Since this article was first published on January 2nd, a lot of people have inquired to RapReviews.com with questions about how this list was compiled; but more importantly, a lot of people have asked why certain albums we (or they) rated so highly in the Y2K didn’t make the final cut. The decision making process was arduous, and the list was even revised a couple of times after it was initially published, but eventually the list was narrowed to 15. Why 15? Why not! Everybody does a top ten. But if you’re wondering why some of your favorite albums didn’t make the cut, this FINAL revision of the Year 2000 retrospective now includes thispremable on some missing LP’s.
“Like Water For Chocolate” by Common (Sense) made a huge splash initially but as a long-time fan of Common’s work I have to feel I probably overrated the album a bit – I was reacting to a lot of negative publicity about the album on the internet. I still like the album, but the replay value isn’t there compared to those that made the cut; let alone next to a classic like “Resurrection.” The Blackalicious LP “Nia” was left off for an entirely different reason – I think the album is tremendously brilliant, but hip-hop fans largely ignored it or decided the album was too “backpacker” in it’s beats and advanced lyrical style. I guess that’s the difference between having or not having a video on BET; see Talib Kweli. Finally Nelly’s “Country Grammar” made the initial cut on our Top 15 but was moved up and out after I was roundly criticized for not including the Wu-Tang Clan and Eminem. I think both Wu-Tang Clan and Nelly are interchangable despite their different styles in that neither album is perfect but both are a lot of fun to listen to. So, that’s it. I’m officially closing the list to further change or discussions. Now, see what made “the cut.”
#15. Eminem: “The Marshall Mathers LP”
At first, I was a little reluctant to include this album in our year overview retrospective. I mean, Eminem already has enough accolades to fill a truck with, and Mr. Controversy himself will probably win a Grammy to boot. That being said, Eminem clearly did shake the waters and expand the boundaries of hip-hop this year. With the guidance of hip-hop legend Dr. Dre watching over his shoulder, Eminem crafted gems that were humerous (“The Real Slim Shady”), introspective (“Stan”) and just plain shocking (“Kill You”, “Kim”) – but all were done with that uniquely dark Eminem touch. People are still trying to figure out whether his misogyny and homophobia f’real or over the top, but as long as they’re still guessing they’re still listening!
#14. Wu-Tang Clan: “The W”
When this review first came out on RapReviews.com, I was accused of letting my editorial bias show by rating this album too highly (I have at various times in my life been a serious Wu-dickrider). Then when the original “top ten” came out last week and the album wasn’t included, I was derided for not listing the Clansters among the year’s best LP’s. Seems I can’t win! Nonetheless, I have to admit the Wu does merit a listing on this expanded Y2K listing, because RZA crafted some haunting and sonically brutal landscapes with songs like “Careful (Click, Click)” and “Let My Niggas Live” then took it straight back to the old school with “The Jump Off” and “The Monument.” I’m sure that no Wu-Tang album will ever live up to the “36 Chambers” but this one doesn’t disgrace their legacy either.
#13. LL Cool J: “G.O.A.T.”
Easily the worst titled of all his albums since “14 Shots to the Dome,” this album still managed to impress both this editor and our reviewer Mr. S as actually being a worthwhile effort from a rapper most people thought of as a has-been; but remember, don’t call it a comeback. Here’s a few pearls of Scott’s wisdom on the subject: “The key to success for 80’s rappers in these times is staying close enough to their old style to keep their old fans, but changing just enough to impress the new school crowd as well. When LL is most successful on this album, he follows these guidelines.”
#12. Jurassic 5: “Quality Control”
Some people will undoubtedly feel this album should have ranked higher, but Jurassic 5’s old school appeal isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. For those who like the style, this album is probably a classic – and some people undoubtedly checked in for the turntablism by Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist as well. The sonic landscapes were certainly lush. The all too infrequent contributor Mike C. may have summed up the feeling on this album best when he said, “+Quality Control+ has proved that style is all relative; new is old, and, for Jurassic 5, old is new.”
#11. Talib Kweli: “Train of Thought”
From the rapper who once called his duo with Hi Tek “Reflection Eternal” comes a self-titled solo album where the name has changed but certainly not the game. Easily the best album Rawkus put out in 2000 – Big L was pretty dope, but this one makes the top 15 hands down. It’s so good that I was forced to revise the top 15 again and drop one album because I couldn’t believe I was stupid enough to leave this one off. I’ll quote myself on this one: “If you were already a Talib fan cop this, and if you weren’t but you love hip-hop you owe it to yourself to Reflect Eternally.”
#10. Aesop Rock: “Float”
This independently released CD showcased both quirky musical production and lyrical free-thinking that resulted in a mind-bending display of excellence. To quote our reviewer Noixe it was “a dope album with equally dope beats and a step in the right direction for experimental hip-hop.” Just signed to ex-Company Flow member El-P’s new Def Jux record label, we can only expect bigger and better things from Aesop Rock in 2001.
