Hip-hop fans love to have conversations about the greatest rap albums of all time — the pieces of work that dropped and changed rap music forever. But what about the albums that were supposed to change rap music forever but never dropped?
One of the more interesting discussion involves the albums from our favorite artists that were highly-anticipated, with a release that appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but were ultimately scrapped or locked in the vaults indefinitely. In many cases, the album or project in question is from an artist that has amassed a considerable amount of hype or fanfare, but leaves the listeners hanging in suspense without an eventual payoff for their patience.
For years, the case study for this was Jay Electronica. The rapper’s long-awaited debut album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn), was first slated to be unveiled on Christmas day 2007, but had been subjected to perpetual purgatory, with no promise of its eventual release. But then things changed. A Written Testimony, his collaborative album with JAY-Z, quenched some fans’ thirst. And Act II was leaked and then officially released. (And then, soon later, unreleased, with the album being taken off of DSPs.)
The Jay Electronica situation was a rarity. Veterans and newcomers usually move forward with other projects to keep their fan base engaged, leaving fans wondering when and if they’ll ever get the opportunity to enjoy the one that got away.
So let’s focus on some of the ones that got away. From André 3000’s solo debut to Kendrick Lamar’s collaboration with J. Cole, here 15 lost, mythical rap albums that were promised to the public but have yet to see the light of day.
Dr. Dre & Ice Cube — Helter Skelter
Following their respective departures from N.W.A. and Ruthless Records, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube revealed their intentions to record a joint album, titled Helter Skelter, with Dre sharing the news during a 1993 interview on Yo! MTV Raps. The following year, the former group-mates unleashed the single “Natural Born Killaz,” from the Murder Was the Case soundtrack, further increasing the buzz surrounding what many predicted to be a blockbuster release. Initially set to hit stores in January 1995, the album stalled due to Cube leaving the states to film the 1997 flick Dangerous Ground, as well as Dre’s hectic schedule with Aftermath Records. While Cube has voiced his willingness to move forward with Helter Skelter in past years, the project has yet to come to fruition and likely never will.
Tupac & the Boot Camp Clik — One Nation
Tupac’s legacy will always include his role in the coastal rap war that engulfed hip-hop during the ’90s. But contrary to popular belief, his love for New York City remained intact, as evidenced by his plans to record a joint-album with the Boot Camp Clik, titled One Nation. Recording sessions, which began in spring 1996, took place at Can-Am Studios in California, with Tupac flying in the BCC and a list of other rap stalwarts including Nice & Smooth’s Greg Nice, The Luniz’s Numskull, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, and Asu and Capital LS from the group Rumpletilskinz to contribute to the album. In addition to the Outlawz, Daz Dillinger, and the aforementioned artists, other names rumored to be recruited for the project included Nas, Scarface, E-40, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Atlanta’s OutKast, accounting for all corners of the rap populus. However, due to 2Pac’s death in September 1996, One Nation went unfinished and has yet to be released.
RZA — The Cure
As the sonic architect behind the Wu-Tang Clan’s streak of classic group and solo albums, the hype behind The Cure, RZA’s own debut solo effort, was real, with many expecting a grand magnum opus in the vein of previous Wu offerings. First announced in November 1998, The Cure was set to be released in Spring 1999, following the release of an album under his Bobby Digital alter ego, but would be pushed back indefinitely. Once billed as his final studio album, The Cure, according to RZA, was delayed due to his failure of having his own life mirror that of its lyrical content. “I won’t release The Cure because at the time that I was scheduled to release it, I wasn’t living up to the words that I was inspired to write,” RZA admitted in a 2013 interview. “I live more to those words now—but still not fully. Maybe I’m like 70% living like that.”
Disbanding on the heels of their chart-topping 1991 release, Efil4zaggin, N.W.A. linked back together as a unit in 1999 to test the waters for the possibility of a comeback album. Tentatively titled Not These Niggaz Again, the album, which was confirmed in July 2000, would’ve saw Snoop Dogg stepping in for late group founder and member Eazy-E, and was teased by the track “Chin Check,” from the Next Friday soundtrack. With recording sessions taking place on a studio bus in 2000 during the Up In Smoke Tour, Not These Niggaz Again was scheduled for a fall 2001 release, but would ultimately be shelved due to conflicting schedules among the group members.
