If the 90's were the golden years, the 2000's have been ON FIRE ....
For a while there was just East Coast and West Coast rap with Southern hip-hop creeping into the mainstream. After the start of the new millennium, everything exploded.
Stars like Eminem, Jay-Z, Outkast and 50 Cent dominated the charts while producers like Kanye West, Just Blaze and The Neptunes became household names.
Looking back on the past 17 years, there’s a lot to take in. An endless number of hits came from various genres, producing some of the most creative and polarizing music in hip-hop history.
Here we count down the 100 greatest hip-hop songs released since 2000, starting with one of the best selling artists of that time:
100. Nelly – “Country Grammar” (2000)
Basically, all of Nelly’s hits were glorified nursery rhymes – simple songs everyone could sing-a-long too. The title track to “Country Grammar,” of course, borrows the melody from “Down Down Baby,” enabling Nelly to put St. Louis hip-hop on the map.
99. Youngbloodz feat. Lil Jon – “Damn!” (2003)
Lil Jon had the magic touch in 2003, which included producing of the biggest surprise hits of the 2000s with Youngbloodz’s “Damn!” The club anthem worked its way into the top-five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
98. E-40 feat. Keak da Sneak – “Tell Me When To Go” (2006)
Bay Area legend E-40 finally brought hyphy to the mainstream with “Tell Me When to Go,” a song that was unlike anything else on the radio and taught everyone to “ghost ride the whip.”
We The Best
97. Ace Hood feat. Future and Rick Ross – “Bugatti” (2013)
Ace Hood scores points for giving us the hook to “Bugatti” (and we will never forget it). But he (or anyone else for that matter) can’t help but be outshined by guest stars Future and Rick Ross who hijack Mike Will Made It’s beat in epic fashion.
96. Chief Keef – “Love Sosa” (2012)
“I Don’t Like” put Chief Keef on the map. But “Love Sosa” is the song that defined him. It’s grim violence stands out as the song the Chicago rap phenom was born to make.
So So Def
95. Bone Crusher feat. Killer Mike and T.I. – “Never Scared” (2003)
Bone Crusher had the feel of the guy who was only going to be in the spotlight for a short time. But he certainly made the most of his 15 minutes thanks to a crunk anthem that was as forceful as anything to come out at that time. When he yelled “I ain’t never scared!” you had no choice but to believe him.
94. ASAP Ferg feat. ASAP Rocky – “Shabba” (2013)
ASAP Ferg’s style was a nice counter to rhyme partner ASAP Rocky. Together, the two deliver memorable rhymes on the monster that is “Shabba.”
93. Lloyd Banks feat. Juelz Santana – “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” (2010)
In case you’re wondering, “Beamer, Benz or Bentley,” is about a woman heading back to Lloyd Banks’ crib in one of his three automobiles. But that doesn’t really matter. Producer Prime provided Banks with an infectious beat and the G-Unit rapper did the rest with a hook that was destined to become an earworm.
92. Birdman feat. The Clipse – “What Happened to That Boy” (2002)
Birdman is not a good rapper. But he’s great at hiding behind the talent around him. Over an astonishing beat from The Neptunes, Birdman provides the bird sounds, as The Clipse spit some of the best lines from their career.
91. Meek Mill feat. Rick Ross – “Ima Boss” (2011)
Meek Mill always seemed like the more playful little brother to Rick Ross. But he was just as forceful on the mic. On “Ima Boss,” he verbally skates across the manic Jahlil Beats track with an assist from his bearded mentor.
90. Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim – “Slow Motion” (2004)
Slow Motion was the final gem from Cash Money’s original golden era and the last hit Juvenile released. But it’s a memorable one, built on a catchy hook and one of the last verses Soulja Slim spit before his death in 2003.
89. Tyga – “Rack City” (2011)
Tyga’s rap career hadn’t really stood out all that much until he was given a gift from the gods in the form of of DJ Mustard’s “Rack City” beat. The song’s ominous production was perfect for the strip clubs established DJ Mustard as a go-to hit maker.
