When 9 people come together and attempt to create a list of 100 tracks it isnâ€™t an easy task. Collectively we brought over 350 nominations to the table but after much deliberation we finally came to an agreement. Unlike our previous lists we decided it would be best to leave this unranked. These tracks are great for their own reasons and we just wanted to make a list that represented the importance of the b-side, the significance of the remix and remind those of the self-satisfaction when finally laying your hands on that sought after gem.
You will see a few artists show up more than once and trust me there could have been several with a handful of worthy tracks such as The Artifacts, The Beatnuts, Mobb Deep and Money Boss Players. This list should serve as your guide into what we like to call the 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks. Use it to as a checklist and download these tracks (links below).
The advent of the Mp3 blog has been rather kind to us nostalgic completists/random rap collectors/aging b-boys. In the â€˜90s we dreamt of the day that static-free versions of elusive cuts by Money Boss Players and Govna Matic would be rendered instantly accessible to all heads. But no matter how plentiful the online supply of uncovered or resurrected gems, we are fundamentally unable, even as a collective, to recreate the most memorable characteristics of the fan culture of our beloved bygone rap eras. In fact, every step we take to enshrine these gilded epochs for all eternity (including the effort you are currently browsing) leads to the rapid deterioration of the values and practices that partly defined the The Rap World As We Once Knew It.
In this past life of rap (which isnâ€™t entirely over but hasnâ€™t been quite the same since oh, about 1998) a particular brand of makeshift resourcefulness and soldierly patience that was manifested by the genreâ€™s most revered artists was regularly displayed and honed by its most enthusiastic and caring fans. Rap wasnâ€™t necessarily easy to come by, even though a continually wider spectrum of personalities and styles were made accessible through semi-mainstream outlets like Yo! MTV Raps and the Source Magazine that did a respectable if inevitably unsatisfying job covering the genre as a whole.
Searching for music from slept-on or up-and-coming artists was largely a localized, grass-roots hunt. Meaning, quite simply, that if you wanted to delve a bit deeper than Nas/Lauryn Hill collabos and Junior Mafia-esque tales of V.I.P. fuckery, you had to vacate the plush world of shiny compact discs and confront the grimy abyss of second-generation dubs of crackly after-hours college mixshows, where b-sides, demos, alternate takes, and songs that would be permanently cockblocked by industry politricks reigned supreme.
Nostalgic sentiments for this era of rap have often been dismissed as wistful elitism, a thirtysomething need to keep oneâ€™s treasures guarded while sneering at the ignorant masses. However, the â€œundergroundâ€ rap culture of the â€˜90s was defined less by elitism and more by a desire to subvert the system as a whole: you wanted to be the first kid in your high school to not only own the dub, but to distribute it. This lo-fi, grass-roots mentality paralleled both the DIY indie business philosophy and the musical aesthetic of the time. We opted for the sound of the low-budget environment, and because of that, listening to the rugged flows and hard beats of the time felt like being part of a genuine movement. Thus we present our selections for rapâ€™s 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks. It surely isnâ€™t the same posting these in CDQ online, but we have no choice but to embrace the new technology in order to keep the old culture alive. Itâ€™s not too bad of a conundrum to face.
100 Greatest Obscure Tracks
13 â€“ Slow Burninâ€™
Ahmad, Ras Kass & Saafir â€“ Comewiddit (Fredwreck Remix)
Al Tariq – No Question feat. Black Attack, Rawcotiks & Problemz
Bas Blasta â€“ The Rhythm feat. Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, JuJu, & Godfather Don
Big L- How Will I Make It
Black Moon â€“ Murder MCâ€™s
Black Rob- Permanent Scars
Black Sheep – Similak Child (Homogenized Remix)
Boogie Down Productions â€“ Questions & Answers (Remix)
Boogie Down Productions – We In There (ATCQ Remix)
Brand Nubian â€“ Allah U Akbar (Remix)
Brand Nubian – Step Into Da Cipher feat. Serge, Mastro Manny & Snagglepuss
Brother Lynch Hung – Had 2 Gat Ya
Children of The Corn – I Remember When
Chubb Rock â€“ Three Men At Chung King feat. Red Hot Lover Tone & Grand Puba
Da Fat Cat Clique â€“ Da Flow feat. The Man They Call Lux, EST, Rugged Ruff
Da King & I – Tears
Darc Mind – Iâ€™m Ill
Dark Skinned Assassin â€“ Unholy
Dark Sun Ridas â€“ Time To Build (Ultra Marsalis Remix)
De La Soul â€“ Ego Trippinâ€™ Part III
DEL – Undisputed Champs feat. Pep Love & Q-Tip
Demasters – Feel No Guilt feat. Nine
Diamond D â€“ Hiatus (Remix) feat. The CRU
Diamond D – Sally Got A One Track Mind (Showbiz remix)
DMX – Can’t Touch The Kid
Dre Dog- The Ave
E Money Bags – Regulate feat. Prodigy & Majesty of Live Squad
Eightball – What The Fuck Is The Eightball
EPMD – Brothers From Brentwood, L.I.
