Music may be at the tip of our hands but access to it isn’t solely in our control. Here are 15 great hip-hop and R&B albums that are not on Spotify and other Direct Service Providers (DSPs.)
Music is a necessity. We would not be able to function properly without our favorite albums and songs helping us cope with our daily realities. That in mind, having access to said music is paramount, which is why we compile collections of our own to keep within close proximity, whether it be our home, vehicle, workspace, or anywhere in between. However, the days of lugging around cassettes, cds, MP3s and the gadgets we use to operate them are all but a distant memory, as we have more convenient means of keeping our music within arms reach.
Over the past decade, as technology has evolved and progressed, the way we acquire, consume, and digest our music has shifted rapidly. The advent of music streaming services like TIDAL, Apple Music, Spotify, and other Direct Service Providers have provided us with access to an endless amount of music from all genres imaginable, all at the click of a button on your laptop or a swipe of a finger on your phone. While the idea of digital music libraries has its positives, one of the biggest cons is when a specific album by a particular artist or label is not available on said services.
The truth is, music may be at the tip of our hands, access to it isn’t solely in our control. Here are 15 memorable albums that remain unavailable on streaming platforms. We hope these albums will eventually be unlocked from the vaults.
De La Soul — 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
The ongoing saga between legendary rap group De La Soul and Tom Silverman, the founder of their former label home Tommy Boy Records, has been a subject of public interest for years, as fans and the group itself continue to seek out a resolution that will allow their albums to be added to streaming services. In 2019, when Tommy Boy announced plans to make De La’s catalog available, the group revolted due to the uneven revenue splits between them and Tommy Boy, with various members of the hip-hop community joining in on the fight. Silverman and Tommy Boy ultimately opted against making the catalog — which includes seminal albums like 3 Feet High & Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mind State, and Stakes is High — available. The dispute has yet to be resolved, much to the disservice of music lovers worldwide.
Biz Markie — The Biz Never Sleeps (1989)
In a year packed with rap releases that would be deemed musical masterpieces and cultural timestamps, rapper Biz Markie shined bright with The Biz Never Sleeps, an enthralling and lighthearted longplayer that helped minted the renowned beatboxer and crowd pleaser as the “Clown Prince” of the genre. Powered by the fan-favorites “The Dragon,” “Spring Again,” and “A Thing Named Kim,” The Biz Never Sleeps caught wildfire on the strength of the runaway hit “Just a Friend,” which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Achieving Gold certification, The Biz Never Sleeps elevated Biz to superstar status and helped usher hip-hop into the mainstream, but has yet to make its way to your Apple Musics, TIDALs or Spotifys due to sample clearance issues.
Akinyele — Vagina Diner (1993)
Introduced alongside Nas on Main Source’s 1991 cut “Live at the Barbeque,” Akinyele parlayed that buzz into a record deal with Interscope Records, unleashing his racy debut album, Vagina Diner, two years later, in 1993. Devoid of any guest spots aside and produced entirely by Large Professor, the album was a polarizing effort upon release, with detractors pointing to everything from its cover art to raunchy content as detriments to its listening merits. In spite of rap’s progression in the expression of sexual empowerment, Vagina Diner remains ostracized nearly thirty years later, as it remains in streaming purgatory.
Kurious — A Constipated Monkey (1994)
In 1994, rapper Kurious made a big splash with his debut effort, A Constipated Monkey, which saw the Manhattan native rounding up a collection of the hottest MCs and producers out of the five boroughs for what many deemed one of the superior rap releases of the year. Preceded by the singles “Walk Like a Duck” and “Uptown Shit,” the album features Casual, MF Grimm, Psycho Les, Kadi and The Omen, and production from The Beatnuts, Stimulated Dummies, Pete Nice, DJ Richie Rich, and Bosco Money. A Constipated Monkey has yet to be liberated for the masses’ listening pleasure.
Organized Konfusion — Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994)
Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po (who, when together, were Organized Konfusion) were one of the most acclaimed rap duos of the ’90s, Organized Konfusion’s self-titled debut is often hailed as an unsung classic in its own right. However, their sophomore release, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, is widely considered their crowning achievement. Released in 1994, the album, which includes a guest spot from rappers O.C. and Q-Tip, and additional production by Buckwild and Rockwilder, has been left off streaming services for quite some time now, leaving fans clamoring for the opportunity to be able to hear it at their leisure. Hopefully we’re close; two years ago, Pharoahe Monch put his debut album Internal Affairs on streaming.
Aaliyah — One in a Million (1996)
While her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, is readily available for streaming, late R&B icon Aaliyah’s multi-platinum sophomore album, One in a Million, and her penultimate self-titled effort remain untouchable, due to her uncle Barry Hankerson’s grip on her catalogue. In 2020, reports surfaced that suggested that those two albums would be liberated before year’s end, yet, as of May 2020, One in a Million and its follow-up are nowhere to be found, with fans continuing to hold out hope for a resolution.