88. David Banner – “Cadillac on 22’s” (2003)
Before he scored a hit with “Like a Pimp,” David Banner surprised everyone with “Cadillac on 22’s,” a southern slow-burner featuring him singing that most country artists would be proud to release.
87. Jim Jones – “We Fly High” (2006)
Jim Jones came across as the greatest hype man of all time when he was helping lead Dipset to prominence. Then he broke out with an anthem and a catchphrase beyond anything else his crew had done. “We Fly High” established Jones as a solo star and made the phrase “Ballin’” something that would become so popular it would border on annoying.
86. Missy Elliott – “Work It” (2002)
Missy Elliott always did her own thing, no matter what anyone thought. For her album “Under Construction,” that meant diving into a variety of influences. “Work It” is straight old-school hip hop mixed with the dirty rap that made her a star.
85. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Life” (2017)
Is it too soon to call this? Not really. Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” is the kind of awesome display that shows why younger hip-hop fans have gravitated towards mumble rap. The laid back beat and Lil Uzi Vert’s emotional outpouring draw you in, pushing the song into the top-10.
84. Future – “March Madness” (2015)
If there’s a song that embodies the current era of mumble rap it is Future’s “March Madness.” The song is infectious that LeBron James still hasn’t gotten it out of his head.
83. J. Cole – “Lost Ones” (2011)
Though some may debate it, J. Cole has yet to release the album that fully realizes his potential. But we’ve gotten flashes of what makes him such an engaging emcee. The moving “Lost Ones” is the song that (rightfully) brought about 2pac comparisons and had fans recognizing just how strong of a talent Jermaine Cole could be.
82. Young Jeezy feat. Jay-Z – “Go Crazy (Remix)” (2005)
Don Cannon’s beat made Young Jeezy’s “Go Crazy” an easy standout from the rapper’s debut album. But it was the remix that put it over the top. With all due respect to Fat Joe, who was erased for the official remix of the song, Jay-Z took this track to another level with one of his best verses of that time.
81. Earl Sweatshirt – “Earl” (2010)
The first single from Earl Sweatshirt’s debut mixtape took the underground hip-hop community by storm. It was passed around on blogs and digital services, suggesting the hype surrounding his crew Odd Future had been filled.
80. Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes – “Look at Me Now” (2011)
Everyone was shocked when Chris Brown showed off his rap skills on his 2011 single “Look at Me Now.” But he made the mistake (or great decision, depending on how you look at it) bringing Lil Wayne and, especially, Busta Rhymes along for the ride. Busta goes into full ballistic mode at the song’s end.
79. Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert – “Bad and Boujee” (2016)
“We never really had no old money. We got a whole lotta new money though.” Say what? Those are the words that come in before Metro Boomin’s beat drops and Migos launched themselves into the mainstream.
78. Ludacris feat. Mystikal – “Move B****” (2002)
Luda was certainly in hit-making mode in 2002. But even with the string of hits that would come, “Move B****” stands out. Not just for its in your face chorus, but also Ludacris and Mystikal’s ability to turn the volume up to 11 and keep in there for an entire song.
77. T.I. – “Rubber Band Man” (2003)
T.I. had already established himself as a major player on the southern rap scene by 2003. But “Rubber Band Man” was the first time he proved he could play with the big boys. Over the David Banner-produced beat, T.I. adopts his flow to a hook that was among one of the catchiest things to hit radio.
76. Chance the Rapper – “Acid Rain” (2013)
Chance the Rapper made “Acid Rain” in less than two hours. But it stands as his quintessential track. It’s the song where he first bares his soul with lyrical wizardry, creating a connection with fans few other emcees have.
75. Joe Budden – “Pump It Up” (2003)
You’ll read the name Just Blaze a lot on this list. He may be the best producer of the era. That all began with Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint.” But Just Blaze struck out on his own with other artists beginning with Joe Budden’s classic “Pump It Up.” Blaze’s beat would become the track to freestyle over.
74. Twista with Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz” (2003)
The mind of Kanye West is a strange place. Not only was he able to brilliantly merge soul influences into the sample-happy “Slow Jamz.” He was able to convince Jamie Foxx to go all out on the hook and, somehow, mesh the blistering rhymes of Twista to create a hip-hop soul masterpiece.
