Hip-hop is now over 40 years old. There are more rappers releasing albums now than ever. Because of this, some rappers have been pushed under the radar and are not getting the recognition they deserve. There’s no reason to feel awful about it. It’s very difficult to keep up with every lyricist in hip-hop. Some rappers have received more attention than others for various reasons. With that in mind, I would like discuss five rappers who are, in my opinion, vastly under-appreciated in the world of hip-hop.
Number Five: Freeway. Freeway is a rapper from Philadelphia who was most known for being a part of Jay-Z’s label, Roc-A-Fella Records. Freeway had an incredible freestyle and distinctive voice that made him shine compared to the rest of the artists in Roc-A-Fella. Due to the fallout from Jay-Z leaving the label and Beanie Sigel going to prison, Freeway essentially dropped off the radar. Yet he’s still been making good music over the years through albums and mix tapes.
With his latest mixtape, Highway Robbery, Freeway still keeps his flow going. “Now I use my mind, grinding trying to be a millionaire / I hit the studio and make that heat and let the people hear / I drop it on the net and represent the East Coast stare.” There was a reason why Jay-Z and Dame Dash signed Freeway. He’s an impressive lyricist and is very talented. The real shame is that he’s not getting the attention he deserves.
Number Four: Murs. Murs is a rapper from LA who is mainly known by his collaboration with Slug from Atmosphere. They made three collaborative albums together, but outside of these albums, Murs doesn’t get a lot of recognition. I think one of the reasons Murs doesn’t get acknowledged is because his style of hip-hop is different. His biggest hits are mainly about relationships and women, which brings a more emotional tone to his brand of hip-hop. I can see how some people could be put off by this. But Murs is an impressive rapper who has an extensive list of songs involving other subjects.
In his song, “Yesterday & Today,” Murs goes into the work life and how stressful it can be. “You know them days you just got the blues / all stressed and depressed from just watching the news / no matter what good you do it seems you always get screwed / got you caught up in your feelings now you off in the mood.” Murs is an incredible MC in hip-hop, but what really makes him special compared to other rappers is that he speaks from the heart.
Number Three: AZ. Poor AZ. It seems he could never climb out of Nas’ shadow since Illmatic. AZ is easily one of the most underrated and under-appreciated rappers in hip-hop. AZ is most well known for his verses in Nas’ song “Life’s a Bitch” featuring impressive lyrics that rivaled Nas’. “A physiologist couldn’t even figure out the exoticness / raps demolishing certified the way I style it / my wordplay blaze with the rays of ultraviolet.”
AZ has made an album and countless mixtapes every other year since his debut back in the mid-90s. Yet he still doesn’t get recognized for his work. It’s really difficult to understand why that is, but a main factor has to be because he was constantly in Nas’ shadow, which is unfortunate seeing how talented and remarkable AZ really is.
Number Two: Scarface. The true king of the south. Scarface never received much recognition mainly because he was a southern rapper during the ’90s when it was mainly focused on Biggie and Tupac. On top of this, Scarface was considered to be very hardcore for some people to stomach. Still, his flow and lyrics are truly raw.
His song “I Seen a Man Die” gives a great example; “Imagine life at its full peak / then imagine lying dead in the arms of your enemy / imagine peace on this earth when there’s no grief.” Scarface brought out some of the best tracks in the ’90s that nobody was aware of, and to this day, his music still holds weight.
Number One: Pharoahe Monch. Monch deserves to be referenced among one of the all-time greats in hip-hop. He’s possibly one of the greatest lyricists of all time in hip-hop, and yet, he’s not well-recognized. This is mainly because Monch doesn’t release a lot of music. He only creates albums, and there’s at least a three year gap between all of them. Still, Monch has intelligent verses. His incredible rhymes make him stand out among the rest. It helps that almost every album he’s released has been critically acclaimed, which is almost unheard of.
His most recent album, PTSD, came out last year and is filled with amazing verses. From the track, “Time2,” Monch’s first verse goes, “We fight demons from our past only to face new monsters / I ask, are we comatose or unconscious? / My top spin’s perpetual, make the connection / you sleep cause reality bites; inception.” I could easily quote the entire track.
Monch goes on, and he doesn’t stop with his lyrics, bringing out crazy lines that would make any listener’s mind explode. In the end, though, Pharoahe Monch is the type of guy who prefers quality over quantity. With a style that is humorous, graphic, uplifting, and even depressing, Monch creates a style of music that is masterful and enduring.