Speaking of live performances, is there no love for The Roots on this board? As far as live shows go, they are unparalleled (come on--they actually play instruments!), but their cds are tight too. Do You Want More?! is a must-have album for any hip hop aficionado.
Other artists I haven't seen mentioned:
I love Blackstar, but I don't think Mos Def's two solo albums can be overlooked. He is easily my favorite mc out there today; totally unique sound, and he has stuff to say that's worth listening to (and the cat can ACT too).
Dilated Peoples (west coast group, flat out bangin' beats)
Typical Cats/Denizen Kane (my man representing us Asian American hip hop heads)
And one more plug for A Tribe Called Quest (the group that hooked me on hip hop to begin with)
I've seen The Roots livea couple of times, and I wasn't blown away by them. I love their music, own all of their CDs, and consider Illadelph Halflife, Do you Want More, and Things Fall Apart all classics, but the live show left a lot to be desired for me. I don't even really know how to explain my criticism...it's like they were more interested in showing that they were good musicians than they were in playing good music. I don't know...it all seemed very self-serving.
The Blackstar album is great, I think I mentioned that in an earlier post, but if I didn't then I am definitely remiss. I have tired of Mos Def's music a little over the years, but Black on Both Sides still holds up well. It just seems that his whole style is a schtick. I actually liked The New Danger more than most people I have talked with about it, but it seemed more like the Black Jack Johnson album that he always wanted to make but never got a chance to than it did another Mighty Mos album. He has a great song called "Get to Steppin" that is only available (as far as I know) on Hi-Tek's Hi Teknology album. If you haven't heard it you should check it out.
I honestly don't understand what people see in Dilated Peoples. To me they are one of the most overrated "underground" groups out. Although I haven't heard their latest album, which is supposedly their best, but as far as I'm concerned I'll be happy if I never hear another Dilated crapfest in my life.
Typical Cats are dope and definitely deserve more recognition than they get. If you're into Asian hip hop artists I have to assume you've heard Lyrics Born, if you haven't you need to check for him ASAP. Later that Day, Same S**t Different Day, and Latyrx (his collab with Lateef) are all great.
And yeah, Tribe can never get enough credit. To this day they remain my favorite all time group.