Foxy Brown — Ill Na Na 2: The Fever/Black Roses
In October 2001, Foxy Brown announced that the follow-up to her third studio album, Broken Silence, would be released by Christmas. In April 2002, after failing to meet that deadline, Foxy christened the album Ill Na Na 2: The Fever, a sequel to her multi-platinum debut, with Diddy later hopping on board as an executive producer. Led by the single “Stylin,” Ill Na Na 2: The Fever, was slated for a November 19, 2002 release, but was pushed back to May 2003, with plans to construct the album in a similar fashion to Broken Silence. Boasting collaborations with Anita Baker, and Lauryn Hill, and production from the Trackmasters, Ski Beatz, and Gavin Marchand, Ill Na Na 2: The Fever was ultimately scrapped. In the mid-2000s, Foxy started promoting a new album called Black Roses, featuring appearances from JAY-Z, Spragga Benz, and more. That album would also eventually get scrapped.
Rakim — Oh My God
When Rakim inked a deal with Dr Dre’s Aftermath Records in October 2000, the pairing appeared to be a match made in heaven on paper. The announcement of the iconic lyricist’s Aftermath debut, Oh My God — which was initially slated to be released in Spring 2001 — created an air of anticipation among rap purists and new schoolers alike, with tracks like “R.A.K.I.M.” and guest appearances on Truth Hurts’ 2002 hit “Addictive,” and JAY-Z’s “The Watcher 2” all garnering rave reviews. However, creative differences between Ra and Dre resulted in an amicable split between the two parties in July 2003, leaving Oh My God, which was slated to include production from Dre, DJ Premier, and Mel-Man, in limbo indefinitely.
Left Eye — N.I.N.A.
Amid conflicts with Arista Records following the botched release of her solo debut, Supernova, TLC member Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes made waves after signing a record deal with Tha Row Records in January 2002, with plans to release an album under the name N.I.N.A. (an acronym for “New Identity Non-Applicable.) Unfortunately, Lopes’ tragic death in La Ceiba, Honduras months later resulted in the album, which was rumored to include appearances by David Bowie, N*SYNC, Missy Elliot, and Juvenile to be shelved. The 2003 single “Too Street 4 TV” is her sole official release with Tha Row.
Ghostface Killah & MF DOOM — Swift & Changeable
Becoming kindred spirits during the recording of his Fishscale album, Ghostface Killah and MF DOOM revealed that the two were working on a collaborative album titled Swift and Changeable. While initially set to drop in early 2007, details and status updates on the album were hard to come by, with Ghostface Killah addressing the delay on numerous occasions, given fans cause to pause. However, after confirming the album would be released in 2015 and missing the deadline, Ghostface posted what many assumed to be the official artwork for the album in February 2016, a move that sent their fan-base into a frenzy. Alas, years later, the album still hasn’t been released.
Outkast — 10 The Hard Way
Reaching the apex of their success with their 2003 double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast appeared to be building on that momentum with a succession of planned projects, including their sixth studio album. Tentatively titled 10 The Hard Way, the album was announced by Big Boi, with a planned release date of June 2005. With names like Anita Baker and Sade on the pair’s wish-list of guest stars, 10 The Hard Way was primed to be Outkast’s most anticipated release to date. However, June would pass without word 10 The Hard Way and, despite an announcement in 2008 by Big Boi that a new Outkast album was in the works, the project never materialized and has yet to see the light of day.
Child Rebel Soldier’s album
CRS (Child Rebel Soldier) was born in 2007 when Lupe Fiasco and Pharell Williams appeared alongside Kanye West on the song “Us Placers” from the Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape. Announcing plans to release an album as early as August that year, the trio all embarked on Kanye West’s Glow In The Dark Tour the following year, adding fuel to the fire. While the song “Don’t Stop,” which featured CRS and was released as part of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Fridays series, garnered a warm reception, and at least four songs had been completed by the trio, the album was ultimately nixed in 2010.
