The Year In Hip Hop: 2001


As we've done the last two weeks, we are continuing our series talking a particular year in hip hop. This time, we discuss 2001, a year that sometimes feels slept on in hip hop. Some classics were released, some not so great albums, some good albums as well. Reflect with us on this year in hip hop.

Shhhh...can I tell you all a secret? In 2001, I was more into All Killer, No Filler, Hybrid Theory, and Sublime than straight up just hip-hop. So, I may not be the best person to talk to about this year in depth...I'm just screwing with you. While I loved Sum 41, Linkin Park, and so on, I still had my pulse on hip-hop. I loved Bulletproof Wallets (I'm a Ghostface fan) and The Blueprint versus Stillmatic is one of my favorite album feuds of all-time.

But, you didn't come here to hear me get my old fart on and reminisce and shit.

2001 was an important year in rap music. Truthfully, it was one of those years that probably won't be duplicated. We had rap juggernauts going at each other--and lyrically upping the ante every time. The Southern rap movement was in full effect thanks to artists like Ludacris and T.I. Seriously, if you missed Word of Mouf, slap yourself. Twice.

You know what? Fuck it.

We talked about Luda already, but let's talk WoM. It's an album that's a classic moment in rap. It's not Back for the First Time.'s the first Luda album where he became, in some ways, the South's answer to Eminem (at least in pop culture references and rapid-fire delivery). I still wish they'd do a song together. Do I prefer BFTFT? Yeah. But, Word of Mouf had "Area Codes," "Rollout," and this little ditty named "MOVE BITCH!"

Man, how many clubs has that song been banned in? How many fights have started off that song? How many times you've hashed out shit by dancing to that song? Plus, Mystikal on the track with Luda? Bruhhh! While BFTFT was my favorite Luda album, Word of Mouf is up there--it's hard to chose when an artist has so few "meh" projects (Battle of the Sexes is, for me, the lone exception; that's probably only because of the nature the project ended up).

Anyway...we also got Thug on da Line, my favorite Krayzie Bone album, Miss E...So Addictive (which had "One Minute Man" featuring Luda and "Get Ur Freak On," among other hits), The Great Depression (one of my least-favorite DMX albums, but still a solid effort) many other albums. With all this, 2001 was a good year. So, re-educate yourselves, dammit.

2001 was a peculiar year for Hip Hop. There were so many different styles of Hip Hop that came out that year; it was almost overbearing. I like that there was a healthy balance of old, new, and wow from artists.

Enough albums were released to satisfy every listener's appetite. From Lil Bow Wow to N.E.R.D. to Jay-Z, the field was vast. Consumers had options from A to Z. Even Nelly's protégés the St. Lunatics released an album.

Thankfully, my job today isn't to go on about how successful those projects were. Some saw more credits than others. However, the one album that stands out to me from 2001 is Jay Z's "The Blueprint." Most of my favorite songs came from that joint and it stays in heavy rotation.

We also saw a new trend that year. Lil Mo and Fabolous both released their albums but they did a few duets together as well. It was the rapper's debut album. In my opinion, it was one of the best times in Hip Hop for me. Having R&B meet hip hop was dope. Ja Rule brought out his album "Pain is Love" and again, Mo was featured.

My absolute favorite gift from 2001 came from T.I. His debut album "I'm Serious" is his best work. He had plenty of fame in Atlanta so to see him get attention across the globe was bananas. T.I.'s lyrics about living the trap life garnered new audiences who actually lived that lifestyle. I still keep that album going strong in my library. 2001 was an amazing year for Hip Hop indeed.

For a split second, I forgot how intense 2001 hip hop was but then I remembered.... this was the year we lost Aaliyah in a truly devastating and tragic incident. Once again, the industry would lose a valued and talented artist. Aaliyah would leave us with her last studio album before her tragic accident in August.
Although that would be the sad part of the year, Hip hop did what it does the best and that's provide a year filled with drama, hits, classics, but definitely the one thing we need to keep in mind was the drama...this was the year of "beefs"...lets take a look!