Erick Sermon – If You Don’t Know Like I Know feat. Trigger, Heltah Skeltah & O.G.C.
Erick Sermon – The Ill Shit feat. Kam & Ice Cube
Fab 5 (Heltah Skeltah + O.G.C.) â€“ Blah
Fesu â€“ War With No Mercy
Fierce – Crab
Funkmaster Flex – Six Million Ways To Die feat. Nine & Tragedy
Godfather Don â€“ Burn (Remix)
Gova Mattic â€“ Family Day feat. Redman, Tame One, Pace Won, Young Zee, Roz Noble & Runt Dog
Grand Puba – Fat Rat
Hard 2 Obtain – Ism and Blues
Joe Sinistr – Under The Sun
Kilo G. â€“ Release Me feat. Pimp C.
Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo – 2 To The Head feat. Ice Cube, Scarface & Bushwick Bill
Kool G. Rap- Mister Mister
Kool Keith â€“ Yo Black (Buckwild Remix)
Kurious â€“ Mansion And A Yacht feat. Sadat X & Mike G
Leaders of The New School â€“ Classic Material (Diamond D Remix)
LL Cool J – Crime Stories
Lord Finesse â€“ Shorties Kaught In The System
Mac Dre – California Livin
Mac Mall – Let’s Get A Telly
Main Source – Set It Off feat. The LOX
Mase – Drug Wars
Masta Ace â€“ The B Side feat. Paula Perry & Lord Digga
MC Serch – Back To The Grill (Remix) feat. Chub Rock, Red Hot Lover Tone, Nas & O.C.
Mean Green â€“ L.A. Finest feat. Mykill Miers
MF Grimm- So Watcha Want Nigga
Mic Geronimo – Three Stories High feat. Royal Flush
Mobb Deep – First Day of Spring feat. Tragedy Khadafi
Mobb Deep- Cop Hell (DJ Premier Remix)
Money Boss Players – What U Sayin
Nas – Street Dreams (K-Def Remix)
Naughty By Nature – It’s On (Beatnuts Remix)
Nine – Me, Myself, and My Microphone
N-Tense â€“ Raise The Levels of The Boom
Nubian Crackers â€“ Do You Wanna Hear It? feat. The Artifacts
O.C. – Born To Live (DJ Eclipse Remix)
Omnisence – Touch Ya’ll feat. Sadat X
ONYX – Purse Snatchaz Part 2 feat. Smoothe Da Hustler & Trigga Tha Gambler
Penthouse Players Clique – P.S. Phuk U 2 feat. DJ Quik & Eazy-E
Planet Asia â€“ Full Course Meal
Private Investigators – Mash Up The Mic (Remix)
Rahsheed – Industrypartybumrusha
Ras Kass – Music Business feat. Xzibit
Real Live – The Turnaround (Remix) feat. Tragedy and Capone
Saafir – Light Sleeper (OG Mix)
Sadat X â€“ Escape From New York feat. Pete Rock & Deda
Sadat X – Lump Lump (Nubian Remix) feat. Grand Puba & Lord Jamar
Sham and The Professor So-Low-Ist (Kenny Dope Remix)
Shorty Long- Shorty Doing His Own Thang
Shyheim â€“ Licka Shot
South Central Cartel â€“ West Coast Gangsta Team feat. Spice 1, Ice T, MC Eiht & 2Pac
Strictly Roots – Begs No Friends (Remix) feat. Fat Joe & Grand Puba
Tasc 4orce â€“ Takinâ€™ No Shorts
Tha Alkaholiks – Relieve Yourself (O.G. Version
The Artifacts – It’s Getting Hot (K-Def Remix)
The Artifacts â€“ Who I Am
The Beatnuts â€“ Hellraiser (Remix)
The Roots â€“ Proceed III feat. Bahamadia
Top Quality â€“ Magnum Opus
Tragedy Khadafi – Street Life (Return of The Life)
Trendz of Culture – Off & On (Lord Finesse Remix)
Trendz of Culture – Who Got My Back (Remix) feat Method Man & Treach
UGK – It’s Suppose To Bubble
Ultramagnetic MCâ€™s â€“ Raise It Up (Remix)
Yaggfu Front – Slappin’ Suckas Silly (Diamond D Remix) feat. Diamond D
Young Zee – Stay Gold feat. Lauryn Hill
YZ – When The Road Is Covered In Snow
Contributors: Dred Scott, Galvatron78, glavet, Killer Ben, madtapes Magneto, MGP, Paragraph President & Philaflava.
