjoy Yourself” 12″ (1996, Wreck)
It’s only right that Krs-ONE would sample his own vocals (“Rebel/Renegade/Must Stay Paid”) for the hook that served as the pulse of Broadway’s overlooked ’96 smash “Must Stay Paid”. Not only that, it is indeed Kris Parker that handled the production duties for a track that reverts you back to the earlier days of Boogie Down Productions. If you’re a true underground head, you’ll notice that Broadway’s vocals sound eerily familiar. Rightfully so, as you’ll also hear Broadway on the Strickly Roots’ gem “Begs No Friends”. Don’t sleep on the B-Side either, the Diamond D-laced “Enjoy Yourself”.
Found On: “Metaphysic”/”2000 And What To Expect”/”Da Powers Of Nine Ether” (1997, Fondle ‘Em)
Man, there’s no frontin’ on John Robinson, it’s easy to forget that dude’s been rippin’ mics to shreds for a quite some time. I’ve always liked Robinson lyrically, dude just has one of this unmistakable voices in hip-hop, a la Guru. However, often times I’ve felt that some of the productions that have backed Robinson haven’t been up to par with his vocals, “Scienz Of Life” (Metaphysic) was not one of those instances. Released on Bobbito’s famed Fondle ‘Em in ’97, “Metaphysic” has aged well with time and has kept it’s stronghold as one of my favorite “unheard” tracks of the last decade and a half.
Found On: “Fluid”/”Sandwiches” Remix/”40 Oz” 12″ (1997, White Label)
Ahhh, a true treat from one of my favorite trios (back in the days of Fashion) of all-time. While all three of the cuts listed above can now be found on the ‘Nuts’ “Rarest Nuts” LP (“Fluid” can also be found on the “U.F.O. Files” LP), I’m pretty sure that their initial intent was to be included on the “Intoxicated Demons”/”Street Level” EP/LP. Finally, all three, namely the neck-snapping “Fluid”, flooded the streets in 1997 via a white label release.
Found On: “A Luv Supream”/”Synapis”/”Very Vocabulary” 12″ (1998, Fondle ‘Em)
Yes ‘sa, yet another Fondle ‘Em diamond in the rough. Da Nuthouse debuted in 1998 with the classic 12″, “A Luv Supream” on Bobbito’s fabled label. Soon thereafter, Goodvibe Recordings quickly followed up with a Nuthouse EP entitled “Deez Nuts” which featured cameos by El da Sensai (Artifacts), Planet (Outerspace) and Diamond Back (Deadly Snakes). Oh yeah, ever heard of Dave Ghetto? Fel Sweetenberg? Well, the comprised 2/3 of Da Nuthouse, and you’re welcome…
Found On: “Brick House” 12″/EP (1997, Serious Entertainment)
Being a Canadian emcee, cats often overlook just how dope Saukrates truly is. I mean, c’mon, his “Brick House” EP? “Father Time”, the jawn from “Boiler Room”. “This dude got classic G” (*Dame Dash voice*) Yet, it’s this O.C., Masta Ace-assisted, self-produced smash that holds it’s spot as Saukrates’ finest offering to date, in my humble opinion. Also, on the heels of Ace’s left-coast influenced “Sittin’ On Chrome”, “Rollin” was right up his alley.
Found On:”Sons Of Sam”/”Darc Mind Inc.” (1994, Darc Mind)
I’m fairly certain that you’ve heard of Darc Mind, a group comprised of a X-Ray from the Monster Island Czars and Kev Roc. However, prior to the release of “Outside Looking In” on Loud Records,, they recorded under the alias of Legion Of D.U.M.E., under which they put out this 12″ in ’94. Also, be sure to dig around for the “Darc Mind LP (“Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill”) which is comprised of their recordings during this era, there’s some ill ‘ish on there. Don’t forget, Legion Of D.U.M.E. are also members of the Source’s “Unsigned Hype” fraternity.