The Year In Hip Hop: 2003

Introduction by @TrueGodImmortal
-2003 was an interesting year in hip hop. All the changes. Moments. The shift in what was popular. The beginning of the Crunk Era along with the dominant street era as well. This was without a doubt a groundbreaking year and featured a lot of slept on projects. Today, we talk 2003. Let's get into it.

Hip Hop in 2003 was fun for me. From beginning to end, that year was amazing in music. Every region had its own signature sound. That's one thing I loved most about the 2000s. 50 Cent released a classic album, Get Rich or Die Tryin. He grabbed everybody's attention and held it with a tight fist. He teamed up with Eminem and Dr. Dre to create a masterpiece.

Fabolous put out his sophomore project, Street Dreams. He made his mark with a slick NY sound and duets with singer Lil Mo. Fab also collaborated with Tamia for a rendition of her original song "Into You"; Ashanti recorded a version that I still question to this day. But that's not why we're here. Lil Kim found her way back in the studio for La Bella Mafia. She proved that she was still the Queen Bee with the high energy song "The Jump Off" featuring Mr. Cheeks. He also saw an album release that same year. My favorite track from his project is "Crush on You" with Mario Winans.

The south still had something to say. Bone Crusher told the world he was never scared on AttenCHUN! The Black Eyed Peas brought an unconventional sound to the game in 2003 with Elephunk. I appreciated this album because it wasn't one dimensional. Listeners got more than they expected from a Hip Hop album and that's dope to me. Pharrell and the Neptunes brought multiple artists together for songs they produced and made an album. "Frontin" is still one of my favorite songs to this day.

YoungBloodZ gave us "Damn!" on Drankin Patnaz and I really wonder where they are now. There was so much energy in 2003. It was as if everybody had enough room to prosper and they did so beautifully. Outkast released a double album called Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Andre 3000 and Big Boi each recorded a solo album to focus more on his own sound. From "She Lives in My Lap" to "The Way You Move", that entire album is simply amazing.

2003 is one of those years that sucked as a total, but still had classic albums released that year. But since those classics were so good, it made the year memorable. Jay-Z's "retirement album", The Black Album, was released in 2003. This album is easily his third best album ever IMO (no, it's not Vol. 2 or American Gangster). Would have it been honestly his final album, he could've possibly taken the crown as the greatest rapper of all time, after solid years of consistency. But, no. He had to come out of retirement and release what I felt was trash.

Next up, we got the best album of 2003, Get Rich Or Die Tryin. CLASSIC, CLASSIC, CLASSIC!!! I still bump the album to this day REGULARLY. Don't lie to me and tell me you don't as well. Literally every single track on the album was a banger. Unbelievable production and 50 Cent helped start a new wave of rap.

Chicken N Beer, Beg For Mercy, Diplomatic Immunity, Street Dreams Pt. I & II, and last but not least, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below are the other important albums of 2003. Solid list.

2003, sorry to disappoint, but this year I'm not too fond of. The only album I can say I actually like and fuck with from this year is 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The production, the beats, the flow,  the features, the rawness, just everything is amazing on this album. He brought back into rap what Cube and Dre and all them left behind, being a gangster rapper. 50 went through it all from selling drugs to being shot to doing dirty deeds, and all that happened in his life got put into this album. One of his rawest lines and one of the rawest lines ever was on Many Men, when he said "now it's clear that I'm here for a real reason/ cause he got hit like I got hit, but he ain't fucking breathing/" and that might be the dopest line ever I swear. I give the album 5/5. Must listen to it if you haven't already. The highlight of 2003.

