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16 Deep Cut Albums From Black Artists You Need To Get Your Hands On

Featuring the best slept-on albums from some of the greatest artists to ever do it.

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1. Hardcore by Lil' Kim delivers surefire hits and absolutely was the blueprint for so many other female rappers owning their sexual identities by being as raunchy as possible.

From "Big Momma Thang" and "Crush on You" to the most famous "Not Tonight," Lil' Kim went so hard to prove that she was one of the boys and she absolutely succeeded. Her name isn't Queen Bee for any ol' reason.

Promising review: "This album set the stage for every other female rapper to follow. It's the blueprint for a successful career. Lil' Kim opened a lot of doors for female rappers, they owe her big time!" —jj803

Get it from Amazon for $6.50.

2. Self-titled album 702 will give you a much-needed dose of nostalgia with its bumping base and dope harmonies throughout.

Promising review: "702 was my favorite R&B group of the '90s. Their first album was absolutely amazing, and they didn't disappoint with this one. The second album by the group is full of great songs you can sing and dance to." —ItsMe

Get it from Amazon for $6.99+.

3. Never Say Never, sung beautifully by Brandy (a.k.a. the only Cinderella we acknowledge), is an absolute classic. In her second album she truly bested herself with hit after hit after fucking hit. I mean, it delivered "The Boy Is Mine," so you already know how epic it is.

This album also gave us "Have You Ever," which every black girl in existence sang in the mirror dramatically while shedding a single tear for the culture.

Promising review: "Never Say Never is without a doubt one of the singer's best album to date. The songs sound much more personal and believable, and the music is well produced. Everything sounds original and without flaw; this is definitely one of my favorite R&B albums from '98." —Shane Morgan

Get it from Amazon for $7.98.

4. Around The World In A Day features a psychedelic Prince who wanted to try out new sounds that weren't like "Purple Rain" — and what we got were bops like "Raspberry Beret," and "Pop Life."

R.I.P. Prince, we miss your genius!

Promising review: "Although Purple Rain is considered unmatched greatest musical gift Prince created, this album is uniquely mesmerizing. The variety of musical style and great lyrics make it a fun experience. The 'Ladder,' 'America,' and 'Paisley Park' just seem to express depth from his life. The more known 'Pop Life' and 'Raspberry Beret' are great, too. I have heard people have emotional connections with this album." —Buyer

Get it from Amazon for $4.99.

Dance break!

Paisley Park

5. 4 often gets looked over for the (epic) album that followed, but with songs like "Love On Top," with multiple key changes sung to perfection, Queen Beyoncé didn't deserve to be slept on.

Promising review: "This album is wonderful. It shows her talents, ranging from the ultimate power ballad to the songs that just make you wanna dance. Beyoncé is, and I'm sure always will be, my favorite female artist. Her emotions shine through her music and I love it!" —missmillerrrr

Get it from Amazon for $5.90.

6. Stankonia set the stage for Southern rappers to do their thing. With songs like "Mrs. Jackson" and "So Fresh, So Clean," Outkast made a sound that was truly ahead of its time.

Promising review: "Stankonia is a perfect example of thriving and new age southern hip hop. While the CD may cover generic categories as women and having sex, it also explores more political as well social themes. It ranges from up-tempo songs with lyrics flying at you with blazing speed to slower songs with catchy beats and memorable lyrics. This is Outkast at their best." —Pwnstroyer

Get it from Amazon for $6.99.

7. 808s & Heartbreak redefined hip-hop for all time. Kayne really proved himself as a genius and by adding syncopated beats and honest vocals, he set the stage for rappers to be emotional and truly open.

And if we're being ridiculously honest here, he paved the way for our favorite rapper Drake to create bops like "Hotline Bling." Don't ever sleep on Kanye — every gifted person is a little...well. You know what I mean.

Promising review: "Misunderstood by many (like Kanye himself), this is an excellent album. He forays into autotune the right way, by experimenting and creating a sonic theme and mood for the album, not completely changing his entire career to adapt it. You can feel the emotion in these songs as he really puts himself out there in a way that grabs ahold of you. More artists should be so bold." —W

Get it from Amazon for $5.99.

Emo Kanye is the best Kanye, hands down.

Roc-A-Fella Records, LLC

8. Nothing Was The Same gives us seasoned Drake who has gotten used to the fame, but notices how different everyone around him acts since he made it.

Promising review: "Drake is a lyricist worthy of praise despite the criticism. He addresses many of his issues with his family, creativity, and fame. He has a complete album that his signature style and it is one that his fans would appreciate." —REGG aka Asani Asad

Get it from Amazon for $16.59.

9. Channel Orange, Frank Ocean's (aka my favorite Scorpio) debut album features melancholy, innovative R&B that'll give you all the fucking feels.