Company Flow — Funcrusher Plus (1997)
This landmark release from NYC rap trio Company Flow encapsulates the spirit of independence embodied by Rawkus Records during the label’s late ’90s run. With production spearheaded by Mr. Len and El-P, lyrical reinforcement by member Big Juss, and features from R.A. the Rugged Man, J-Treds, BMS, and Breezly Brewin, Funcrusher Plus is a transformational body of work that drew a line in the sand that separates the mainstream from the underground in its wake.
The Beatnuts — Stone Crazy (1997)
With Fashion leaving the group following the release of their 1994 debut, The Beatnuts: Street Level, remaining members JuJu and Psycho Les continued to wave the flag, rising to the occasion with their sophomore outing, Stone Crazy. Released in 1997, the album saw the Corona, Queens rappers upping the ante with hits like the Big Pun and Cuban Link collaboration “Off the Books” their first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Their highest charting album to date, Stone Crazy bridges the gap between the original incarnation of The Beatnuts and the group’s evolution to a duo, but has become the victim of licensing issues, keeping listeners old and new from giving it the spins it warrants.
Timbaland — Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Bassment (1998)
With his production on releases by Ginuwine, Aaliyah, and Missy Elliott, turning him into a superstar, Timbaland built on that momentum with his own solo debut, Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Bassment, in 1998. Featuring contributions from those aforementioned collaborators and additional star talent like JAY-Z, Nas, Ludacris, Twista, Playa, and Skillz, Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Bassment reached No. 41 on the Billboard 200 and is considered a rare gem due to its absence on streaming platforms.
Romeo Must Die: The Album (2000)
DMX and Aaliyah’s starring role in the 2000 action film Romeo Must Die all but ensured that the accompanying soundtrack would be a blockbuster release. And with Timbaland on deck as executive producer, the star-studded compilation more than lived up to the hype. Headlined by Aaliyah, who appeared on four songs, including the singles “Try Again” and the DMX collab “Come Back in One Piece,” with additional contributions from Destiny’s Child, Ginuwine, Joe, B.G., Chanté Moore, Dave Hollister, Lil’ Mo, Mack 10, Playa, and more, Romeo Must Die: The Album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Selling 203,000 in its first week, the soundtrack was certified Platinum soon after and is a glaring omission from DSPs.
Tank — Force of Nature (2001)
Led by the hit single, “Maybe I Deserve,” Tank’s debut album, Force of Nature, minted him as one of R&B’s newest stars, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and atop the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Unfortunately, the album, which was certified gold, and its headlining selection are conspicuously missing from streaming services and playlists, prompting Tank fans to feel as if maybe they deserve better in that department.,
Toni Braxton — Libra (2005)
Splitting with her longtime label home Arista Records in 2003, Toni Braxton took time to regroup, returning two full years later with her sixth studio album, Libra, released through Blackground Records, the label owned by Barry Hankerson. Looking to recapture the magic of previous offerings, Braxton teamed up with an all-star cast of producers including Babyface, Bryan-Michael Cox, Rich Harrison, Keri Lewis, Cory Rooney, Scott Storch and otherS, who laced the veteran songstress with a mix of uptempo numbers and slow-burning ballads. Spawning three singles, Libra fared better than her previous two releases, but was ultimately deemed as another retread on the part of Braxton, who subsequently left and sued Blackground following the album’s release.
Freddie Foxxx — Crazy Like A Foxxx (2008)
Releasing his debut, Freddie Foxxx Is Here, in 1989 on MCA Record, Freddie Foxx would join Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit roster during the early ’90s, with his sophomore album, Crazy Like A Foxxx, slated to drop in 1994. While promo copies of the album were distributed to DJs and industry insiders, Crazy Like A Foxxx was ultimately shelved by Epic Records, but would be released in 2008 through Fat Beats Records. However, the album has yet to appear on streaming services, leaving it shrouded in mystery and intrigue decades after its initial conception.
Frank Ocean — nostalgia, ULTRA (2011)
R&B crooner Frank Ocean spurred a changing of the guard within the genre with his debut project, nostalgia, ULTRA, roughly a decade ago, capturing the imagination of listeners in enigmatic fashion. A collection of original songs and renditions of classics like The Eagles’ 1977 hit “Hotel California,” the album spawned two hit singles, “Novacane” and “Swim Good,” and achieved widespread recognition as one of the superior bodies of work of that year. In the time since its release, nostalgia, ULTRA has grown to be one of the more cherished albums by pundits and fans alike, making the fact that fans are unable to enjoy it at their own leisure even more of a tragedy.
Prodigy — H.N.I.C. 3 (2012)
n 2012, rapper Prodigy bookended his H.N.I.C. trilogy with the third installment in the album series, which includes appearances by Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Willie Taylor of Day26, Boogz Boogetz, Esther, Vaughn Anthony, and Mobb Deep groupmate Havoc. While the first two H.N.I.C. releases can be found on TIDAL and Apple Music, the third remains unavailable, leaving a major piece of the late rapper’s legacy and catalog in limbo.
Preezy Brown is 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?