Artists of the 2000’s
The last 10 years saw the rise of a producer-turned rapper who not only put his stamp on the industry due to his remarkable ability to blend and contort soul music to fit perfectly behind rap lyrics [see: ‘Through the Wire’], but also managed to create an astounding buzz that’s sometimes bigger than his hits [see: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”]. We also saw the rise of an icon as Jay-Z created an instant-classic and quite literally a ‘Blueprint’ … three times over. As we prepare to ring in the new year and say goodbye to the decade, here are our picks for top artists of the 2000s.
Throughout the ’00s, everything that Cam touched turned to gold – err, rather pink. The Dipset frontman pioneered a style that can’t be done by any other, marked by a hypnotic, syllabically jammed string of words that most likely did in your rewind button. No one has come close since to making such lyrically dense rhymes sound so relaxed.
While the drug dealer lifestyle has captivated audiences since the early 1990s, the Aughts were when coke rap came to the forefront as its own genre. Clipse were the kingpins leading the charge. ‘Lord Willin’ was filled with pitch perfect nihilistic bangers, yet somehow left the group in label purgatory. Then, while biding time, Pusha T and Malice embarked on the ‘We Got It 4 Cheap’ mixtape series — an important development in vaulting the mixtape to mainstream acceptance. Add in ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ in 2006, and you’ve got one of the most consistently enjoyable duos of the new century thus far.
8. Missy Elliott
Taking hip-hop to some of its weirdest, most eccentric places, Missy Elliott used the ’00s to redefine the boundaries of contemporary rap. The mark of a true musical mastermind lies in the fact that you probably still can’t properly recite the chorus to ‘Work It.’
Ghostface Killah opened the 2000s with ‘Supreme Clientele’ – a record so rich that it could have conceivably saved the Wu-Tang legend. Fortunately for true hip-hop heads, Ghost continued to destroy the competition with his trademark wordplay and visceral storytelling abilities. ‘The Pretty Toney Album’ was a great leap at pop stardom, and ‘Fishscale’ might be the greatest coke rap epic of the decade.
Vanilla Ice left a stain on the ’90s with his botched attempt at a rap career, but Eminem forever changed the public’s perception of a white emcee with his poetic rhymes and graphic content in the ’00s. Call him Marshall Mathers, call him Slim Shady – either way, he’s still one of the greatest emcees of the decade.
Escobar was at a crossroad at the turn of the century: either go by way of living legends and fade away, or come back harder than ever before. Thanks to a fiery Jay-Z diss, Nas caught a second wind with 2001’s ‘Stillmatic,’ and he hasn’t lost the spark since.
4. 50 Cent
The biggest success story of the ’00s is clearly 50 Cent, who used the mixtape circuit as a launching pad for what became one of the biggest careers in hip-hop history. With millions of records shipped worldwide, 50 is now one of the most recognized celebrities on the planet – and he’s still going strong.
3. Lil Wayne
When Jay-Z held a fake retirement in 2003, the hip-hop throne was temporarily open and Lil Wayne began making the proper moves to become the “greatest rapper alive.” ‘The Carter II’ demonstrated a new stream of conscious lyricism, but a string of mixtapes between that and 2008’s million-in-its-first-week ‘The Carter III’ remain one of the strongest examples of an artist at a unique frenzied peak.
2. Kanye West
No one defined the sound of the Aughts more than Kanye West. Starting off with a classic in his production for ‘The Blueprint,’ West became a popular solo artist on ‘College Dropout’ and truly expanded the palette of hip-hop with the highly orchestrated ‘Late Registration’ and electro-influenced ‘Graduation.’ On ‘808s & Heartbreak,’ Ye removed rap from hip-hop and made a daringly experimental pop record that paved the way for newer artists like Kid Cudi and Drake. This hardly even touches on the fact that West produced hit singles on nearly every big hip-hop record along the way.
It’s hardly a secret that Jay-Z basically owned hip-hop throughout the 2000s. ‘The Blueprint’ started things off with one of the best albums ever made (in any genre), while ‘The Black Album’ showed Hov at his peak and lead the storied lyricist into a short lived retirement. ‘American Gangster’ brought back a more cinematic formula and ‘The Blueprint 3′ capped the decade with a new model for lesser rappers to copy over the next ten years.