For his guest verse on Kanye West’s “So Appalled,” Jay-Z penned a prescient koan for artists and entertainers of the 21st century: “Would you rather be underpaid or overrated?”
The riddle articulates the widely held suspicion that the truly talented stay broke while the mediocre make history. Still, in pieces like this, we bend the arc of the universe towards justice and bring more attention to acts that deserve to be recognized for their artistry while securing the bag.
Here you’ll find five underrated hip-hop albums that deserve more credit and airtime than they’re currently getting. If you happen to have heard of these acts and already stan them, we salute your refined taste. For everybody else looking to expand their palette, we have them covered.
Trizzy – Plugg Talkzzz (2022)
Take Plugg Talkzzz by Trizzy as your introduction to the genre of plugging, a subgenre of trap that takes a lot of cues from pop rap, hyper pop, and even emo. Plugnbb is a tongue-in-cheek style that likes to sound-sculpt in out-of-the-box ways, and Trizzy understands this. Trizzy leans on the hypnagogic side of the style, putting auto-tuned drawls on lean-laced beats. Genuinely funny and true-to-life interludes and skits lend the album a sense of realness.
P4bl0 – My Love for Lies (2022)
Isa pa ‘to. P4blo wholeheartedly embraces the overtly robotic inflections of auto-tune and uses those qualities to support his hook craft. My Love for Lies – much like P4bl0’s last record From Rehab, With Love, which is also highly underrated – boasts dynamic and thoughtful arrangements, which happen to be souped up with the kind of bombastic production you’d normally hear on budots tracks. How do you make a record with the irreverence of “Stupid Love” and the emotional depths of a Brakence track? Ask P4bl0.
Antwerp – Bryle Santiago (2021)
A highly experimental piece of work, Antwerp – the German word for “answer – plays with genres the way a showman juggles knives. You expect everything to go wrong, the way Bryle Santiago hard-shifts from industrial noise rap production ala clipping or even Death Grips to jungle beats that could show up on an episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, without slowing down. And yet! Antwerp prevails. Bryle Santiago is chasing a sound very different from his contemporaries – an ethereal sound that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Shortone – New Kid on the Block (2018)
Shortone has been coming up as a formidable act in the gig circuit, with his most recent singles reaching stream figures in the millions. However, I feel New Kid on the Block stands as a fascinating case study of an artist’s style, an album where the artist behind it is more or less decided on their sound but is still figuring things out. New Kid on the Block is to Shortone as 10 Day is to Chance the Rapper.
Yzkk – PALPITATIONS (2021)
In the best way, PALPITATIONS feels like a pop album where the vocalist can rap really well, the same way “Slide” is a Frank Ocean song before it is a Calvin Harris song. Yzkk’s verses flow with ease while his highly melodic choruses give his lyrics more lift. “NAKAKAPAGOD 2 – Interlude” and “HINDI PA” are very good at taking garage rock, indie-sounding guitars and mingling them with more synthetic, 808-like beats. PALPITATIONS pulses with life.