The Clipse burst on the scene with this banger late in 2002. Spurred by the hit single ‘Grindin’,’ (this beat was replicated in lunchrooms all over the country during the lunch time ciphers) this album established The Clipse as one of the top duo’s in the game. Other singles included “When The Last Time,” “Ma I Don’t Love Her,” and “Cot Damn.” The Neptunes hooked the VA duo with one of the strongest looks of all-time, producing the album in its entirety. Every song on this album bangs. (Jim Beam)
Amnesiac is the fifth child of Radiohead’s progeny and often regarded as Kid A’s sophomoric, younger brother. While songs for both albums were recorded within the same time frame, many would classify Amnesiac as the left overs from Kid A sessions. I object, in dramatic fashion! Yes Kid A delivers up tracks like “How to Disappear Completely”, which is the the clearest representation of those moments in life that are tragic, surreal and unforgettable. Don’t count Amnesiac out. “Pyramid Song” is a ethereal and haunting song about the transition from this world to the next. The disjointed and jarring timing has stymied fans and musicians alike with its unorthodox signatures. This is another nod to Radiohead’s unsettling and disconcerting view of technology. Using electronic and musical instruments to show the beauty and possible harm in progressive and all-encompassing use of industrial science. This goes back as far as Ok Computer and the atrophy that occurs at the end of “Karma Police”. “Life in a Glasshouse” was a featured in the film Children of Men and is a New Orleans jazz inspired piece. Film noir-like images are created and one could envision someone sitting around a phonograph in a smoke-filled room in the 1930’s. The strings on “Dollars and Cents” recede and approach like the tide. This allows the emotion in the song to wax and wane. Even with Thom Yorke’s indecipherable vocals and puzzling lyrics, Amnesiac still conveys a wealth of emotion. The universality of an album is paramount to its success. The tracks on Amnesiac transcend mere words and music, and resonate with the listener to this day (Schuylkill Punch)
“I put people on the map that never seen a map”. Kala boasts a list of unlikely contributors and muses from Indian folk drummers to street dancers in Jamaica. The video for “Bird Flu” was shot right outside of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It displays an alternate view of India’s traditional sound, where Bollywood has been the most accessible and recognizable to the West. M.I.A.’s global awareness is a pervasive theme throughout her work. She took baltimore club beats and nestled in prickly subjects. Topics that are somehow too taboo for the dinner table translate to the dance floor. Ideas on globalization and poverty seem better suited for your sociology professor’s discussion of “No Logo” than fodder for catchy, danceable hits. Envision a multitude of hipster-prototypes sweating it out at McCarran Pool to songs about war torn countries. The success and universal acclaim of “Kala” is quite remarkable considering our ever-increasing p.c. environment. What is so special about this artist and her sound that lets her enter our hearts, minds and iPods? M.I.A. has never shied away from who she was. Bursting onto the scene wearing gold lame leggings and Malcolm X t-shirts, she represented a global potpourri of ideas and sounds. It was that honesty and openness that made listeners realize that she had no agenda, and was making the music she wanted to make. She was a sharp diversion from our pre-packaged stars who have a team of stylists, p.r. filters and heavy marketing. Being such a singular individual, she was able to lend her face to Marc Jacobs, her chorus to “Swagger Like Us” and her songs to movie trailers such as Pineapple Express. Our fondness of Kala can be attributed to the seizure-inducing cover, and the notion that people never really grow up and are still attracted to bright, shiny things. Or maybe Kala provided a safe excursion for less a intrepid breed whose idea of going global is ordering Thai for dinner. One thing that cannot be denied is Kala staining the musical fabric of 2007 bright pink, neon yellow and sparkling blue(Schuylkill Punch).
12. John Mayer
It had been three years since he last released an album, but with 2006’s Continuum, John Mayer solidified his place as one of the greatest singer/songwriters of this generation. The critically acclaimed album incorporated elements of rock, blues, and R&B, showcasing not only Mayer’s versatility as an artist, but also his abilities as a musician. From the opening track, the politically charged “Waiting on the World to Change,” to the finale, the blues-ballad “I’m gonna find another you,” Mayer takes the listener on a journey, taking time to discuss many of the issues we deal with as we grow into adulthood — bad breakups, fear of getting older and the added responsibility it brings, and the loss of youthful innocence. How could we not include Continuum in our “tops of the decade” list? (Kevin)
11. Lil Wayne
On Weezey’s first single off this album “Bring it Back,” he proclaimed himself the “best rapper alive, since the best rapper retired.” Hov’s retirement has come and gone, but many Weezey fans will say he’s still the best rapper alive, even better than Jay-Z. This was the album that established him as one of raps heavyweights. One of the last Cash Money albums produced by Manny Fresh, this album will get burn well into the next decade(Jim Beam).
10. The Diplomats
Diplomatic Immunity released on March 25th, 2003 is the 2-disc debut album of The Diplomats. At the time of its release, many in hip-hop were familiar with Cam’Ron but this was the world’s introduction to the rest of the Dips: Juelz Santana, Un Casa, Jim Jones, and Hell Rell, and Freekey Zekey. The gems of the album continue to knock in every club, house party, and pair of Bose headphones up and down the east coast. “Dipset Anthem”, “Who Am I”, “I Really Mean It”, “Purple Haze”, “My Love” and “Let’s Go” impress with incredible production, soulful samples, and pompous lyrical displays. In true Cam fashion, “Suicide sickness, child negligence/Homicide fingerprints, wild evidence/But thou shall, respect me blaow, blaow/Clap, clap, pow, pow, bow down, n-“ (Babe Ruth of Banter).