One word....Ether! 2001 would be the year that Nas and Jay-Z would beef and this would give birth to two fantastic albums. "Stillmatic" and "The Blueprint". Man oh man, this would be the most referred to feud in the industry after the "Pac/Big - Eastcost/Westcoast" feud. Jay would release The Blueprint on September 11, 2001 (that's a bit intense itself and I'll get to Nas shortly) and after some previous back and forths between the two, Jay releases "Takeover". This had people talking for a while, and disses were flying around by Jada(subliminal) and Prodigy too. Regardless, Jay created a fantastic album. "Takeover" to me is a great song, but not the best diss track, though it definitely had people talking, so it served its purpose. This is my third favorite Hov album and with good reason. Jay gives us so much here, as "Song Cry" is intense and emotional. Everything from beats to lyrics, this song pulled the heartstrings perfectly. "Heart of the City", "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" and "Never Change" all have a similar feel, as Jay definitely puts a lot of himself on these songs. Then he gives us the fun stuff "Girls Girls Girls", "Izzo", "Hola Hovito" to name a few and one of the most cleverly delivered songs "U Don't Know". This track is brilliant, the beat, Jay's intonation, the way he starts it, the lyrics, the way he plays off the chorus like a conversation... the man is a genius!! He truly gave us a perfect album five years after his debut. He really is one of the most consistent.

Nas. The flawless rhyme spitter and storyteller. The one who created, arguably the best diss track of all time. "Stillmatic" drops in December of 2001, three months after Jay's diss to him and instantly he bodied Jay with "Ether". This would be the most put together diss track. Sting factor was unmatched and the references were perfect. He throws in "Destroy and Rebuild", a diss to Prodigy, Nature, and Cormega as well, this year was drama filled for the rapper and he delivered well. Although this isn't Nas' best album, it's a good one, it's got 3 amazing tracks and the others are decent. "Got Yourself A Gun" is one of them, and this is the song that talks about all his career accomplishments and successes and he does this with a catchy singalong chorus. Then you have my second favorite Nas song of all time, "One Mic" and to me this is perfect. Conceptually it's great, climactic and in true Nas form, a story with a beat that controls the suspense factor for the listener.  I think it was brilliant and I don't think there's a song quite like it out there. Even though this will never be recognized as a classic album by me, I definitely think it was highly anticipated that year.

Jadakiss drops "Kiss The Game Goodbye" and I won't go into too much detail here because DAR covered this already (and I suggest reading it), but this is Jada's debut solo album and he throws Timbaland, Swizz, The Neptunes and Premo on production amongst others. This was highly anticipated, and as The Lox's lead rapper, we expected a great album from Jada. I think he did alright. He featured just about everybody from DMX, Carl Thomas, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell and his fellow Lox comrades. This album gave us bangers and Jada's signature lyrical ability. "Knock yourself out", "Nasty Girl" and "Uh Hunh!" would be notable tracks. Regardless of how you rank this album, debuts are always highly anticipated... I enjoyed it!

March 27, 2001 "Until The End Of Time" is released. This would be a compilation of unreleased songs by 'Pac. It would be the one of the best selling album of the year with the commercial success being a crazy one. Honestly, every single track is dope and some are absolute perfection. "Until The End Of Time Remix" is easily my favorite and having RL on the hook was genius. Another one of my favorites, "Thug N U Thug N Me" feat K-Ci and JoJo. These two have done numerous songs with Pac and it never fails, it's just an excellent collabo. This album is truly a classic. What else would you expect from such a talented poet, rapper and lyricist.

In recent years I've had a love-hate relationship with Mobb Deep. I absolutely love their flow and lyrics and I think Havoc and Prodigy are a fantastic duo. I have always liked them for their raw style and "street life" lyrics (let's ignore what Jay said about them in Takeover), so it would be safe to assume "Infamy" would be the same? Not quite. This was the album that would show a different side to the duo, as they incorporated R&B in this one, which would give a smoother, less rugged side while still maintaining the components that we've always appreciated from them. I also appreciated that they didn't include any tracks heavily addressing Jay, they really just focused on their own thing. "Hey Luv" will forever be one of my favorite Hip hop tracks. I love 112's presence here and I think all of their voices are absolutely perfect for the lyrics and harmonization. "Pray For Me" featuring Lil Mo would be the same, with softer beats and a smoothed out sound. Infusing this album with some R&B was a great move, it definitely gained the duo a wider audience and a bit more commercial success. Another great addition to the year.

