For the next week or so, we’ll be rehashing the decade that is on the outs. Bloggerhouse and Wake Your Daughter Up will be offering up the top songs and albums of the decade. Today, we’ll feature my own personal top ten albums of the first three years of the decade, 2000-2002. Now keep in mind, these are my PERSONAL favorites. I’m fully aware that a majority of the cats out there have releases that they favor over mind, and that’s cool. But I’m just going over the albums that made me listen over and over again. We all know I have some weird tastes from time to time, so it’ll be discussion worthy none the less.
Be sure to check out WYDU today for my cohort BC’s favorite albums and tracks of 2000 and be sure to check for my favorite singles of 2000-2003 on WYDU tomorrow as well.
Going back through the lists of albums I complied for the year 2000 and I was impressed with the amount of GOOD releases from that year. It’s generally perceived among us “old school” heads that hip hop started to head downhill around 1997 or so. And while this maybe true, there was no shortage of quality albums to be found in 2000.
My first introduction to Dilated was on the Sway & Tech album “This or That” and the track, “Rework The Angles”, at least that’s what I remember. From there though, I had been fiending for the release of “The Platform”. I remember picking it up the same day as “The Marshall Mathers LP” at a local Circuit City. It’s a solid album, with several great, but not classic tracks. This still held it’s own against the Em release for awhile.
Talib’s and Hi-Tek’s album, “Train Of Thought,” is one of those albums that has grown on me over the years. In 2000, I still wasn’t all that internet savvy, so when my boy bought it first, I simply burned a copy with my new CD burner. I never got into it much, except for a handful of tracks. As the decade wore on though, I would come back to it often, and soon the production won me over as well as Talib being on point and his voice being less annoying than it is to me now. A near classic, album with classic beats and uplifting messages and lyrics.
Another album that had more impact on me later on in the decade, “Stankonia” contained a plethora of dope tracks and singles that made a dent on the mainstream scene. I picked it up used, and slowly began to listen to just more than those three or four dope singles it had going for it. I’d probably even go as far as to say this is my favorite OutKast album…maybe.
I already know that cats will be screaming on me for ranking Ghost’s “Supreme Clientele” this low, since it was ranked second for the whole decade on one decade list already. I guess it didn’t effect me like it did other people. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the album a lot, I just didn’t get into it as much. I picked it up used a little after it was released, and for some reasons, used NEW CDs were like red headed stepchildren to me. It’s an album, if I sat down and give it the proper amount of time it deserves, it’s be higher. Who knows, come back in another ten years, and it might be much higher on the list. Throw out my personal opinion, and this is probably one of the most important releases of the decade, classic Ghostface.
De La has taken some lumps from cats for the Y2K onward catalog. While it’s not up to par with their earlier releases, De La was still releasing quality music despite what a lot of naysayers were saying. The first release of the (never realized) series, “Art Official Intelligence: Mosiac Thump” contained a bunch of songs that I jam on any given day, “All Good”, “Set The Mood”, “Squat”, “Foolin’”, “Oooh”, “Deceleration” and a host of others.
In my mid twenties, I had mellowed a bit and started making my way from the violent gangster rap that intrigued me in my late teens and early twenties. But soon, as I started entering a darker stage in my life and having problems with my daughter’s mother. I started relating to songs like “Kill You”, “Marshall Mathers” and of course “Kim”. No matter how wrong some of these songs were, anyone that has been through some of that kind of drama can’t say they haven’t thought the exact something Em was rapping about. Em walked the fine line of being staying true to his underground hip hop roots and becoming the great white hope and media bad boy darling that he would soon become (although some would say this album was the start of that journey, something I wouldn’t argue against).
I wouldn’t pick up Binary Star’s “Masters of the Universe” until 2001 or 2002 from Sandbox, but I had already heard a handful of songs off the classic indie release. This might be one of the biggest “sleepers” or “out of nowhere” releases of the decade. Senim Silla and One Man Army aka One Be Lo bring consciousness in their rhymes over strong beats and scratches. Still one of my favorite releases of the decade.
Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” is so good that I often forget that it came out this decade. It’s sounds like some classic nineties hip hop. Arguably his most complete album, Common hooked up the Soulquarians (Jay Dee, James Poysner, D’Angelo, and ?estlove) and they blessed him with some of the greatest tracks of their individual careers. A very precise and solid album that is by far the pinacle of Common’s career, makes me miss this Common.
