The Golden Era is long gone. A Tribe Called Quest, Boogie Down Productions, and Rakim are no longer making music. The Formula of B.I.G., the versatility and persona of Pac, and the lyricism of Big L are constantly being duplicated by a profit-powered copier with fading ink. Many can no longer define Hip-Hop; some that can, claim it’s dead. Others are waiting for the revolution…
Yet, through the ruined plains of DJing, Emceeing (Teaching), Graffiti Art, and B-Boying; hope still remains. Original Scrolls carried by those we know now as Hip-Hop legends: Nas, Pete Rock, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and others have been passed down to the next generation. Few would call the decade as a definitive building block for change in Hip-Hop, but there were many who carried the original messages of our Forefathers.
10. Graduation by Kanye West (2007). You will not find many albums with production better than Kanye’s best effort. Drunk N Hot Girls and a song titled Barry Bonds (between Lil Wayne and Kanye, I bet I know who named it) were the only down spots here as this album out-sold 50 Cent’s release in one of the more memorable battles of the decade.
9. Boy Meets World by Fashawn (2009). Lost are the days of the solo album debut Hip-Hop classic. But Fashawn directly influence by Nas, the master of the solo debut, delivered a West Coast groove for the ages. Produced entirely by Exile, the album is easily track for track one of the best of the decade and from one of best of artist in his generation.
8. Gas Mask by the Left (2010). When you think of Detroit and Hip-Hop, only one or two names come to mind. But for the Hardcore Hip-Hop fans who were blessed enough to get their hands on Gas Mask, you’d add another name to the collection. Produced by Apollo Brown, the group’s DJ Journalist 103 and DJ Soko takes us along the most mainstream-Rap challenging album of the decade.
7. Below the Heavens by Blu and Exile (2007). If you said “What?” to this album being ranked, you need to go and listen to this immediately. Despite very little publicity and recognition, this album puts you in the mind of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, who Blu mentioned they were the new version of. This album doesn’t miss a beat and no bar is insignificant.
6. The Black Album by Jay-Z (2003). The greatness of this album declined slightly with the subpar release of Kingdom Come which made all his goodbyes in vain. Although this was the fifth or sixth album titled “The Black Album”, Jay-Z’s gathering of the “10 best producers in the game” proved critical to the success of this work. His subsequent concert at MSG solidified Jay-Z as the Icon of Hip-Hop.
5. [Untitled] by Nas (2008). If actually released as Nigger, who knows what would have happened – but, it wasn’t, thus lessening the impact of the drop. With each release Nas made in the decade, he moved the game in another direction. “Take off the wool from your eyes… End all racism, all injustice, all oppression…”
4. The Cool by Lupe Fiasco (2007). When it comes to album themes, creative and full descriptive accounts, Lupe Fiasco may be in a class of his own. Lupe Fiasco apparently was good enough to bring Jay-Z out of retirement on his debut album. With songs like Hip-Hop Saved My Life, Streets On Fire, and Dumb It Down, Lupe came into his own with a masterpiece of art work.
3. Hip-Hop Is Dead by Nas (2006). No single statement has generated so much controversy and debate than Hip-Hop is dead. This conversation has come full circle with it most recently landing back into the lap of Nas, who Soulja Boy claims “Killed Hip-Hop.” It bought Rakim out of clouds to state that New York killed Hip-Hop and made KRS unite with his former rival Marley Marl to say the contrary. Nas had great production and memorable guest appearances, none of which overshadowed him; even in the classic Black Republicans featuring Jay-Z.
2. The Blueprint by Jay-Z (2001). Released on the most important day of the decade, Jay-Z still managed to put a staple Hip-Hop as the towers fell. Lead by the premium production by Kanye, Timbo, and Just Blaze, the Blueprint symbolized Jay-Z’s arrival to the face of Hip-Hop. Let’s not forget, Jay-Z did most of this album in two days and nearly went Gold during the week of September 11, 2001.
1. Be by Common (2005). This album seemed to be a gift from Common directly from the Jazz Influenced Golden Era. From the onset of the bass guitar to the words of Lonnie Lynn, Sr., this album is one of the best solo albums in Hip-Hop history. Common even was brave enough to leave a live recording of The Food on the final cut of the album which made the album even more authentic. The notion, “what if God was a her”, made everything in the verse he said after that classic material. The present is a gift.
– Murs For President by Murs (2008)
– The Listening by Little Brother (2003)
– The Renaissance by Q-Tip (2008)
– Like Water For Chocolate by Common (2000)