Nas & DJ Premier’s album
First blending their talents on the classic Illmatic cuts “N.Y. State of Mind,” “Memory Lane,” and “Represent,” DJ Premier and Nas instantly became one of the most potent producer-rapper pairings in hip-hop history. Additional collaborations like “I Gave You Power,” “Nas Is Like,” and “2nd Childhood” gave fans hope the two would join forces for the entirety of an album, a prospect that appeared to become reality in 2005, when Premier expressed his willingness to lock in the studio with Esco in an interview. In 2011, Premier assured fans that the project was still coming, going as far as sending a batch of beats to Nas during the recording of Life Is Good, promising that the tracks that didn’t make the cut would appear on their joint LP. However, while the album has yet to manifest, Premo’s sporadic updates on its status has given fans reason to believe its release could come to fruition in due time.
André 3000’s Solo Album
Outkast’s decision to go on hiatus following the release of Idlewild gave fans reason to clamor for a solo offering from the André 3000. In 2008, Big Boi announced that he and André would both release solo albums the following year, with Big Boi holding up his end up the bargain — albeit in 2010 — with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. In 2012, 3 Stacks hinted at the possibility of a solo album himself, but wouldn’t divulge details, a trend that has continued in subsequent years. In recent interviews, he attributed the album’s delay due to a lack of “confidence” and massive expectations, however, the occasional loosie or guest verse keeps fans holding out for its eventual arrival.
Beanie Sigel & Scarface — Mac & Brad
First joining forces on “Brad and Mac” from Beanie Sigel’s debut album, The Truth, Beanie Sigel and rap legend Scarface have displayed an innate chemistry with one another on various occassions. Building their lyrical rapport on songs like JAY-Z’s “This Can’t Be Life” and Face’s 2003 single “Guess Who’s Back,” Beans and Scarface broached the idea of recording a joint-album together throughout the years, with the pair confirming its existence in March 2012. With at least a dozen songs recorded, and a rumored appearance from JAY-Z, on the album, Mac N Brad was slated for release in 2013, but has yet to be liberated for public consumption.
Chance The Rapper & Childish Gambino’s album
In June 2014, Childish Gambino posted a tweet revealing the existence of a joint-EP with Chance the Rapper, news that caused an uproar across the internet. Previously appearing alongside each other on tracks like “They Don’t Like Me” and “Favorite Song,” Chance and Gambino appeared to be a tailor-made fit to costar for the entirety of a project. While details surrounding the project — which, according to the pair, has evolved into a full-length album — are sparse, both insist that the yet-to-be-titled collaborative effort is still on the docket. However, we’ll believe it when we see it.
Kendrick Lamar & J. Cole’s mixtape
Kendrick Lamar’s creative relationship with J. Cole has blossomed over the years, with the two phenoms-turned-superstars working together in various capacities. First teasing “Temptation,” a track by Kendrick produced and featuring a verse from J. Cole, during an in-store for Section.80 in 2011, Kendrick later revealed the two were fast at work, even mentioning “Shock The World” as one of his favorite records from those sessions. In the subsequent years, both artists would confirm that a joint-project was in the works, with Cole revealing their decision to make it an album instead of a mixtape, as originally intended, in 2012. Aside from Kendrick Lamar appearing on the Born Sinner track “Forbidden Fruit,” and the pair exchanging freestyles over each others’ beats in celebration of Black Friday of 2015, the two have yet to cross paths again. But, with both artists in the prime of their careers, and the cache of being multi-platinum selling icons, now is as good of a time for the duo to give the public what we’ve been waiting for.
This story was originally published in November 2020.
A New York City-based reporter and writer, filling the empty spaces within street and urban culture. A product of the School of Hard Knocks, Magna Cum Laude. The Crooklyn Dodger. Got Blunt?
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