Roc Marciano - Rosebudd’s Revenge
No one wears the underrated badge as proudly as Roc Marciano. Although his debut dropped in 2010, for the better part of two decades, Marci has played in the background. Originally affiliated with Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad, the Long Island rapper has organically created a repertoire of vivid & piercing imagery delivered through a gritty rasp and wholly regional slang. Rosebudd's Revenge is one of the most creative LPs of the year, brimming with grainy samples and unexplored depths of the wordsmith imaginative mind.
Cyhi The Prynce - No Dope On Sundays
Speaking of rappers who are stuck in a figurative purgatory of sorts, Cyhi The Prynce has damn near built a legacy being Kanye West's go-to writer behind the scenes. And although he's delivered some classics for his legend and mentor, we can't explain how ecstatic we were to finally get a full project from the elusive rapper. No Dope On Sundays takes his untapped potential to biblical heights; it's an unrelenting well of bars, thematic content and thought-provoking songwriting.
Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
If you champion progressive content but still have a penchant for genre-defying music, stop sleeping on Open Mike Eagle. Mike considers himself an alternative hip-hop artist, but at his core, he's a philosopher. He's a stupendously intricate lyricist with a conversational tone and a thing for anything abstract. Originally from Chicago, but since based in Los Angeles, he's been a staple of the underground scene for more than a minute now. Each of his last few solo efforts has been worthy of a note, and this year's Brick Body Kids - a concept album about the Robert Taylor Homes projects in Chicago - is no exception.
J.I.D - The Never Story
Just like Cyhi, J.I.D's origins betray his true stylistic lineage. Basically, even though he's from Atlanta, you'd be a fool not to expect bars from this young kid's debut. Of course (once again, just as with Cyhi), the ATL influence shines through occasionally - especially during the more melodic, R&B influenced joints - but this album stays true to its namesake. It's J.I.D's story and it's one that's never been told quite like this.
Joyner Lucas - 508-507-2209
Although certain tracks, often supported by concept-heavy music videos, have been blessed with virality over the past few years, Joyner Lucas' debut album from this past June was highly slept on. Joyner, a voracious writer and a fiery spitter, seems to draw as much from the likes of Nas or Tupac as he does from a Slick Rick or Busta Rhymes. His flow is never stagnant, his thoughts are always fully formed and his intent is crystal clear. He walks the line between commercial appeal and counter-culture renegade with surprising ease. This masterful balancing act is partly due to his ability to look inwards as much as he does outwards, never holding others to a standard he doesn't set for himself first. Hopefully, in a post-"I'm Not Racist" world, his next cohesive body of work gets a more favourable look from the mainstream.
ASAP Twelvyy - 12
The quietest often have the most to say; 12, the debut studio album by Jamel Phillips, better known as A$AP Twelvyy, the perpetually overlooked member of A$AP Mob, is a culmination of a lifetime of untold stories and repressed trauma. One of the Mob's earliest members just so happens to be one of their most best-kept secrets. In a post-Yams world, Twelvyy is the heart of the A$AP movement.
Wiki - No Mountains in Manhattan
When Wiki speaks, we listen. The New Yorker has been a staple of the underground scene for a minute now, and with his studio debut, the 24-year-old seeks to make a lasting impact on the scene that embraced him. The former Ratking rapper has only continued to sharpen his pen over the years, with No Mountains in Manhattan quite possibly being his best work to date. Where 12 is a gritty & stoic look at the concrete jungle, No Mountains in Manhattan transforms that same jungle into a vibrant, character-filled world of contradictions. His knack for endearing, observational writing and sharp social commentary gives us more to chew on with each passing listen.
Mick Jenkins - or more; the anxious
Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins has remained relatively quiet since his debut album last year, The Healing Component. But he doesn't miss a step on his most recent follow-up, or more; the anxious. Gifted with a sublime voice and a knack for soothing the listener into a false sense of comfort, Jenkins excels at setting up a scene before revealing what's behind the curtain. As each day brings with it a bigger & more complicated world to traverse, Jenkins is a self-reflective anchor for all the overwhelmed folks out there.
G Perico - All Blue
Now, we chose All Blue because it's been out for longer and, therefore, we can accurately say that it's underrated. However, the fact is that G Perico has multiple projects that could fill this slot. He's been on an undeniable tear these past two years and has already followed up the stellar regional bounce of All Blue with an even more impressive turn on last week's, 2 Tha Left. Perico embodies South Central LA to its core and is currently playing a pivotal role in expanding the reach of new age G Funk. Many may brand him with the same nostalgia seeking criticisms as say, Joey Bada$$, but just like with Joey, Perico manages to blend his influences with his undeniably of-the-moment voice. His stories are enthralling and his point of view is sincere. Don't be blinded by the TDE machine - the West, as a whole, is going through a Golden Era of sorts right now.
Royce da 5'9" - The Bar Exam 4
The fourth instalment in this Detroit MC's notorious mixtape series is as vicious as ever. With a mix of familiar mainstream beats and a handful of original content, Royce attacks all these tracks with the bewildering level of intricacy we've come to expect. His punchlines are still fresh, his penchant for wordplay is still present and he sells it all with his unwavering grit and trademark snark. If y'all really cared about lyrical rapping, then Royce da 5'9" would've already gone platinum.