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Dark Skinned Assassin â€“ Unholy
Known only to connoisseurs of Staten Island hip hop and fanatical Wu Tang Clan collectors, The Dark Skinned Assassin (also known as DSA) is a rare case of an extended family member who actually is highly skilled at his craft. He put out a number of 12-inch releases that feature Clan members Raekwon and Method Man. “Unholy” features a 70â€™s vocal sample that sets the tone for the rest of the song: “It’s been too hard livin’, but I’m afraid to die.” Powerful snares and punchy high-hats lay the track for a bubbly and melodic organ sample that DSA runs laps around with deep, introspective, lyrics about the day to day drama of disastrous choices. Hold it down? Kill? Be killed? Run from it all? DSA lays it out, rapping about his reflection in the mirror and what he sees and the result is a man preparing to confront his own bad choices and path that brought him there. This 12-inch came out on Black Dog Records and like most Staten Island releases of its day was more of a local hit than a lot of the other 12-inch singles that were getting national attention as the indie explosion was popping off. Obscure isn’t the word, these days you won’t find this in shops and your best bet is eBay unless you live in the Staten Island area.
Fierce – Crab
Fierce is a very talented MC who has one 12′ to his credit and one appearance on a major label release that includes 50 Cent, Puffy, Mase, and all kinds of representatives of the jiggy-faggot era that was 1997-1999. Fierce gain such notoriety at one point that he was on Rap City with only a 12′ to his name and no video to show for it. The 12′ in question is “Come Close/Crab” and it’s really remarkable. He displays a verbal dexterity unseen in many of the greatest rappers and this is evidenced by amount of rhymes he can pack into the bars without sounding rushed, contrived, or anything less than quite polished. As dope as he comes on “Crab,” “Come Close” is even more vicious on the mic. “Crab” is the better song because the lyrics fit the mood of the dark, haunting piano loop better than “Come Close” does on the B-Side. “Crab” is the A-Side to his 1996 Hot Wax 12′ release. If you like what you hear you can check for more of Fierce’s rhymes on Tha Madd Rapper’s 1999 album “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad” on “Whateva” and the promo only “For The Love” 12’ which is also a Madd Rapper release that is tough to find.
Hard 2 Obtain â€“ Ism & Blues
It’s hard to believe that a “title track” wouldn’t be included on the album its named after, but that’s the case with Hard 2 Obtain’s “Ism & Blues” track that was included as a b-side to “Ghetto Diamond”. Produced by the production crew, the Stimulated Dummies, the track would have fit in perfectly on a Black Moon album, with the SD’s doing their best Beatminerz imitation. The tight bass line grabs the listener right off the bat then on the chorus the horns come with the smoothness that reminds one of smoking the ism in a dark club. MC’s Taste and DL aren’t the best lyricists by any means, but fit nicely on the track and remind ones self why you didn’t need to be a incredible lyricist to make a great album. The posse chorus that ran prevalent throughout hip hop during the early 90’s is found here as well, but as I said, everything just works perfectly with this track. It’s unfortunate that this track didn’t make the album, not sure if it was sample issues or what the reasoning was, but it would have been one of the best songs on an already good album.
Masta Ace â€“ The B-Side feat. Paula Perry, Leschea & Lord Digga
Hailed as one of the most consistent artists in the game ever, Ace came with a West Coast flavored album on his third studio album. Labeled as a “group” album, Ace came with his crew that consisted of Leschea, Lord Digga, and Paula Perry. The four would show up together on the track “The B-Side,” (Leschea doing basically the intro and chorus) for one of the strongest and overlooked track on the album. The track, produced by Ace himself, follows the deep bass/car crusin’ vibe that is found throughout the album. The INC crew also represents the “B-Side”, which in this case is the Brooklyn side. Leschea kicks shit off and gets the listener pumped then Ace comes in sets the mood for the joint. Ace rhymes sound less complicated than on previous releases, but still manages to come dope. Paula Perry has long been one of the most overlooked female MC’s in the game and the bars she spits demonstrates why that is so. The chorus is simple, yet effective. Digga will never be confused with Rakim, but handles his mic duties adequately enough to set it up for Ace to seal the deal. The track has always been one of my favorites from the “Sittin’ On Chrome” LP. The chemistry the four displayed, especially on this joint, is top notch and highly overlooked by the masses.
