1. Compton’s Most Wanted
N.W.A. gets credit for basically creating gangsta music. But more props need to be given to Compton’s Most Wanted, a group who has been making gangsta tunes since 1990’s “It’s a Compton Thing.” The star of Compton’s Most Wanted was MC Eiht, who would have a nice career as a solo artist (think “Streiht Up Menace”).
Essential listening: “Music to Drive By”
2. MC Ren
No one underrates N.W.A. People realize that Ice Cube, Easy-E and Dr. Dre are some of hip-hop’s most important figures. However, MC Ren, a very important member of the group, always seems to get slighted when talking about the group’s influence.
Essential listening: “EFIL4ZAGGIN”
3. Bloods & Crips
Bloods & Crips were a group of real life gang bangers from various hoods in the Los Angeles area (from Compton to Inglewood). The concept of the album was that instead of warring in the streets, the two rival gangs would war over beats, so half of the album was the Bloods side and the other half was the Crips side.
Essential listening: 1993’s “Bangin’ on Wax,” is considered by many to be a hip-hop classic.
4. Tha Alkaholiks
L.A. didn’t only do gangsta music. They also knew how to have a good time. No one partied like Tha Alkaholiks, one of the more popular underground rap acts of the ‘90s. The two rappers in the group, J-Ro and Tash, would also put out decent albums throughout the ‘90s.
Essential listening: “21 & Over”
For people who really know rap, Aceyalone is considered to be one of the greatest pure lyricists of all time. Despite having a lengthy career, the rapper would never see any real mainstream success.
Essential listening: “Accepted Eclectic”
6. Dilated Peoples
Underground group Dilated Peoples got hit with the “backpack” label in the late ‘90s. They tried to break through that label in 2000s with a few songs that had some commercial success (including the Kanye West-featured “This Way.”)
Essential listening: “The Platform”
Nowadays, people really only know Xzibit as the guy from that “Pimp My Ride” show. But before that he was one of the West Coast’s most respected MCs, with real classic records (Ex: “Bitch Please.”)
Essential listening: “40 Dayz & 40 Nightz.”
8. Ras Kass
Ras Kass has had some shaky moments throughout his almost 20-year career. However, he has to get props for creating one of the great hip-hop albums of all time, the lyrical masterpiece “Soul on Ice.”
Essential listening: “Soul on Ice.”
Murs has been dropping killer bars since the late ‘90s. But he first really arrived after he released a couple of great albums with super producer 9th Wonder.
Essential listening: “Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition.”
Blu is underrated. But he also has to be considered a disappointment. Many people consider his 2007 debut album, “Below the Heavens,” which was produced by Exile, to be one of the finest albums of the decade. However, he never released an official project after that: instead, he’s dropped spotty side projects and mixtapes.
Essential listening: “Below the Heavens.”