Easily a personal favorite that I’m sure probably won’t be this high up on other cats list, J-Zone’s “A Bottle of Whup Ass” was the joint that introduced to me zaniness of J-Zone and turn him into one of the top five producers of all-time in my eyes. Full of unorthodox sounds from sources that no one would probably ever think of, the album has an “off the cusp” feel. Sure, some of Zone’s later albums were tighter in execution and concept, but something about the rawness and creativeness of “..Whup Ass” that I always reach for every couple of weeks no matter what the mood.
Quite possibly the first album that was greatly influenced by the internet for me. In late 1999, I was a frequent visitor of Okayplayer, and ?estlove would often do reviews. It was here that he first reviewed a bootleg/advanced copy of Slum Village’s “Fantastic Vol. 2″. Quest did nothing but gush praise and amazement over the album and the production. Sure, we knew who this Jay Dee cat was, but I think it was this Slum Village album that thrust him in the upper echelon of all-time great hip hop producers. A lot of people knock the lyrics, but T3, Baatin (RIP) and Jay all do an adequate job and even have some memorable lines that I catch myself saying to this day.
Honorable Mentions That Got Major Play On My Discman
Wu-Tang Clan – The W
Ugly Duckling – Journey To Anywhere
DITC – DITC
Prodigy – HNIC
People Under The Stairs – Question In Form of an Answer
Big L – The Big Picture
Porn Theater Ushers – Sloppy Seconds
Tony Touch – The Piece Maker
J-88 – Best Kept Secret
Phife Dawg – Ventilation: The LP
Other Consensual Classics
Quasimoto – The Unseen (Never could get past the voice)
Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030 (Too weird for me)
Dead Prez – Let’s Get Free (Don’t know why I never got into this one)
As great as 2000 was now that I looked back at it, 2001 was even more weak than I remember. I guess there was a good reason why I spent a good portion of 2001 going back to some of the more underground indie stuff that I had missed from the late 90′s and even from 2000 itself. You could say 2001 was capped off by a lot of established artists that made mediocre releases for that year. De La, Ghostface, Redman, Wu-Tang and Tha Alkaholiks all had off years as far as their releases went, at least compared to what we had expected from them.
I didn’t even know who Cunninlynguists was in 2001. I can’t say I remember hearing about them, and to be honest, I don’t even remember the first time I had heard about them. I do recall downloading some tracks from both “Will Rap For Food” and “Southernunderground” from whatever file sharing site I was using in those days (Soulseek?) in 2003. After discovering the full release of “Southernunderground”, I went on to listen to “Will Rap For Food”. While it’s probably my least favorite of the CL discography, it’s still a strong album filled with some great production.
I wasn’t really into instrumental joints back in ’91, and to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of instrumental joints out there at the time. Regardless, how can you not like a bunch of dope beats from the Chocolate Boy Wonder himself? Pete still had the magic touch during this time, as he lit up his spot on the BBE producer series. I’d probably rank this one much higher if I had a time machine to go back, as I probably didn’t really get into this release until a good four or five years after it dropped.
Dilated released another solid album with their sophomore project, “Expansion Team”. I remember picking this up with the rather lackluster High & Mighty “Air Force 1″ (which was a great disappointment) and not listening to it hardly at all since “Expansion Team” was a much better release. It didn’t hurt that my favorite song from that year was on the album in the form of “Worse Comes To Worse”.
The highlight of a lackluster year in hip hop was the Nas/Jay-Z battle, which hit it’s height during 2001. Jay released “Takeover” while of course Nas released “Ether”, which can be found on his “Stillmatic” release. While the argument of who “won” still goes on to this day, it can’t be denied that Jay did light a fire up under Nas’ ass, since “Stillmatic” is his best release since the ’96 release “It Was Written”. My burnt disc stayed in my CD case most of the year.
This Columbus, Ohio group consisting of Copywrite, Camu Tao, Tage Proto, Jakki Da Motamouth, was one of my favorites of the year. I stumbled across “The Chosen” track, which was a solo Jakki track, which lead me to the rest of the crew. I soon became fans of all, especially Jakki and Copy, and when the album (or mixtape?) “Table Scraps” dropped, I picked it up with the quickness from HipHopsite.com. A collection of all their best songs of the time era, it was definitely some backpacker goodness.