Meen Green â€“ L.Aâ€™s Finest
Another overlooked gem from the West comes courtesy of Meen Green. Featured on his 1997 release The Smokinâ€™ Section, the Western Hemisfear O.G. links up with fellow left-side resident Mykill Miers as they trade verses letting niggas know that they will be hanging from palm trees if they come to L.A. thinking shit is sweet. Fellow Hemisfear member, Voodoo provides the ominous beat on this joint which lets Meen Green and Mykill Miers do their thing and murder the track. This same beat would be used a year later on Xzibitâ€™s â€œRecycled Assassinsâ€ (the irony) but this joint is easily the better of the two. Check the rest of Meen Greenâ€™s album for more nice shit.
Mobb Deep – First Day of Spring feat. Tragedy Khadafi
This song first came out in 1996 or 1997 and finally saw the light of day on the recent Mobb Deep Infamous Archives LP. The song is significant for a few reasons- it is part of a large body of work that The Mobb put out that never (until recently) saw the light of day while maintaining the classic sound of The Infamous and Hell On Earth era- before Murda Musik would mark the gradual decline of the group’s output. Also, the track is technically a Mobb Deep track but the star of the show is QB stalwart Tragedy Khadafi. The beat is a simple head nodder and Tragedy rips into a really brutal verse with lines such as “Yous a half-way/ thug that you portray/ if you got locked up for a day, you prolly come home gay,” and “When I was runnin’ from cops you was practicing jump shots.” Trag really does a bang-up job in illustrating the difference between thugs who live the life and fakes who live the life vicariously through the music. Yes, it’s a topic that’s been covered by many, but never quite as eloquently as Trag did it for us here. As mentioned earlier, Mobb Deep has a huge body of work that never saw the light of day that still could be regarded as classic status. It is certainly much better than what the crew is putting out on G-Unit. Luckily The Mobb recently put out The Infamous Archives. While this material isn’t at all new to vinyl geeks and mixtape (emphasis on tape here) collectors, a lot of Mobb Deep fans who longed for the group’s heyday never got a chance to hear this stuff and are ignoring the Infamous Archives release, expecting it to be more G Unit excrement. If you like this stuff go cop the album and then try to dig up the Mobb Deep “Infamous Demos,” which are the rough studio versions of The Infamous that were later re-worked into the classic album we revere today.
Real Live – The Turnaround (Remix) feat. Tragedy and Capone
Slow dramatic strings, a perfectly balanced bass, tight drums, and shimmering cymbals are normally the property of an R and B song, but K-Def’s genius has integrated these cornerstones of the softer genre into a really great rap song. 1993 to 1997 was the era of the thug in rap music. Tragedy and Capone are the perfect side dish to Larry-O’s baritone kingpin tales. Keeping in line with the storyline that Larry-O presents throughout the duo’s album, the song isn’t explosive but rather a slick and effective track that properly represents Larry-O’s modus operandi- make the right moves and don’t attract the attention of the wrong crowd and you’ll accumulate riches and respect. Though the trio never became household names, if one were to judge by the way people still check for Larry-O, Trag, and Capone more than ten years after their climax it’s safe to say they are still rich in respect. This remix was not as popular as the remix to “Real Live Shit” with Cappadonna, Ghost and Killah Sin was and part of the reason for that is the fact that this is found only on the promo version of the 12-inch single and was released in very limited qualities. The 12-inch goes for as much as thirty dollars on eBay and European cats don’t have a problem charging thirty-five dollars or more in their record shops.
Yaggfu Front â€“ Slappin’ Suckas Silly (Remix) feat. Diamond D
Yaggfu Front is group that should have blown up, but unfortunately, they never did. The group came straight outta North Cacalaca (North Carolina) and consisted of D’Ranged & Damage, Spin, and Jingle Bel. They were on the lighter side of hip-hop, sort of like an East Coast Pharcyde. Surprisingly enough, the remix version that DITC alum Diamond D, doesn’t differ greatly from the version that appears on the LP beatwise. He keeps the general arrangement, but beefs up the bass line into its own creature, especially when played on some monster speakers. It provides some bounce that will keep that head noddin’. Diamond also adds some scratches to accompany the horns that already gave it that DITC “feel”. He drops the keys that could be found in the original version, which gives it a richer feeling. Lyrically, the chorus has been changed up, with Diamond handling those duties and completely changing it up. He also drops a few bars. While Yaggfu never blew up like they could have/ should have, this track is one that deserves more props than it currently does in this day of age in the hip-hop history books. Dope rhymes, head nodding bass line and a chorus that one is shouting out to by the end of the sing is all that a great hip hop song needs, yet so very few are found like this.
Click here for more write-ups on these tracks
Super props goes to CharlieManson for the links.