2003 in hip hop was an interesting year. There were probably more album releases in this year than any other year in hip hop and the heartbreaking part IMO is only 10% are worth mentioning. This would also be the year before I pretty much gave up on “current” hip hop and built myself a perfect bubble with my golden era stuff, so to me the releases in 2003 hold a special place in my heart. These would also be the last batch of albums I would call “amazing” or near “perfection” and it is definitely bittersweet, but I’ll focus on the “sweet” part. Here are the ones I feel should be highlighted:

Let me start off with the major album of the year, as this was the year of “Get Rich Or Die Tryin".  I remember when “In Da Club” was released, all anyone knew of 50 at the time was that he got shot 9 times and his Ja Rule beef. I heard that at least 10,000 times throughout the year, but regardless it was a hit and then the album followed which was fantastic all the way through. “21 Questions”, “P.I.M.P”, and “Wanksta”, and “If I Can’t” are amazing and got a whole lot of airplay. This was definitely the year of 50 because his songs were everywhere all the time. This whole album is laced with bangers and dope lyrics. Thank God for Em and Dre for resurrecting this talent!

There is no way “The Black Album" isn’t getting mentioned. Jay-Z releases my second favorite album in his entire catalogue. There is never enough I can say about this one as it has a perfect tracklist. “Moment Of Clarity” is easily one of my absolute favorite songs ever. To me, this album had the most quality on it in terms of lyrics, consistency from track to track and the most impact. It was enormous, just think how many times since its release that the line  “99 Problems but a bitch ain’t one” has been used. It’s undeniable, Jay delivered at a legend’s caliber on this album and every single song had a crazy amount of commercial success. This was the album that took the hip hop world by storm in ’03. I love Jay for so many reasons and this album embodies all of them.

Outkast strikes again, as this would be the year of “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”. This is the epitome of what makes Outkast who they are, innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and just plain amazing. This was the “solo project but duo project” as Big Boi and Andre record separate albums, but release it as one! Absolutely genius because of how unified it sounds. We get hit after hit from both. The character and personality of each one shines and tracks like “The Way You Move”, “Hey Ya”, and “Roses” all are amazing. I’ve said this before, whenever Outkast releases an album it’s a dope year. This didn’t disappoint. Everything we know and love from them is also ridden within the tracks.

The last album I think is noteworthy is “Street Dreams” by Fabolous, (actually he dropped 2 this year, but I’ll focus on this one). I have this love for Fabolous. His flow is so incredibly easy to rap along with and his lyrics allow me to connect. He’s one of the most relatable rappers ever IMO. This album has everything infused with the sweetheart Fabo that I love. He gives us “Trade It All (Pt. 2)”, “Into You”, and “Can’t Let You Go” for the “in your feelings” stuff and then you have the more rugged ones like “Not Give A Fuck” and the “Keepin It Gangsta Remix” amongst a couple others. Either way Fabo is great, he gives us a bit of everything. Is he a legend? No! Does he have classics? No, not at all, but he definitely has feel good music and lyrics every girl loves. This album was definitely a highlight for me.

And there you have it, from the hundreds of albums that were released in hip hop in 2003, I really think these are the very best. As much as I loved and appreciated them at the time, I didn’t know the direction rap would take and how much more I would value these albums, these artists and their work.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Get Rich or Die Tryin. The Black Album. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Chicken N Beer. G-Unit's Beg For Mercy. Fabolous and his Street Dreams album. Those are the most noteworthy releases of the year. Thus I won't discuss those in particular, but I will talk some of my other favorites from this slept on year.

The best album of the year to me? Not 50, Jay, Luda, and damn sure not Fab. It belongs to Little Brother and their classic album The Listening. This album was an amazing display of lyricism and hip hop to the highest power. This is my favorite album and the best album of the year. Another album I enjoyed was Madlib's Shades of Blue, which dropped that year, as well as his collab with Dilla, Champion Sound as Jaylib. This was yet another great project. As far as the underground is concerned, those were the best releases this year. What about in the mainstream?

With YoungBloodZ, Ying Yang Twins, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Crusher, David Banner and others releasing albums, the south was moving. No album from the south hit harder than T.I. with Trap Muzik. That album is likely the best thing that T.I. has released and remains to be a great listen. Aside from the south, The Diplomats released Diplomatic Immunity, Juelz released his solo debut, Freeway dropped his classic Philadelphia Freeway, and his State Property crew released a solid album. Obie Trice released Cheers and on the unfortunate side, Chingy got popular. These were the albums that were truly slept on through the year and remains as such. 2003 was an interesting year to say the least. The memories of that year are forever strong for me. It remains to be a powerful year.



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