73. Gucci Mane – “Lemonade” (2009)
Long before those artists were making an impact, Gucci was establishing himself as at the forefront of mumble rap with songs like the melodic and playful “Lemonade.” Never has the color yellow seemed so amazing.
72. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Same Love” (2012)
It’s impossible to separate Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Grammy nominated song from its message promoting gay and lesbian rights. But beneath that is a truly great song with rhymes that dare to be honest and a hook so beautifully performed by then unknown Seattle singer Mary Lambert.
71. Young Jeezy – “Soul Survivor” (2005)
As one of the faces of trap music, Young Jeezy always had a playful version of Scarface in him. That’s never more apparent than on “Soul Survivor,” featuring a big hook from Akon. The tone of Jeezy’s voice alone is enough to captivate. Of course, it’s his trademark ad-libs that would push it over the top.
70. Eminem – “The Way I Am” (2000)
As the story goes, Eminem’s label was begging for another “My Name Is” to lead his forthcoming album “The Marshall Mathers LP.” He would eventually write “The Real Slim Shady.” But first, he lashed out on “The Way I Am,” a five-minute burner that features one of the most memorable lyrical displays of his career.
69. Waka Flocka Flame – “Hard in da Paint” (2010)
There are times where it seems impossible to contain Waka Flocka. But he met his match with Lex Luger’s massive beat for “Hard in da Paint.” Rarely does a song get such an appropriate title. Flocka’s 2010 single proved crunk was still alive and well.
68. Schoolboy Q – “Man of the Year” (2013)
Schoolboy Q has songs that better showcase his rhyme skills than “Man of the Year.” But none sound more like a movement. Schoolboy barks his way through the song’s dark tones as if he’s creating beautiful cinema. In a way, he was.
67. Freeway f/ Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel – “What We Do” (2002)
Had Freeway arrived in hip-hop now, he’d be overlooked by label after label. But in the early 2000s, Roc-A-Fella knew how to find a diamond in the rough. Freeway’s unique rhyme style made him a favorite for rap diehards and anchors one of the labels most soulful tracks in “What We Do.” Even Jay-Z stops by for a brief verse over a Just Blaze beat that deserves to ride out.
66. Rich Gang – “Lifestyle” (2014)
It seemed like Birdman was reaching hard for the future of Cash Money Records when he created the supergroup Rich Gang, featuring Young thug and Rich Homie Quan. Then “Lifestyle” dropped and you couldn’t get enough of it. Two dynamic solo trappers, Thug and Quan unite for one of the more melodic pop rap songs of the past decade.
65. Rick Ross – “Hustlin” (2006)
As it turns out, Rick Ross isn’t the gangster he professes to be. But few seemed to care. From the moment he released “Hustlin,’” Ross was creating a mob boss image as compelling as anything to come out since Scarface.
64. A$AP Rocky – “Peso” (2011)
Featured on his breakthrough mixtape “Live. Love. ASAP,” ASAP Rocky’s “Peso” is downright mystifying. There’s a magical element that creates euphoria (it would become known as “cloud rap”) perfect for Rocky’s laid back rhyme style.
Bad Boy Records
63. Shyne – “Bad Boyz” (2000)
Yes, Shyne sounded a heck of a lot like Biggie. But there was a subtle element to his voice (thanks the fact he was born in Belize) that separated him from just about everyone else. On “Bad Boyz,” he slangs brutal rhymes accompanied by Barrington Levy’s reggae chants. Shyne wasn’t the wordsmith Biggie was. But, on songs like “Bad Boyz,” his voice carried a similar power.
62. Big K.R.I.T. – “Mt. Olympus” (2014)
At the start of 2014, Big K.R.I.T. was fed up. Everyone was claiming to be king and, as he put it, rapping over the “Control” beat as if it was girlfriend jumping from guy to guy. But K.R.I.T. had his own statement to make on the monumental “Mt. Olympus,” a song that cemented him as the South’s underground king and one of rap’s best dual producer/rhymer threats.
