Back in the Day When I was a Teenager
Eleven years ago hip-hop was the host of a genesis, an abundance of skilled emcees gained critical acclaim for producing immaculate musical works. 2001 was the year in the millennium in which lyricism was praised and practiced throughout rap music and in case you missed the beauty of it all here is a peek into the cream of the crop, the top ten hip-hop albums of 2001.
Jay-z – The Blueprint
With a Slick Rick inspired introduction, samurai sword sharp lyrics and soulful production from a virtually unknown Kanye West, The Blueprint became the axiom for hip-hop. ‘R.o.c too strong for y’all/it’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight/pen to a test’ Jay raps of when the Dynasty times were solid as a diamond. With the release of his sixth album it was clear that the God emcee had arrived demanding all convert to Hovism, and without rebellion, we did. Timeless rhymes and boundless beats place Shawn Cater’s sixth studio album at the top of the pack.
Clipse – Lord Willin’
The Brother’s Thornton are two honest, Virginia breed lyricists with a bad habit of great drug talk who made their debut in 2001 with the assistance of an up and coming producer, Pharell Williams. Although the Neptune productions are superlative, it is the daring and witty drug pushing praise that made Lord Willin’ a stand out album. With a near a capella introduction stuffed with lines trumping many rappers entire careers, this debut made it clear that fancy hooks and safe lyrics were done with Run and his Adidas. ‘I feel belittled sitting here spitting riddles amongst clown ass rappers who tend to give me the giggles.’ Malice and Pusha-T politely address their disapproval for less than average emcees bar after bar, making the duo’s first album a marvelous listening pleasure.
Scarface – The Fix
‘What you think I slain for/to go against the grain? No.’ Scarface spills his Geto Boy soul out on every track of this classic hip hop piece with engaging and straightforward lyrics. From ‘Safe’, where Scarface analyzes his code of the streets, to ‘Heaven’ where he raps to his loved ones as if he were no longer earth bound there is truly a fix for every taste. Amazing beat selection and honest lyrics make this album one of Scarface’s best from his extensive discography.
Jadakiss – Kiss tha Game Goodbye
As one third of Puff Daddy’s 90’s rap group The L.O.X, Jadakisss’ breakthrough album crowned him one of raps top five dead or alive emcees. With radio friendly tunes like ‘Knock Yourself Out’ and ‘We Gone Make It’ fulfilling pop music expectations, Jadakiss left the remaining seventeen songs to spit raw, truthful and intellectual bars of poverty and street life. ‘Jay-Jerking’, a skit that left L.O.X’s fans with a hilarious mock of Sean Combss’ business (seemingly shady) ethics, proved that beyond a skilled writer, Jadakiss possess a great sense of humor, a characteristic common in all G.O.A.T’s. With countless puns and earth shattering Swizz Beats production, Kiss tha Game Goodbye remains Jadakiss’s best album yet.
Nas – Stillmatic
Released in the midst of a dramatic battle for New York’s master emcee title, Stillmatic silenced Jay-Z supporters- for a while at least. The hit single ‘Got Yourself..’ had rap fans fearing a sequel to the horrid outcome of icons The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac’s beef, with Escobar referring that ‘I got mine, I hope you got yourself a gun’. The competition brought out some of the best lyrics fans heard from Nas since his 1994 release Illmatic. The complex yet coherent rhymes spewing out of Nas’s famous raspy vocal cords make Stillmatic one of the year’s best rap efforts.
Fabolous – Ghetto Fabolous
John ‘Fabolous’ Jackson made his musical debut with a album overflowing with so many similes and metaphors, an English teacher would need assistance catching them all. Mastering the art of witty wordplay, ‘I got spots in the whip to stuff chrome, that would have helped Puff Combs’ (referring to Mr. Combs 1999 encounter with the NYPD) Fabolous cemented his place in 2001’s tornado of skilled rappers. Discovered by the underground hip hop staple D.J Clue, Fabolous has since made albums focused on mass exposure and pop appeal, but his 2001 debut exhibited that his raw, natural rhyming skills were a force to be reckoned with.
Styles P – A Gangster and a Gentleman
Styles P’s hard, street smart lyrics are often overlooked, credited as second best to his partner in rhyme Jadakiss, but to deem his debut album as a adjunct would be just short of insane. Going from the gutter, vehement filled verses on ‘It’s time I see you’ to the more black conscious tracks like ‘Listen’, ‘My Brother’ and ‘Black Magic’ showcase Style’s versatility. While the majority of A gangster and a Gentleman appeals to a rowdy Yonkers, NY crowd, smart and entertaining storytelling tracks like ‘Nobody believes me’, depicting Styles P having a conversation with an upset pistol plotting revenge against a knife, engages listeners from diverse backgrounds. With his pure creativity and street knowledge poured out perfectly over well selected Alchemist productions, Styles P successful made his solo mark in 2001.
Cam ‘Ron Come Home with Me
The Just Blaze produced hit single ‘Oh Boy’ lit the rocket ship that blasted Cam ‘Ron’s Roc-a-Fella Records release into success. Igniting plenty of new tends throughout hip hop with his colorful music videos and Harlem jargon, Cam ‘Ron appealed to a vast crowd and quickly gained him and his Diplomatic crew popularity. Committing to the title with tracks like ‘Losing Weight’ and ‘Welcome to New York City’, CHWM fulfilled its purpose, to bring global listeners to Cam ‘Ron’s world. By the time the last track ends, you feel as if a subway ride to Harlem is steps away.
Ghostface Killah – Bulletproof Wallets
Dennis ‘Ghostface Killah’ Coles, one ninth of the infamous Wu-Tang Clan, debuted his solo album in 1996 and in 2001 still had yet to disappoint rap fans. Bulletproof Wallets embodied everything Tony Stark has been praised for including his picture perfect story telling skills and genuinely amusing rhymes. There is an interesting twist with this album though. Usually the men the Wu-Tang Clan choose to rhyme over rugged, ingenious razor sharp beats, while Bulletproof Wallets consist of production much more soulful – calmer even, proving to fans how dexterous Ghostface is as an artist.
Masta Ace – Disposable Arts
The most outstanding yet underrated emcee in hip-hop music, Masta Ace spits on ‘No Regrets’, ‘if the luxuries in life I can’t of course afford/if I never win a Billboard or a Source award/..I realize that I’m still a part of history/I learned the key to victory, it’s not a mystery.’ With a simple flow and authentic messages that breeze through this enlightening album, Masta Ace confirms that major label deals, hit singles, nor flashy, fabricated gimmicks are necessary to create a classic album. Although he is invisible to the masses, rap and hip-hop fans agree, Disposable Arts is the farthest thing from trivial, and the closest to ingenuity.