A countdown of the top 10 underground hip hop albums for the year 2010. With appearances from more-mainstream artists such as Big Boi to unsung heroes like Homeboy Sandman and Diamond District's yU.

The 10 Best Underground Hip Hop Albums of 2010

3. Nineteen Ninety Now

Celph Titled & Buckwild

Label: No Sleep Recordings
Release Date: October 26

Billed as Celph Titled’s official solo debut, Nineteen Ninety Now boasts a collection of beats from acclaimed producer Buckwild as they existed in his vault throughout the 1990s. Not only do the soundscapes lend a fitting place for Celph’s witty, punchline-heavy lyricism to blossom, but Celph also showed continued growth as a lyricist and artist from his previous efforts. As with most albums, it would be a mistake to overlook the guest selection – bringing in fellow DemiGodz member, Apathy, and Chino XL (to name a couple) made the record just that much better.

2. How I Got Over

The Roots

Label: Def Jam
Release Date: June 21

Our second favorite album of 2010 was the subject of much debate upon its initial release. It seemed as though many expected something new rather than Black Thought’s familiar, soulful lyrical delivery over live instrumentals a la ?uestlove and the gang. While the album certainly didn’t mark any clear divergence from previous efforts, it carried the torch of the Roots’ storied discography with pride. Powerful and catchy with enough deeply-conscious lyricism to teach a philosophy class, How I Got Over was another home run from the Philly fivesome.

1. Before Taxes


Label: Mello Music Group
Release Date: April 13

Diamond District may have been quiet as a collective in 2010, but yU – a member of the DMV trio – was far from it. His album Before Taxes combined the perfect level of social and political commentary, phenomenal beat selection and strong, albeit not overly-complex, lyrical ability. yU’s true shining moments lay in his ability to craft vivid imagery through his words. From detailing the struggles of Native American people to recanting his experience at a local show as an artist on the come-up, yU’s bars boast the power of true poetry. Before Taxes is an effort that’s easily on par with many – if not all – of the universally-revered classics of the 1990 era from which is draws much of its inspiration.

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