61. The Diplomats – “Dipset Anthem” (2003)
Loaded with 27 tracks, The Diplomats “Diplomatic Immunity” is one of the most overwhelming rap albums of the 2000s. It’s centerpiece is the thrilling “Dipset Anthem,” which finds Juelz Santana and Cam’ron creating the group’s legacy with hard-hitting bars over a Heatmakerz beat.
60. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass” (2011)
For all the scathing underground rhymes that made her a star, Nicki Minaj’s greatest achievement may be her poppiest tune. “Super Bass” is pop-rap at its finest and finds Minaj building the kind of melody that was destined to make her one of hip-hop’s biggest stars.
59. Jay Z – “Public Service Announcement” (2003)
Off all the larger-than-life songs and singles released from Jay-Z’s “The Black Album,” what makes an interlude standout most? Just Blaze’s iconic beat has a lot to do with it. But it’s also one of Jay-Z’s most mesmerizing lyrical displays with two verses that rank among Hov’s best.
58. The Roots feat Cody Chesnutt – “The Seed 2.0” (2002)
The Roots finally earned the respect of their hip-hop peers on 1999’s “Things Fall Apart.” So what did the hip-hop band do with its next album? Throw all caution to the wind. “Phrenology” is a complex masterpiece, led by “Seed 2.0” a Cody Chestnutt song Black Thought and Questlove flip into, perhaps, the best live band hip-hop tune ever.
57. 50 Cent – “I Get Money” (2007)
“I Get Money” was much harder than any of the tracks Fiddy put out during his early 2000s run. But it foreshadowed the work that would come. And while 50 didn’t have the lyrical swagger he once possessed, Apex’s beat more than makes up for it.
56. Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (2007)
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was a transitional record for Kanye West. After relying heavily on his musicality for his first two albums, he finally crafted the beat that would allow him to prove he could hold his own as an emcee.
55. Terror Squad – “Lean Back” (2004)
Fat Joe had had some strong hits. But he longed for the banger that would take him out of the late Big Pun’s shadow and put him among rap’s heavyweights. “Lean Back” was it, armed with the easiest dance you could ever master and a standout verse from Remy Ma.
54. Three Six Mafia feat. UGK and Project Pat – “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” (2000)
Built on a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Is That Enough,” “Sippin’ on Some Syrup’s” catchy groove rose up the charts and established new hit makers from the state of Tennessee.
Bad Boy Records
53. Black Rob – “Whoa!” (2000)
Black Rob’s gruff voice was the perfect way to underscore Bad Boy Records’ last golden-era hit. Buckwild’s beat does most of the world, but the fact that “Whoa!” became a hit from the least likely star on Puff Daddy’s successful label is proof to just how epic Bad Boy’s run was.
52. Kid Cudi – “Day ‘n’ Nite” (2008)
Kid Cudi’s space-age stoner anthem “Day ‘n’ Nite” caught on with hip-hop heads when it was featured on his breakthrough mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi.” It wound up being the first single on his “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” album and conquered mainstream radio.
We The Best
51. DJ Khaled feat. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – “We Takin’ Over” (2007)
DJ Khaled’s first truly massive collaboration saw everyone bringing their A-game. But it’s Lil Wayne who decimates all with a verse that immediately justified his “Best Rapper Alive” movement. “I am a beast. Feed me rappers or feed me beats!”
50. Wiz Khalifa – “Black and Yellow” (2010)
Wiz Khalifa’s ode to his hometown of Pittsburgh would go on to become a Super Bowl anthem for the Steelers. But had it never done that it would still stand on its own as a stunning display of hip-hop songwriting.
49. Mystikal – “Shake Ya A***” (2000)
No one sounded quite as frantic and menacing as Mystikal, who was able to harness his energy for nearly four and a half minutes on The Neptunes produced banger that was “Shake Ya A**.”
Def Jam South
48. Scarface feat. Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel – “Guess Who’s Back” (2002)
“Guess Who’s Back” is firmly Scarface’s song. But it’s Hov’s “Guess who’s bizzack” opening that kicks things off in epic fashion. Kanye West’s soulful beat paves the way for three fantastic emcees to remind everyone who runs the town.
47. Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone – “Ridin” (2006)
Chamillionaire was certainly riding the wave of Houston’s boom in hip-hop. But no one delivered a bigger single during that time than he did with “Ridin.’” You simply could not get away from the phrase “Ridin’ Dirty” and the song’s booing bass, which would push “Ridin’” to multi-platinum status.
46. Drake – “Best I Ever Had” (2009)
Before he ever signed to YMCB, Drake owned the radio with an independent song that took on a life of its own. “Best I Ever Had” was the track that delivered Drake to mainstream culture, fully embodying the combination of rapping/singing that would endear him to millions.
45. M.O.P. – “Ante Up (Robbing-Hoodz Theory)” (2000)
M.O.P.’s rough rhyme style didn’t make for an easy transition into the mainstream. But there was no denying “Ante Up,” a song that even worked its way onto the “You Got Served Soundtrack.” That strange occurrence aside, this was a hood workout anthem for the ages that never gets old.
44. J Dilla – “Time (Donut of the Heart)” (2006)
The late J Dilla’s amazing album “Donuts” is meant to be listened to in full, on repeat, back and forth, and in anyway you want to fall in love with it. But you’re forgiven if you get stuck on “Time,” the album’s richest track that’s built on beautiful samples on classics by Dionne Warwick, The Jackson 5 and others.
43. Nelly – “Hot in Herre” (2002)
Nelly was the second most successful rapper of his era behind Eminem because he could create melodic hip-hop unlike anyone who came before him. “Hot in Herre” isn’t groundbreaking, but it milks his best catchphrase for all its worth over a Neptunes beat that owned every venue it was played in.
42. Kendrick Lamar f/ MC Eiht – “m.A.A.d City” (2012)
It can be hard for individual track sot stand out on a concept album. But “m.A.A.d City” is special, as the most unrelenting banger from Kendrick Lamar’s classic major label debut. As if Lamar’s vicious bars weren’t enough, we get a switch in flow and beat from West Coast rap pioneer MC Eiht, who sounds as good as he did back in his early 1990s heyday.
41. Lupe Fiasco – “Kick, Push” (2006)
After a thrilling feature on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky,” Lupe Fiasco was primed for greatness. He capitalized on it by appealing to the skater culture with the laid back, alt-rap vibes of “Kick, Push.”
40. Cam’ron – “Oh Boy” (2002)
Cam’ron’s run with Roc-a-Fella Records wasn’t the smoothest, as he never got along with Jay-Z. But the label put him together with Just Blaze for Cam’s greatest song, which features a smooth sample of Rose Royce’s “I’m Going Down” and well-timed bars from the Dipset leader.
39. Jadakiss feat. Styles P – “We Gonna Make It” (2001)
“We Gonna Make It” carries two distinctions from the early 2000s. First, it might feature the best opening bars of any song on this list (“F***… the… frail s***. Uh, cuz when my coke come in, they gotta use the scales that they weight the whales wit”). Second, it features one of the best tradeoffs in rap history, with Jadakiss and Styles P rhyming over a beat by The Alchemist like they were destined to do it together.
38. Rich Boy – “Throw Some D’s” (2006)
With all due respect to Rich Boy, he’s a glorified side note on “Throw Some D’s.” The song belongs to producer Polow da Don (with help from Robert “Butta” Crawford) and his cool sample of Switch’s 1970s R&B tune “I Call Your Name.” Even in a crowded scene of southern hip-hop, “Throw Some D’s” stood out for its catchphrase a beat that would put everyone involved on the map, even for a brief moment.
37. Kanye West feat. Jay Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj – “Monster” (2010)
Hip-hop was lacking a mainstream female voice. That didn’t look like it would change all that much through the first 5 minutes of the album version of “Monster.” But Nicki Minaj not only owns the track over Jay-Z and Kanye West, she hijacks it, redefines it and gives it back to them with fury. Just look at the cover art for the single. Even Yeezy knew who the star of this monster was.
36. Tyler the Creator – “Yonkers” (2011)
To hear Tyler the Creator tell it, “Yonkers” began with him playing around trying to make the most generic New York beat he could. But the result was his horrorcore magnum opus. “Yonkers” builds into an experimental gem that clears way for Tyler’s outrageous rhymes. But it was so enticing, you found yourself reciting the ridiculous word for word.
