The Five Best NYC Rap Albums That Never Happened
This week, while we've taken a loving look back at the finest album-length offerings that the home of hip-hop has contributed to the genre, we're also reminded of the empty spaces in our record collections where masterpieces should sit. It's heartbreaking enough that rap in an album form didn't catch on until long after The Crash Crew had an opportunity to record a proper full length, but the feeling of flipping through old issues of The Source and seeing advertisements month-after-month of rap albums that were never released made us feel like abandoned children. The music industry is a cruel place, and these surefire smashes never reaching store shelves is perhaps the most torturous evidence why. These are the five best New York rap albums that never happened.
Lord Have Mercy
Thee Ungodly Hour (1998)
In the latter half of the '90s, Flipmode was truly "da Squad." Busta Rhymes' hyper-kinetic persona and outlandish wardrobe interjected an explosive burst of creativity into the mainstream rap world that made the would-be eccentric beloved by "jiggy" and "street" listeners alike. Adding to the unpredictable fun was his battalion of similarly-minded co-conspirators, the Flipmode Squad. Always enjoyable presences on his records, we were fortunate enough to get full-lengths from members Rampage and Rah Digga before things fell apart. The biggest casualty was the permanent moratorium given to member Lord Have Mercy's Thee Ungodly Hour. With a memorably bass-y voice, Lord might have been the most instantly recognizable and intriguing member of the crew. Sadly, Elektra refused to release it, going as far as to allow the collaborations recorded for the album to finally surface on the guest artists' albums.
Maximum Strength (1999)
A decade before he was writing his own gospels and seemingly being legally forced to appear in every hip-hop documentary ever made, blastmaster KRS-ONE had a fantastic streak of albums whose consistency few have ever been able to compete with. From his work with Boogie Down Productions through his solo endeavors, KRS was considered one of the genre's most reliable artists, successfully transcending numerous hip-hop generations and staying atop wherever rap was headed. He looked to end the '90s, and his contract with Jive Records, with a bang on his album Maximum Strength. While the label heavily promoted the album in the CD jackets and even tied the posse cut lead single in with the Mark Wahlberg/Chow Yun-Fat movie The Corrupter, the project mysteriously evaporated and KRS laid low until his 2001 Sneak Attack album debuted on Koch. It remains unclear to this day what happened to the project, but longtime fans were mercilessly tempted with a 2008 press release promising the long-awaited album's forthcoming release, only for fans to discover the bait-and-switch of KRS-ONE releasing an entirely new album named Maximum Strength with the deceptively small subtext "TWO THOUSAND EIGHT."