9. Maroon 5
Songs About Jane
Maroon 5 have established themselves as one of the more popular pop bands. It’s a shame, because they had the potential to transcend that genre. Still mostly unknown, the band released “Songs About Jane” in June 2002. They fused rock with soul (there were some blues elements as well) and ran the gambit on the many stages of being in love with someone. The album finally picked up steam in 2004, netting them a Grammy for “Best New Artist” almost three years after their debut. Like many of the other debut albums on this list, it will be hard for Maroon 5 to top this effort (Jim Beam).
8. The Killers
The Killers might have the coolest name in rock and in 2004 they dropped one of the best albums of the decade with Hot Fuss. This ambitious popish, punkish effort was buoyed by lead singer Brandon Flower’s unique sound. The fast paced album is fun to listen to, and it’s one of the easiest albums to listen to over and over again(Jim Beam).
7. John Mayer
Room For Squares
Simply put, John Mayer is a poet that just so happens to be a bad ass with a guitar. In September 2001, Mayer released his debut album “Room for Squares” and quickly established himself as a musical genius. He has the unique ability to speak to the hearts and emotions of men and women, without getting too cheesy. With nary a cliché lyric on this disc (or any of his records), Mayer is easily one of the most creative artists out. And when he does cover an album, his rendition’s always do the original justice. The more you listen to this album, you’ll quickly realize that almost every song on this album could be your favorite song off the album(Jim Beam).
If you read the review of the Blueprint 3, you know how I feel about this album. This is the Jordan jumper over Byron Russell to win championship #6. This would’ve been a legendary finish for Hov, a final album fitting for the greatest rapper of all-time. “99 Problems,” “Encore,” and “Lucifer,” display Hov at his best and you can make the argument that “Allure” is his best song (or maybe that’s just me). We know how this story didn’t end and three albums later it doesn’t look like Hov has any plans to re-retire again. Just like Jordan’s comeback didn’t tarnish that shot, you can’t overlook this album as a true classic (Jim Beam).
After 2002, Common Sense was pretty much left for dead. He dropped an experimental album “Electric Circus,” that didn’t sit well with most critics and fans. He was one of those guys who was in hip-hop’s periphery for more than a decade; you know who he is and you’ve heard some of his music, but you’re not really a huge fan. However, in 2005 Lazarus Common hooked up with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West and dropped his sixth studio album “Be.” This, by far, was Common’s most well rounded album and not only resurrected his career but took it to new heights. From start to finish, this album was a perfect combination of introspective, thoughtful lyrics with Kanye’s (and Dilla on a few tracks) soulful beats (Jim Beam).
The Love Below
Yes, the Love Below is listed separately from Speakerboxxx. Compared to Andre 3000’s masterpiece, Speakerboxxx was a throw away. On the The Love Below, Andre mixed R&B, Blues, Jazz with a dash of Hip-Hop and Rock and Roll and came up with one of the most creative albums of all-time. A classic ‘don’t try this at home’ move, 3 stacks sings off key for most of the album and it comes out perfectly. This album follows a young man on a quest to find and define love and ends with Andre Benjamin going off for 5 minutes on “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre.” One of the few albums that should be its own genre, I often wonder if Dre had as much fun making it as I do listening to it, which I still do today (Jim Beam).
3. 50 Cent
Get Rich or Die Trying
In late 2001/early 2002 there was a force like none other dominating the mixtape scene. He wasn’t a DJ either (remember guys like Clue, Kay-Slay, etc. were putting out compilation mixtapes at the time). He was 50 Cent. His legend was growing with each release, stories of what he did on the streets, how many times he was shot, and his legal issues were swirling all over the internet. His buzz as a person was as big as his buzz as an artist, culminating in his 2003 debut “Get Rich or Die Trying.” Backed by Eminem and Dr. Dre, this album was a success in the hood and in mainstream America, moving over 10 million units worldwide. The album material justified its success, with banger after banger. 50’s sing-song flow, over Dr. Dre beats was at its peak on this record. Now, 50’s a joke and most of us wish he’d go away and live off his Vitamin Water money. As a rapper, he’s irrelevant now, which I would’ve never guessed after 2003 (Jim Beam).
2. Kanye West
The College Dropout
While this album just missed out on the top spot on our list, this impact of this album will resonate well after 2010. Dropping in early 2004, it launched Kanye’s career as a rapper and made him an instant hip-hop superstar. More important than his career, it changed how many people thought about hip-hop. From the late 80s/early 90s on, drug talk, violence and a rap sheet were prerequisites of hip-hop stardom. Enter Kanye West. On this album he talked about self-esteem, dead end mall jobs, family issues and of course Jesus, along with silly songs like “Kanye’s Workout Plan” and “Get ‘Em High,” that were all scattered in between glimpses into Kanye’s own life, which was the focal point of his hit single “Through The Wire.” This album paved the way for the Drake’s, J. Cole’s, Lupe Fiasco’s and Wale’s of the world who are now at least somewhat relevant on the mainstream scene. This was before Kanye’s ego ballooned out of control, and he let his music speak for himself. I liked it better that way (Jim Beam).
You’d be hard pressed to find an American who was alive on 9/11/01 and didn’t remember where they were. Aside from changing our country forever from a geopolitical perspective, this date might go down as one of the most important dates in the history of hip-hop. On this date, Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” dropped, cementing his status as the greatest of all-time. In an era where the word ‘classic’ has pretty much lost all meaning, Blueprint is a classic’s classic; 13 tracks and to bonus tracks of quality material you can’t really skip. On the production side, this album also took the careers of Kanye West and Just Blaze to new heights. Lyrically, Hov was at his best throughout and if you made a “Best of Hov” album, aside from Reasonable Doubt you’d pick the most songs from this album (Jim Beam).