35. Big Sean f/ Jay Electronica and Kendrick Lamar – “Control” (2013)
Both Big Sean and Jay Electronica had to think they had conquered No ID’s epic beat to “Control.” Then we all heard Kendrick Lamar’s verse. K-Dot decided to put everyone on blast, calling all who dared to get on his level. It was a game changer for rap purists, craving competition.
34. Fabolous – “Breathe” (2004)
Just Blaze’s beat on “Breathe” is so breath-taking (pun intended), it’s hard to believe any emcee wouldn’t crumble under the weight of it. But Fabolous’ combination of fun metaphors and swagger was unmatched at the time. That made him the perfect rhymer to digest the epic keys and sample, and turn it into a pure hyper-ventilating rush to the head.
33. Three Six Mafia feat. Young Buck, 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly” (2005)
DJ Paul and Juicy J’s stunning “Stay Fly” doesn’t waste anytime getting into things. From the onset, it’s a song that commands your attention and keeps you there for nearly four minutes. For a southern gangsta rap song, the most enjoyable aspect of “Stay Fly” is its soulful vibe, takings its cues from 1970s R&B.
We The Best/Cash Money
32. DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne – “I’m On One” (2011)
DJ Khaled assembles all the right voices for this club-banger. Drake stands out, because the song sounds like it could have been on any of his album. But Lil Wayne polishes it all off, embodying the song’s cool nature.
31. Nas – “Made You Look” (2002)
It wasn’t just about what Nas did on his comeback album “Stillmatic.” It was also what came after it. We got to hear some of Nas’ most well rounded work, led by the Salaam Remi produced “Made You Look.” Its old-school hip-hop beat begs for some fiery lyrics. But Nas smartly plays it cool, as laid back as we’ve ever heard him.
30. GOOD Music – “Mercy” (2012)
By the time Kanye West got around to his GOOD Music compilation, he had thrown all caution to the wind. “Mercy” is all his creative energy balled up into a sonic force of nature. But before Ye can have his say, 2 Chainz arrives with a star making verse that made “Mercy” the song of the summer.
29. Snoop Dogg – “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (2004)
Dr. Dre wasn’t the only producer who could craft songs tailor-made for Snoop Dogg. The Neptunes proved they were up to task with “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” a bass-heavy banger of gangsta rap that slowly crept up the Billboard charts.
28. Talib Kweli feat. Mos Def, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z – “Get By (Remix)” (2003)
Talib Kweli was never destined for the spotlight. But thanks to an inescapable beat from Kanye West, Kweli got his moment in the sun courtesy of “Get By.” The original is fantastic. But the remix tops it by calling on Mos Def, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and Kanye to join Talib in his dynamic backpack rap style. The results give you Goosebumps.
27. Outkast – “Ms. Jackson” (2000)
If it were up to Big Boi, Outkast would have stayed in its masterful groove of delivering raw southern hip-hop to the hip-hop masses. But Andre 3000 had bigger ambitions, insisting “Ms. Jackson” be a single from 2000’s “Stankonia.” A few for “Foreva eva’s” later and Outkast was the biggest hip-hop group in the world.
26. Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins – “Get Low” (2003)
There was a certain level of genius to Lil Jon that was hard to understand. But you danced to it. “Get Low’s” crunk vibe was new to just about anyone not from the south. But it’s infectious vibe and catchphrases like “To the window, to the wall” were about to take clubs everywhere by storm.
25. Watch The Throne – “Ni**as in Paris” (2011)
This shouldn’t have been a hit. Hit-Boy’s beat on “Ni**as in Paris” was certainly bonkers. But Kanye West and Jay-Z went so “gorillas” over it, you had to wonder what these guys were on. Apparently, they knew better than everyone, to the point where you could perform the song over and over again in concert and no one would mind.
24. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Nate Dogg – “The Next Episode” (2000)
Released in the closing months of 1999, Dr. Dre’s “2001” was already considered a classic before the start of the new millennium. But it’s third single, “The Next Episode,” put the exclamation point on everything. Snoop, an energetic Kurupt and Dre all deliver the goods. But Nate Dogg gets the final say with his best feature since Warren G’s “Regulate.”