In what may be the last universally agreed quality Beatnuts release, “Take It Or Squeeze It” brought the classic ‘Nuts sound back to the hardcore fans, but also reached out for some new fans as well. Armed with the heavily infectious “No Escapin’ This”, the album had some good cuts, but didn’t live up to some of their earlier releases.
While the second album of the AOI series was my least favorite, Bionix still has enough good cuts to make it one of the top five albums of a very lackluster year. It helps that De La is my favorite group in hip hop, so you tend to play an album from your favorites more than you would some other group, even if it is somewhat not up to par to the rest of their catalog.
For me, there is a LARGE drop from the top three albums of the year to the rest. These three albums took up most of my year. Coming in the third spot is my favorite J-Zone album of them all, “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes”. Kind of a tighter version of “A Bottle Of Whup Ass”, J-Zone brings straight up comedy over some of the craziest beats ever created by someone not in the Bomb Squad.
In 2002, Jay-Z dropped what could arguably be his best album of his career (my bet is still on “Reasonable Doubt”). Jay came with straight fire. “The Blueprint” is clearly in the running for best hip hop release of the decade. A large portion of “The Blueprint” was produced by a couple young and hungry producers at the time, Just Blaze & Kanye West, giving Jay a album that contained street classics and dance floor burners.
Did you really think I would pick something different? Masta Ace had build up a nice little buzz with a bunch of 12 inch releases and guest appearances the few years leading up to the release of “Disposable Arts”. By the time it dropped, I was basically waiting at the store to pick up the CD. I jammed it two times while just driving around listening to it, then brought it back to my rental house and listened to it some more. I’ll be the first to admit it has some flaws toward the end of the album, but the first three quarters more than makes up for that. Some of Ace’s greatest music he’s ever created is found on “Disposable Arts,” and for that reason, it’s my favorite album of 2001.
Honorable Mentions: Albums That Got Spins On My Discman
Ghostface Killah – Bulletproof Wallets
Sticky Fingaz – Black Trash
Tha Alkaholiks – X.O. Experience
J Dilla – Welcome To Detroit
The Coup – Party Music
Jigmastas – Infectious
Smut Peddlers – Porn Again
Wu-Tang Clan – Iron Flag
Consensual Classics (Just not by me)
Cannibal Ox – Cold Vein (Never got what the big deal was about this)
J Rawls – The Essence of J Rawls (Was always on the dry side for me)
While I don’t remember 2001 being as bad as it appears now that I look back at it, 2002 I did remember as being rather weak in the grand sense of things. I was still staying off the internets, meaning I hadn’t been corrupted by the temptation of downloading full albums. I think this year as by far the least amount of albums on my All-Decade list that will be present at the end of this madness. I remember feeling rather bland with hip hop and still hitting up a lot of the older indie stuff from the late 90′s and listening to a lot of older stuff. To be honest, I was right on the verge of being one of those old bitter hip hop heads that only listened to stuff that came out ten years before. We’ll see what saved me in 2003, but for now, we are left with probably the slowest year of the decade.
A sign of just how bad 2002 was is the fact that Talib Kweli’s “Quality” made this list. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest Talib fan, so it’s not that the album made the list for the simple fact that I’m a big fan of his. No, it’s more that this extremely uneven and non-cohesive album made the list that shows just how bad 2002 was. There are some good songs on here, I’ll admit that, but I remember I kept playing this just because I had nothing else new that I liked.
Edan’s “Primitive Plus” is one of those albums that cats either proclaim as incredible genius or a say it’s a pile of crap. Myself, I had heard tracks like “You Suck”, “Sing It Shitface”, and “MC’s Smoke Crack” while trolling around on sites like Napster and Audio Galaxy and liked them. The album would drop in 2002, although Edan had self released it back in 2002. It’s definitely has that ’88 feel to it, which for me, I love. I didn’t real get into the album though until around 2005 or so after I had kind of forgotten about my early favorites earlier in the decade. This is an album that probably deserves to be higher if I had gotten into it sooner than I had.
By the time 2002 rolled around, Jay Dee was no longer apart of Slum Village, but they did pick up Elzhi for “Trinity (Past, Present & Future)”. While Dilla’s production was missed, Elzhi helped stepped up the groups lyrical presence. The album had a chance to be really good, as there are 5-6 tracks that I really like, but it suffers from rather weak tracks as well with some just okay tracks on top of that. Still enough listenable stuff though to make it on the top ten of a weak year.
