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The Vault

It’s a common occurrence in music for an album to be recorded and never see the light of day.

Sometimes the public doesn’t respond to any of the singles released, or record label politics get in the way.  Other times, the artist just decides that the material isn’t up to par and decides not to release it.

Unfortunately, music fans often miss out on some great work because an album isn’t released.

On the flipside, sometimes these unreleased albums find their way out of a record label’s vault and get bootlegged.

Here are some of our favorite unreleased albums that a crafty internet user could hunt down with a few properly worded Google searches.

50 Cent Power Of A Dollar.

50 Cent "Power Of The Dollar"

Get Rich Or Die Trying was not 50 Cent’s first album.  In 2000, young Curtis was signed to Columbia Records and was starting to generate a buzz thanks to the song “How To Rob,” a song where 50 fantasizes about robbing several of R&B and Hip-Hop’s most prominent figures. Shortly before the video shoot for the album’s second single, “Thug Love” featuring Destiny’s Child, had been released, 50 was shot and hospitalized.  His label dropped him as a result.

If only they had the foresight to know that two years later, 50 Cent would use being shot as one of his big selling points!

Power Of The Dollar is an interesting listen to hear the similarities and differences between what 50 started out as and what he would eventually become.

Listen to “How To Rob”

Jack Herrera Retro Futuristic

Jack Herrera

Consisting of three members, R&B singer Jon B and two of his background singers, Jack Herrera recorded one of neo-soul’s greatest albums, but sadly the album would never be released.  The group was signed to Dreamworks Records and were set to release Retro Futuristic on the label.  The group only had two songs released officially — “High Off You,” which appeared on the Red Star Sounds Vol. 1: Soul Searching compilation, and “Free To Believe” from the Light It Up soundtrack. Why the album never came out has never been explained, but the album, which features guest spots from Will.I.Am and Black Thought of the Roots, lives on the internet!

Listen to “Jack Shuffle” featuring Will.I.Am.

Jean Grae & 9th Wonder Jeanius

jeanius

Female MC Jean Grae and North Carolina producer 9th Wonder teamed up in 2004 to record a full album together titled Jeanius.  The album was eventually released in 2008, but had been drastically altered, mainly replacing samples with live instrumentation.  The original, sample-heavy version of the album is the one to own, and it’s out there if you can find it!

Listen to “Love Thirst” (original version)

Bilal Love For Sale

Bilal

By 2006, fans of Bilal had grown tired of waiting for the follow up to his 2001 debut album, 1st Born Second, and knowing that his label, Interscope, had shelved his second album didn’t make things better.  Fortunately, some kind soul decided to leak the album in full.  The album showcased Bilal as more than just a neo-soul singer, with forays into jazz and blues. Bilal has since recorded an entirely new album, Airtight’s Revenge, scheduled to drop in September 2010.

Listen to “White Turns To Grey”

Q-Tip Open

Q-Tip

After his 2002 album, Kamaal The Abstract, was shelved by Arista Records the label soon shut down, and Q-Tip signed with Dreamworks Records.  Deciding to cut his losses and start from scratch, Q-Tip began recording an album called Open. The album was slated to feature guest appearances from D’Angelo and Andre 3000. Dreamworks decided not to release the album. After Dreamworks closed its doors, and Q-Tip moved over to Universal Motown Records, who also passed on releasing the album.  After a little reworking, Open evolved into Q-Tip’s 2008 album, The Renaissance.  An official release of Kamaal The Abstract soon followed.

Listen to “That’s Sexy” featuring Andre 3000

Young Zee Musical Meltdown

Young Zee

Young Zee was a member of the Outsidaz, the New Jersey crew of emcees that put down a few classic guest spots on The Fugees’ The Score album.  In 1996, Young Zee was planning the release of his debut album, Musical Meltdown, but for whatever reason, the album never dropped.  It’s a shame too, as the album could have possibly been a classic east coast album with its clever lyrics and witty punchlines.

Listen to “Stay Gold” featuring Lauryn Hill

J Dilla Pay Jay

dilla-headerpic

In 2002, the late J Dilla completed his major label debut album for MCA called Pay Jay. Dilla put his production skills on the back burner for the album and enlisted the likes of Pete Rock, Nottz, Kanye West, and ?uestlove to handle production duties. MCA decided not to release the album, and it remained unheard by the masses for several years until it leaked in 2008, 2 years after Dilla’s death.

No preview available :(

Dwele Unknown Title

Dwele

Detroit’s Dwele created an insane buzz on the internet in the early 2000’s with his locally released Rize album.  Shortly after that album got a wider release, an entire album’s worth of songs started making the rounds.  It’s unknown whether or not the songs were intended to be an album, or if they were just a bunch of random songs Dwele had put on a CD-R.  Either way, fans of Dwele downloaded the songs in droves.  A few of them would wind up on Dwele’s major label debut, Subject, but several of them remain unreleased.

Listen to “High” featuring Bahamadia

Prince & The Revolution Dream Factory

Prince & The Revolution

1986 was a very prolific year for Prince. Though his movie Under The Cherry Moon was a commercial, critical, and artistic failure, the multi-talented musician was inspired enough to record a few dozen songs for the follow up to the film’s soundtrack. Dream Factory would have been an 18 track double album and is the last album project Prince completed with The Revolution before disbanding the group later that year. After The Revolution parted ways, the album went through tons of changes and became a triple album called Crystal Ball. Prince’s label, Warner Bros., refused to release a three album set and forced Prince to trim it down to two albums. The end result? 1987’s fan and critic favorite Sign O’ The Times.

No preview available :(

2Pac & The Boot Camp Clik One Nation

2pac

In 1996 at the height of the East Coast – West Coast feud, 2Pac sought to end it by teaming up with Brooklyn’s Boot Camp Clik for an album titled One Nation.  After 2Pac’s murder in September of 1996, the album was put on indefinite hold and has only seen the light of day through bootlegs.  Several of Pac’s verses from the album have been used on various posthumous releases over the years.  Last year, a label called A.E.G. acquired the rights to the original album and claimed that a digital-only release would happen later that year, but it didn’t and the album remains unreleased.

Listen to the original version of “Military Minds”

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