Promising review: "Frank Ocean is the kind of singer that comes along to break the monotony of the same old music. His music is compelling, imaginative and a breath of fresh air compared to the sound-alike mass produced electronically enhanced vocals of today. My personal faves on this album are 'Super Rich Kids' and 'Sweet Life.' 'Sweet Life' has Pharell's patented touch and has that N.E.R.D. feel to it. If you like mellow smooth vocals along with the creative musical arrangement. Overall, this is the kind of album I can play start to finish without hitting the forward button on my device. His music is best for relaxing or taking a nice drive. Keep on releasing good music Frank." —J

Get it from Amazon for $9.98.

10. The Electric Lady follows up on our favorite android's theme of Afrofuturism and got more in-depth with what it means to be a black women with a vision. Janelle Monaé did that!

Promising review: "Have you ever heard someone say that they 'sleep' on something? It means that it passed them by or they didn't take notice of it or recognize it. I hate to say that's what I did to little Miss Janelle Monae. I slept on her music and I'm upset about it. This girl is AMAZING. She is refreshingly new and different. Just plan ol' good music. Just give it a try and a little listen. She also has a new song out called 'Yoga,' it's really good. I listened to her new song and wanted to hear more so I bought this album. I'm trying to think of who I could compare her music too and for me, she compares to nobody in today's times. Her music is more like a mixture of today and back in the day. I hope you all wake up like I did and stop sleeping on this good music." —shop, shop and shop

Get it from Amazon for $9.50.

11. Ready To Die by Biggie Smalls himself defined a whole era of East Coast hip-hop and represented for Brooklyn, especially. His flows were spectacular, and every song told a story of what it meant to single-handedly lift yourself from the hood.

"Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood, and it's still all good" — what a line.

Promising review: "Probably the best pure rap CD of all time. Biggie's genius was that although there's plenty of gangster tough talk on here, Biggie's overall complex personality shines through. One man's desires, insecurities, pain (even depression), flights of ego and humor are present throughout and give the listener an intimacy with the artist well in excess of what can be found on other cd's, rap and non-rap alike." —J. Duncan

Get it from Amazon for $12.99.

12. True is a lowkey pop masterpiece that was really ahead of it's time. Solange wrote dope songs like "Locked In Closets" and "Losing You" inspired other pop stars to play with different (retro) sounds.

Promising review: "I hate to admit but I did purchase this album because of the elevator incident. However, what I did not expect was how much I enjoyed this EP and the singing and songwriting of Solange. Every song is a funky retro slow jam that you can definitely get down to. If you are a fan of Janelle Monae or Brooklyn independent musicians this is an album you will not be disappointed in. It shows that the artist has a wide range and the song is fantastic to dance to." —Kevin Peterson

Get it from Amazon for $10.34.

13. Hard Knock Life diversified Jay-Z's style and flow, while revisiting his roots as a hustler from the Marcy Projects trying to get out and provide for himself even though the powers that be want him to stay right where he is.

I'd just like to remind everyone that Jay himself comes up with his flows without a pen.

Promising review: "This CD is everything I anticipated it would be. I absolutely love this album. I have been jammin' to Jay-Z's music since I was a teenager." —Heather Phillips

Get it from Amazon for $7.37.

14. My Life continues the story of everyone's favorite musical auntie Mary J. Blige and how she navigates all of her interpersonal relationships, while just trying to have fun.

This album was just another stepping stone to her legend status. The culture protects Mary J. Blige at all times — It's a rule.

Promising review: "Mary J. Blige's follow up to her smash hit debut does not disappoint. My Life is filled with powerful and seductive songs. Expressing the joy, love, and pain of relationships and the battle to love one's self." —Patrick Small

Get it from Amazon for $4.96.

I mean damn, all I wanna do is be happy, too!

Geffen Records

15. Age Ain't Nothing But A Number was Aaliyah's debut album and she made a fucking splash. It's filled with tons of hits sung in a soft timbre that would one day define her artistic style.

Promising review: "This CD is one of those throwbacks to the '90s that has really held true. It sounds so much better than similar albums of its type and era, which makes me wonder what more would have come from this woman!" —Angela M.

Get it from Amazon for $3.99.

16. Project: Funk Da World by Craig Mack brought us one of the best singles of all time, "Flava In Ya Ear." It featured hip-hop's biggest stars at the time — Biggie, Busta Rhymes, and L.L. Cool J.

"Here comes the new flava' in ya ear, time for new flava' in ya ear; I'm kicking new flava' in ya ear."

Promising review: "You can't have an old-school classic playlist without mad flava' in your ear from Craig Mack." —D_Man_TX

Get it from Amazon for $9.49.

Legends, all of them!

Bad Boy Records / Via

Reviews here have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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