PUT’s “O.S.T.” was my first major introduction to the group, and I was immediately hooked by the laid-back music found on the album. It’s a very mellow album that sometimes has a problem with being too mellow and at times, the tracks bleed into together. Other times though, when in the right mood, this can be the perfect music to kick back and smoke your favorite “from the earth” substance. Still my favorite PUTS effort.
By 2002, I was becoming a Tonedeff fan, so when I heard he was dropping an album with some of his homies, in the form of Extended Family aka Extended F@mm, I quickly picked it up off hiphopsite.com. Consisting of Tonedeff, PackFM, Session, and Substantial, “Happy F*ck You Songs,” contained everything from battle rap goodness (“The Evil That Pens Do”) to witty, humorous rhymes (“Celly”). Too bad they haven’t done another. And good luck finding this CD, I’ve seen it going for as much as a $100 bucks, IF you can actually find it online.
Love him or hate him, say what you want about Copywrite, the dude possess an attitude on the mic that just oozes a battle MC. I’ve always enjoyed Copy’s music and it’s cockiness, brashness and almost unintentionally funny rhymes. It’s probably the reason I played “The High Exhaulted” quite often that summer, so much that I even got some of my non hip hop playing friends to get into this album, if nothing else from some of the absurdness of some of the songs (“On My Dick” comes to mind). Whether he is really as badass as he proclaims in his rhymes is not for me to judge, I just like the way it sounds.
Although Louis Logic’s “Debacle In A Bottle” isn’t even a proper album, it contained just about all of Lou’s catalog from the previous couple years. Containing tracks full of tales of drinking and skirt chasing, it’s party music in the vein of Tha Alkaholiks, King Tee and other great drinking music. Tracks like “Por Que”, “Ready For War”, and “Happy Hour” are more than worthy enough to place this in the top 5 of the year.
I make no bones that I’m a fan of Atmosphere and Slug’s music. I’m too damn old to really care if others think he is too emo or whatever. I actually didn’t get around to listening to “God Loves Ugly” until early 2003, after it had already been out six or seven months. I had never bought a release from Atmosphere before this, although I did enjoy “Scapegoat” from “Overcast!” album. Going back and listening to this, I’m amazed just how much Ant has improved on the beats. Not saying he sucked on “God Loves Ugly”, but it was more about the lyrics. This was Slug’s showcase and it worked, if you are into this kind of thing.
Nas is one of those cats that always had dope unreleased tracks. A lot of stuff that got bumped from his leaked earlier albums was some of his dopest stuff. That’s what makes his “The Lost Tapes” such a strong release, that and the fact he wasn’t concerned with trying to sell himself to the masses and going platinum. This is Nasir Jones in all his guts and glory. Straight up rhymes over dope beats, and it reminds you what we could have (or more than likely had by this time) if Nas ever forgot about the radio and just made straight up street hip hop again.
It’s amazing what time can do to your perception of an album. I remember the day I picked up The Root’s “Phrenology”, I was pissed. Their previous album, “Things Fall Apart” is probably one of my favorite all time albums. I loved the sounds, the hip-hopness, the straight up hip hop flava, everything that came with the album. My first listen to “Phrenology” was, “I waited three years for THIS?!?!” At first, it seemed to be all over the place. You had “Rock You”, a straight up jam driven by a drum beat and Black Thought going at ya throat. But then you had Nelly Furtado assisted “Sacrifice”? It didn’t make sense to me at the time. Looking at it now, The Roots were walking a fine line of greatness and a genuine cluster fuck. Over time, it’s swayed from the cluster fuck to greatness. Tracks such as “Water” exemplify that to perfection.
Honorable Mentions (Got Spins)
Common – Electric Circus (I still don’t know whether to love or hate this album, it’s been hate the past couple years)
RJD2 – Dead Ringer
Clipse – Lord Willin
DJ Jazzy Jeff – The Magnificent
J-Live – All The Above (Never got into this release, except for the Primo song)
Nas – God’s Son (Not a bad album, but I never played it much)
El-P – Fantastic Damage (I was still anti Def Jux, and would be for most of the decade)