#9. Esau: “The Debut Album…”
I have to admit my own bias here – I know one of their promoters and I’ve worked with their fam “The Nobodies” on the internet for years but despite that I have to say this is one of the illest albums that came out this year. Innovative beats and fat raps have pushed this album to the forefront of the genre and made it a must listen; so be sure to visit his site and check out why we think more people should know about this one. Who is Esau? One of 2000’s funniest, wittiest, smoothest rappers. If you don’t know, get a late pass.
#8. De La Soul: “Art Official Intelligence”
Seemingly dogged by a perception that they somehow went “commercial” on this release by having guest appearances from Busta Rhymes and Chaka Khan, most heads failed to realize that Plugs Won and Two still had all the goods to deliver an album equally as dope as “Stakes Is High” or any of their other releases. Revier Mr. S sums it up nicely here: “De La Soul have held onto their crowns as the kings of innovation. This time around, they took cliched subject matter and made it interesting, and interesting subject matter and made it mind spinning.”
#7. Prodigy: “H.N.I.C”
Mobb Deep’s most revered rapper stepped out into the spotlight and proved that he could do it for dolo and “Keep it Thoro” at the same time. His raps are thuggish, but his style is very introspective and lyrical at the same time. To quote myself: “The important thing is that Prodigy made the solo album his Mobb fans would have expected – a joint with all of his rapping strengths and making very few mistakes.”
#6. Jay-Z: “The Dynasty Roc La Familia”
The purists are undoubtedly screaming their heads off now, because for some people liking Jay-Z is tantamount to thinking Puff Daddy is a good rapper. Narrow-minded viewpoints have always been the curse of hip-hop though; the kind of thinking that keeps underground heads from a dope lyricist like Jay-Hova just because he makes radio hits. Lest we forget, hip-hop favorites from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie Smalls made their name with radio hits first and then turned out slamming albums of underground head classics. If you think it’s all about what you heard on MTV then you should reconsider Z songs like “This Can’t Be Life” and “Soon You’ll Understand” – some of the finest lyrics writing this side of the planet.
#5. Del: “Deltron 3030”
True hip-hop fans know Del, and Del knows hip-hop; but on this album he also proved he knew something about cyberspace. With turntablism by Kid Koala and beats by Dan the Automator, Del took hip-hop heads into a journey through the future which was in fact a looking glass for seeing the stale mediocrity of modern day rap and society’s blind eye towards urban decay. It’s worth visiting the 75 Ark website and checking this album out if you haven’t already – Del’s sense of both poetry and humor rank him among hip-hop’s greats in the year 2000 and beyond.
#4. Xzibit: “Restless”
Arguably one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Xzibit’s release came late in the 4th quarter with 15 seconds left on the clock but still scored the game-winning touchdown. While the purists may argue about whether or not Dr. Dre is a “producer” or whether Xzibit abandoned his message for a hardcore sound, most heads will just nod to the fat beats and X’s gruff lyrical style – the single man in rap who says “I can drink a whole Hennessey fifth – some call that a problem but I call it a gift” and can make it admirable.
#3. J-Zone: “A Bottle of Whup-Ass (The EP)”
Humor still has a place in rap, and if J-Zone has his way we’ll be hearing about Smurfy “blue balls” and chronic Lucy Liu masturbation well into the new century. Zone is clearly in one of his own with his fat beats and funny rhymes, but he also brings in excellent guests like Huggy Bear and Al-Shid for the assist when he can’t handle all the duties himself. Out of all the releases in our top ten this is probably the one you shouldn’t have slept on, but did anyway.
#2. M.O.P.: “Warriorz”
Some people don’t like what Bone-Thugs once categorized as “thuggish ruggish” rap music but M.O.P. are the exemplary purveyors of the art. They are brash, they are loud, they are witty and they have beats that slam harder than sumo wrestlers during an earthquake. The most surprising thing about this album is that the self-produced beats were just as ill as the ones produced by DJ Premier, especially on songs like “Cold as Ice.” The only cool points they lose on the entire album are for rocking the same beat on the title track that AZ used for his underground rap “Let Us Toast” – but the sample is so slamming we’ll let them get away with it; the album is still dope!
#1: OutKast: “Stankonia”
DJ Fatboy wins the RapReviews album of the year review honors; not necessarily because OutKast had the highest score or was the most popular release this year but simply because OutKast was the group most willing to push the envelope and take chances. Who else would release a lead single with the super-uptempo beats of “Bombs Over Baghdad” other than Andre 3000 and Big Boi? Nobody. As the vibes of “Ms. Jackson” continue to make noise on the charts in 2001; realize that if you don’t own a copy of this dope album YOU SHOULD. Refreshingly different but true to hip-hop’s oldest traditions, this combination makes them the year’s best – or in Fatboy’s own words “The shit don’t get stagnant in Stankonia.”
Originally posted: January 2, 2001 (updated 2/5/01)