23. Drake – “Started From the Bottom” (2013)
Drake never started from the bottom. But that wasn’t the point. Drizzy’s entire goal was to push himself to the top of hip-hop and stay there. Word is he heard Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Watch the Throne” and felt he needed to up his game. Thus, Mike Zombie gave Drake the beat that would become “Started From the Bottom,” a song that made it okay in the emo rap era to rhyme about your “struggles.”
22. Jay-Z feat. UGK – “Big Pimpin'” (2000)
It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now. But when Jay-Z featured underground Texas rap titans UGK, he was asserting his power. UGK stepping into the spotlight was a big moment for hip-hop and Jay-Z, who proved he wasn’t going to coast on his previous success.
21. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes” (2008)
If you didn’t think M.I.A. could create magnificent hip-hop, that changed quickly. Not only was “Paper Planes” one of the catchiest songs of the 2000s. But T.I., Jay-Z, Kanye West and T.I. sampled it for their hit “Swagga Like Us.” But even four hip-hop icons couldn’t top M.I.A.
20. Eminem feat. Dido – “Stan” (2000)
When “The Marshall Mathers LP” rolled around, we found hip-hop’s dopest emcee so in the pocket, it was hard to believe what was coming out. At the forefront of that was “Stan,” a mind-boggling story of a psycho fan who loses his mind. Leave it to Em to turn Dido’s pop tune “Thank You” and make it pure horrocore.
19. Prodigy – “Keep It Thoro” (2000)
Even with hits like “Shook Ones (Part II)” and “Quiet Storm,” it could be argued Prodigy of Mobb Deep had failed to get his just due. Of course, that changed with “Keep It Thoro,” a showcase of scathing lyricism guaranteed to put a stink face on any hip-hop head. “Heavy airplay all day with no chorus” is damn right.
18. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright” (2015)
Of course, Kendrick Lamar never intended for his song from “To Pimp a Butterfly” to become the anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. But it was just a natural fit. What starts as an introspective examination turns into an criticism of society’s treatment of African Americans with final statement of hope that was never more needed.
17. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug and Paul Wall – “Still Tippin'” (2004)
Before “Still Tippin,’” most mainstream fans’ familiarity with Houston hip-hop began and ended with Scarface. Mike Jones changed everything with his smooth single, equipped with a trap beat that already felt screwed and chopped. Of course, his partners in rhyme – Slim Thug and Paul Wall – steal the show, establishing two more stars from the region.
16. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It” (2005)
A lot was made of 50 Cent’s assistance on The Game’s debut album “The Documentary.” But perhaps Fiddy was trying to hold on to his glory days a bit longer. “Hate It or Love It” features his last great verse along with one of his best hooks, cementing The Game (whose “true meaning of a ghostwriter” line is so ill) as a star.
15. Rick Ross feat. Styles P – “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” (2010)
At the beginning of “Goodfellas,” it’s said about mob boss Paulie that he didn’t move fast because he never had to move for anybody. That’s what Rick Ross embodies on “B.M.F.,” a song that threatens to be overwhelmed by the power of the Lex Luger beat. But Ross is up to the task, sitting back and spitting gangsta tales we want so bad to believe in.
14. Jay Electronica – “Exhibit C” (2009)
It’s insane to think it’s been eight years since Jay Electronica released the dynamic lyrical display that is “Exhibit C.” And he still hasn’t dropped an album! How long can one guy live off of one song? Judging by the level of “Exhibit C,” it could be a while.
13. Ludacris – “Southern Hospitality” (2000)
“We drop bows on ’em when we throw them bows.” Before unleashing his thunderous single, Ludacris was a radio disc jockey. But he proved to be much more than that, attacking the bass-heavy beat from The Neptunes that’s built to shake dance floors. “Southern Hospitality” introduced the world to a new hip-hop star while ushering the genre’s best production duo into the 21st century.