Again, 2001 was a headline packed year in general and in the Hip hop world. It was really a year of beefing and back and forth disses. All that aside, Hip hop definitely delivered. We saw releases from: Warren G, Ludacris, DMX, KRS-One, Eve, Missy Elliot, Fabolous,  Cappadonna and again that's only naming a few from a very hefty list. I think this year was great...we were gifted a lot of fantastic solid releases and some that would even be classics. Hip hop always delivers and '01 really had some true gems.

2001 wasn't the most special year for hip hop, but we did get good, if not great albums out of that year, including 2 classics, one by Nas & one by Jay-Z. This year sort of started a new era of hip hop as the production and style has changed. A lot of dancing songs came out from this year to about 2010, and it continues today. Now let's talk about the great albums that was released in 2001.

The Blueprint
Word Of Mouf
Pain Is Love

Nas, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Ja-Rule all gave the public 4 great albums. So it's not fair to say 2001 wasn't a satisfying year of music for hip hop fans.

2001 is a year that's truly slept on for me in hip hop. Sure, Stillmatic and The Blueprint are classics, and I love Word of Mouf, but there were a ton of great projects that I took a liking to. Early on in the year, I was at school bumping three albums during the winter-spring time: Trick Daddy's Thugs Are Us, Project Pat's Mista Don't Play, and 2Pac's Until The End Of Time. Those three albums were consistently in my CD Walkman and in regular rotation. I loved listening to these albums and each brought a different feel to their music. That was my first trio of albums I played regularly in the first quarter of the year. It would become a regular occurrence during 2001 that I would pick a trio of albums and listen to those faithfully.

Admittedly, during school in the early summer time, the three albums I played the most were St Lunatics, Turk, and Beanie Sigel. I know, a strange trio to listen to, but I really enjoyed their respective albums. Beans released "The Reason", which was a great album and has some classic tracks on it. Beans was always one of my favorites and this album proved why he was. Turk released the slightly disappointing "Young N Thuggin", which I still enjoyed at the time because I was a faithful Cash Money fanatic. However, on repeat listens, the album doesn't hold up well. The same could be said for St. Lunatics and their "Free City" album, but at the time, I really enjoyed the product that was being put out. The rest of the year would be interesting for me in regards to the trio of albums I would play.

DMX put out a good album in The Great Depression, Juvenile had Project English drop, Ja Rule put out Pain Is Love (was never a fan, but still), Busta Rhymes released Genesis, Jada released Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, Fabolous released his debut, hell Run DMC even released an album in 2001. The year was stacked. For me, in the late summer-early Fall, the three albums I turned to were quite simple: Jay-Z's The Blueprint, Jadakiss's Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, and DMX's The Great Depression. These albums were my go to and while I still enjoyed Fabolous and his album, it wasn't in regular rotation for me. There were plenty of albums during the year that just never made it to regular rotation even though I enjoyed them, like Missy's album, Masta Ace, Foxy Brown, Mobb Deep, Busta, Eve, Redman, D-12 (I liked some of this), the P. Diddy and Family album, and Pastor Troy. I was not a big fan of Wu Tang and their Iron Flag album, and while Ghostface put out a dope project with Bulletproof Wallets, it still wasn't a big listen for me.

As the year would wind down, I kept my final trio of albums in rotation: Stillmatic by Nas, Word of Mouf by Ludacris and Tarantula by Mystikal. Now to be fair, I would switch out the Mystikal album for the Outkast greatest hits collection, just because the Outkast collection had three new songs that I thought were amazing. However, Mystikal disappointed with Tarantula, but I still enjoyed hearing him and Juvenile on a record together, as well as Butch Cassidy kill the hook on the title track. I wrote an article on Word on Mouf and how dope it was already, so I won't elaborate, but man was it fire at the time!! It's still my favorite Luda album hands down. Stillmatic is a classic. Lyrically flawless, full of classic tracks and just a revitalized Nas, Stillmatic is my pick for the best album of 2001. The Blueprint is a close runner up, but Stillmatic is just lyrically superior.

My memory of hip hop in 2001 is very vivid and some of the most fun listening I've had, as well as diverse listening I've done in a year. What are your memories of the year? Share with us below in the comments.



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