DAR Hip Hop: 8 Important Def Jam Albums Of The 2000s

By @TrueGodImmortal

Once upon a time, Def Jam ruled the land. The label was a powerhouse in the 80's and 90's, but the 2000s is when the label really hit their commercial stride, with huge releases coming every year. Today, I wanted to take a look back at the Def Jam run of the 2000s and 8 of the most important albums to be released by the label during that decade. These albums aren't necessarily the biggest or the best to be released during the decade, just the most important and for good reason. What albums make the list? Read on to find out.

*Ja Rule- Rule 3:36 (2000)

-I am admittedly the furthest thing from a Ja Rule fan. However, to deny his impact on the hip hop game during this era and his impact on Def Jam would be criminal. His second solo release is his best project, and while lyrically, there is a lot of room for improvement, songwriting is the key here and Ja was a top tier songwriter during this time. With production from Irv Gotti, Lil Rob, Ty Fyffe, among many others, the album has a number of bangers and hits like "Between Me And You" with Christina Milian, "6 Feet Underground", "Put It On Me", and probably the best of them all, "I Cry" with Lil' Mo. Although this album isn't a hip hop classic, it's a huge moment in time for Ja, Def Jam, and Murder Inc, as the album would sell almost 4 million records, making him a household name. 

*Jay-Z- The Blueprint (2001)

-Of course, the sixth official album from Jigga would have to get a mention on this list, as Jay provided Def Jam with a viable release every single year. This album was special in its own way, as it was a bit of a departure from the sound of the final two Vol. albums that Jay released, and it expanded on the small pieces of soulful production that was featured on The Dynasty. Utilizing the talents of Kanye West and Just Blaze, among a few others, Jay would give the world a more mature album than he had previously released, with samples being extremely prevalent in the sound. The best tracks here to me are "Girls, Girls, Girls", "U Don't Know", and "Never Change", but the whole album is a work of art. As far as albums that made an impact during the decade, this might be my favorite on the list.

*Ludacris- Word Of Mouf (2001)

-In his prime, Luda was almost unstoppable. Representing Disturbing The Peace through the Def Jam South side of things, he was able to provide the world with animated lyrics, engaging verses, and catchy tunes every time a new release came out. There is no album in his catalog that illustrates his talent better than Word of Mouf, his greatest work. Boasting a solid production lineup of Timbaland, Organized Noize, Jazze Pha, and Swizz Beatz along with features from Twista, Jagged Edge, Sleepy Brown, Mystikal, Nate Dogg, Three 6 Mafia, and others, Luda delivers something special. Tracks like "She Said", "Growing Pains", "Freaky Thangs", and more showcased that Luda could bring it from all angles musically, and Word Of Mouf was a huge success, being certified triple platinum. 

*Kanye West- The College Dropout (2004)

-The debut of one of the most controversial figures in hip hop has to be mentioned for a few reasons. One, this album was a game changer in the genre in so many ways, making it clear that rappers didn't have to adhere to an image in order to be successful, as Kanye seemed comfortable enough to just be him on this first album (times have changed it feels like). Two, it marked the arrival of the dynamic producer/rapper who would become the most influential in a way. Aside from that, the album itself was amazing, as the self produced project brings us gems like "Last Call", "Spaceship", "Never Let Me Down", "Get Em High" and others alongside an excellent list of features that include Talib Kweli, Common, Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, Mos Def, and many more. Simply put, The College Dropout is a classic and it might be the most impactful Def Jam album of the decade.

*Young Jeezy- Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005)

-When I think of artists that captured a moment in time perfectly, Jeezy is definitely one of those rappers that fits that. In 2005, he was one of the most popular rappers in the game and his debut album started a craze that hadn't been seen before. Snowman T-Shirts, the popularity of his adlibs, his songs which were catchy, and everything in between made Jeezy an instant star when this album dropped. With Mannie Fresh, Jazze Pha, Shawty Redd, and others producing, the sounds were perfect for Jeezy and the guest appearances were top notch with Young Buck, Trick Daddy, Akon, Lloyd, Bun B, T.I., and more assisting on great tracks like "Bang", "Tear It Up", "Soul Survivor", and more. Jeezy had the south on lock in 2005 and Def Jam benefited from his success without question.

*Ghostface Killah- Fishscale (2006)

-The truth about the Wu-Tang is that only a select few of the artists can make great solo albums. We saw Meth struggle some, Deck made good albums, Raekwon of course has a classic under his belt, but without the assistance of Ghostface, his other albums fell a little short. GZA has been able to stand his own, but for me, the greatest solo artist from the Wu is Ghostface, and it's not even close. While The Pretty Toney Album kicked off his Def Jam era, the album that really signaled his arrival on the greatest label ever is Fishscale. Considered to be a classic by many, Fishscale features production from DOOM, J. Dilla, Just Blaze, Pete Rock, and others, making it perhaps the second best (or the best) produced Ghost album (Supreme Clientele would be no. 1 if so). Ghost delivers throughout the whole album, but my favorite tracks are "The Champ", "R.A.G.U.", "Whip You With A Strap", and "Clipse Of Doom". With a legendary discography, Ghostface never disappoints, and Fishscale is one of his greatest moments and easily one of the best albums from Def Jam during that decade.

*Rick Ross- Port Of Miami (2006)

-I wasn't a Rick Ross fan ever at any point of his career, but the closest I was to being that came during his initial run. His rhymes weren't anything special, but his debut album made an impact. It was the introduction of an artist who had been through years of waiting for his big shot, and with this album, he finally got there. Port of Miami isn't a classic to me, but it did make an impact and start a career that has now spawned 12 years since the release. Ross gets production from Jazze Pha, Cool and Dre, The Runners, DJ Toomp, and others for a solid sound to back his dope dealing lyricism and street tales. This is his only certified platinum album, and with hits like "Hustlin" and "Push It", along with good album tracks like "Pots And Pans", "I'm A G", and others, it's not surprising that it was a success.

*Nas- Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)

-Let me state this first: I was never a big fan of this album and Nas is the GOAT to me, but in terms of importance, this can't be denied. An album that came at a time when Nas and Jay had recently squashed their beef and marked the dawning of the Nas on Def Jam era, which has been an interesting time in his career. The freedom that Nas seemingly had on his albums with Columbia feels a little bit lost on this project, but Hip Hop Is Dead is solid all around. With production from Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, and others, the beats are hit or miss, but when they work well, like on "Still Dreaming", "Can't Forget About You", "Let There Be Light", and more, it helps the flow of the album. Guest appearances include Jay-Z, The Game, Kanye, Snoop Dogg, and will.i.am, making this a star studded guest list for Nas, and a solid welcoming party to Def Jam.



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