12. Common – “The Light” (2000)
J Dilla beats were prime material for outstanding lyricism. But with “The Light,” Common knew what he had. The soulful sample and drumbeat was pure bliss (with the hook built in), taking all the heavy lifting off Common’s shoulders. Of course, Common fills the gaps perfectly, letting the light of J Dilla shine.
11. UGK feat. Outkast – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (2007)
You could hit stop at the end of Andre 3000’s scene-stealing opening verse on “Int’l Players Anthem” and it would probably still rank this high on the list. The fact the song goes on to include awesome verses from Pimp C, Bun B and Big Boi feels too good to be true.
10. Nas – “One Mic” (2002)
All the hype over Nas’ beef with Jay-Z may have caused “One Mic” to get lost in the shuffle of historical rap moments. But the single was just as important in defining Nas’ comeback. Aided by a pace-shifting flow and beat, it’s the first time he sounded like the groundbreaking storyteller from his first two albums.
9. T.I. – “What You Know” (2006)
Throughout the mid to late 2000s, many rappers laid claim to being the King of the South. But in 2006, T.I. was the clear undisputed wearer of the crown. The triumphant “What You Know” (produced by DJ Toomp) was the statement that slayed all comers and established Tip Harris as a pop-culture fixture.
8. Lil Wayne – “A Milli” (2008)
Lil Wayne’s run from 2005-2008 is still incredible to marvel at. Through all the mixtapes and standout guest verses, the peak moment was “A Milli.” An insane trunk-rattler, courtesy of Bangladesh, that allows Wayne to unleash his inner weirdness on a superb level.
7. Kanye West – “Jesus Walks” (2004)
Kanye West will probably never get over the fact that he walked into several record label offices with “Jesus Walks” and couldn’t get a deal. And who could blame him. In fairness to those A&R’s, the stunning “Jesus Walks” was unlike anything any of us had heard. Kanye was merging the creative nature of his backpack rap influences with the swagger of the gangsta rap like no one before him.
6. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On” (2001)
Missy Elliott and Timbaland’s greatest collaboration is, indeed, (as Missy says at the onset) the “head banger” of all head bangers. Of course, Timbaland’s bonkers’ beat is the centerpiece. But never has a production allowed Missy to be oh so Missy so well, from screaming out “Is that your chick?” to hocking a loogie.
5. 50 Cent – “In Da Club” (2003)
Make no mistake, Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo’s beat for “In Da Club” would have been a hit in any hallway decent rapper’s hands. But Fiddy knew how to sell a hit and make it a pop-culture movement. “I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love…” is one of the most genius rap lines of the last 15 years.
4. Jay Z – “99 Problems” (2004)
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine Hov was retiring after delivering something like “99 Problems.” The song borrows from Ice-T’s single of the song of the same name. But producer Rick Rubin flips it into a rap-rock anthem for the ages. And Jay-Z’s charisma and wordplay suggest a rap legend who’s far from done. He sounds like he’s just getting started.
3. Eminem – “Lose Yourself” (2002)
If Biggie and Jay-Z captured the rags-to-riches story of hip-hop, Eminem became the genre’s Rocky Balboa with “Lose Yourself.” Backed by that guitar sound, “Lose Yourself” is a timeless tale of an aspiring emcee fighting his way out of a corner. The underdog never gets old, because it’s always been the essence of what rap music is.
2. Outkast – “B.O.B.” (2000)
“B.O.B.” is like a tidal wave that hits you for five minutes, disappears and leaves you wondering what the heck just happened. The contrast between Andre 3000’s manic lyricism and Big Boi’s slick demeanor has never been more apparent. And it rarely worked so well. “B.O.B.” is an onslaught of captivating music that no other rappers could have handled.
1. Clipse – “Grindin” (2002)
There’s something life-changing about the first time you heard “Grindin.'” The beat should be placed in the Smithsonian. For all their hit-making beats, The Neptunes saved their greatest work for their own artist, the Clipse. From the start of the drums and that earth-shaking rattle, you can’t help but be overwhelmed. Then Pusha T and Malice hit you in the gut with their drug-fueled rhymes. Suburban kids were yelling out “Grindin’” like that actually knew what it meant. Even they knew the Clipse were onto something