With everyone reminiscing over how great/terrible rap was in the ‘90s and how much worse/better it is today, people seem to forget that there was an entire decade in between that just got skipped over.
The ‘00s happened, and saw some of the greatest hip hop releases of all time, so here’s a list of 10 of them that’ll be remembered in the history books.
10. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ - 50 Cent
So maybe 50 Cent didn’t exactly hold up as one of the best rappers ever, as he seemed poised to do after his 2003 debut. It seemed like he was destined for greatness when the rapper proved he could combine the struggles of the streets with a beat you could absolutely party to. Regardless of later shortcomings, this record was damn near perfect, and one of the only chart-toppers that you could still bump while wanting to seem tough.
9. Trap Muzik - T.I.
Early T.I. isn’t as much fun as later T.I. His music wasn’t as club-friendly, he didn’t have a reality show, and he hadn’t yet gotten in a fight with Floyd Mayweather in the Fatburger on the Vegas Strip. That said, Trap Muzik is his best album, and it’s one of the top southern rap records in history. T.I.’s debut album was a little shaky, but this sophomore effort introduced him to the world as the King of the South with hit singles like “24’s” and “Rubber Band Man.”
8. Tha Carter III - Lil Wayne
At this point, Lil Wayne might have saturated the market with his music a little too much and become a bit of a joke as often as he is a rapper. When Tha Carter III released in 2008, that wasn’t the case. Whether you like Wayne or not, tracks like “Lollipop” and “A Milli” shaped the way hip hop sounded at the end of the decade, and gave birth to Lil Tunechi just spitting random bars that don’t make any sense but sound so good that (almost) everyone gives him a pass,
7. The Documentary - The Game
Hate it or love it, the Game is one of the most underrated rappers of the ‘00s, and his 2005 debut is largely the reason for that. The album topped charts, revived the west coast hip hop scene, and proved that 50 Cent probably wasn’t the best rapper in his crew all at the same time. Sure, maybe the album isn’t quite as lyrically blessed as some of the others on this list, but the beats and production was outstanding. Check out the credits for who produced various songs, it’s unreal.
6. Stillmatic - Nas
Let’s be clear about one thing, Stillmatic was supposed to be the second coming of Illmatic, and it wasn’t. All the same, it was one of the best story-based albums of the decade, as only Nas can supply. From the diss track “Ether” into the second single “Got Ur Self a Gun” and all the way to “One Mic,” Nas hits a stretch of about a half-dozen perfect tracks on Stillmatic. It’s not much of a surprise, considering the rapper’s history, but it was still way better than almost anything else put out in the 2000s.
5. Be - Common
Before moms nationwide were arguing that “thug rappers” like Common (not realizing that he’s also the actor from some of her favorite shows and movies) shouldn’t be allowed into the White House and that’s why America is going downhill, the Chicago-based rapper was busy releasing one of the most thoughtful and funky rap albums of the last decade. When one of music’s best poets teams up with a producer like Kanye for an entire album, you know the result is going to be a perfect depiction and representation of every meaningful idea going on in Common’s talented mind.
4. Stankonia - Outkast
Is Stankonia Outkast’s best album? Maybe (Aquemini is awful good too, but came out in 1998). Is it their most successful album? Absolutely not (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sold more copies than any other rap album in history and is generally adored by critics and fans alike). But the 2000 release set the pace for the rest of the decade and was a much more cohesive effort than their 2003 double album. “Ms. Jackson” is one of those songs that’ll never be duplicated, and it’s just one of many classics on the record.
3. The Black Album - Jay Z
Yes, yes, we know. Jay Z had already begun to fall off by the time he put out his 2003 record that was (supposedly) his grand finale. All three of the album’s singles will live on forever, and every track on it is precisely constructed in a way that only Hova can. Maybe he’s not the angry young rapper he once was, and he wasn’t yet the mafioso-type he’d soon become, but the Black Album was Jay’s way of giving one last gift to his fans before taking some time to find himself (and then releasing the worst album of his career). All three Blueprint albums were great, but none of them were as timeless as this one.
2. The College Dropout - Kanye West
Before the Kardashians, before cutting Taylor Swift off, before declaring that George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people, Kanye West once put out two of the greatest rap albums of all time. The College Dropout and Late Registration could’ve both been in the top few of this list, but it seemed unfair to give Yeezy two spots in a row. Really though, they’re both perfect and need no explanation beyond that. If you want them explained, listen to either. Then you’ll understand why people still care about which direction he names his kids after.
1. The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
There are albums that change music, and then there are albums that change the world. The Slim Shady LP (1999) did the former. The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) shifted the planet as we know it. See, Eminem’s rise to popularity with his 1999 release threw him into the spotlight to be adored by young folks and cursed by their parents, but he could’ve fizzled out just as quickly as he arrived. His first album of the 21st century proved that the Detroit superstar was here to stay, and that the world better be prepared for it. It ushered in a wave of anger, rebellion, and general dissent in white suburbia that hadn’t been seen in quite some time.
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