Rap fans who followed the genre in 2003 will remember three key events, including the massive success of 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. In 2004, the latter won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year — damnably, the last hip-hop artist to do so to date.
The year 2003 also brought announcements for albums that were never released and/or were re-titled before appearing in stores.
In January 2003, The Source published an advertisement for Ras Kass’ Goldyn Chyld. The Carson, CA rapper’s third album underwent title and track changes after Priority Records mailed promo copies of Van Gogh in 2001. (I reviewed Van Gogh for The Source that year.) Priority/Capitol then released a teaser single, the DJ Premier-produced “Goldyn Chyld” before shelving Ras Kass’ album permanently. The troubled rapper’s ornery reputation as well as a DUI arrest and conviction didn’t help matters. Goldyn Chyld has been widely bootlegged and a version of it appears on streaming services.
January 2003 rap mags featured a campaign for DMX’s purported fifth album, It’s Not a Game. (Per publishing custom, issues dated January 2003 issues appeared on newsstands the previous month.) It was retitled Grand Champ before Def Jam released it on September 16, 2003. DMX remains the only artist to top the Billboard charts with his first five albums.
The June 2003 issue of XXL brought an ad for Caddillac Tah’s POV City Hustler. Set for a June 3 release after years of delays, the album should have brought welcome attention to a Queens rapper who was overshadowed by Murder Inc. stars like Ashanti, Vita, and Charli Baltimore — all who starred on the 2002 hit “Down 4 U.” But June 3 came and went, and POV City Hustler has yet to appear in any form.
Not much can be found online about Hoodrich Records, a Chicago label formed by Amando “Doe” Sanders and Kevin “KB” Brown. Much like Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory of BMF and too many others to mention, Sanders apparently used his street notoriety to try and launch a music empire. But despite a July 2003 XXL ad for new projects from Texas rappers like onetime Rap-a-Lot artist DMG and Big Twinz, there’s little evidence the label released anything besides a few promos. Sanders was murdered in 2021.
A July 2003 Rawkus ad in XXL promoted Innervision, Pharoahe Monch’s long-awaited follow-up to his 1999 solo debut, Internal Affairs. “Look out for the new single, ‘Agent Orange,’” reads the tagline. Thanks to production from rising L.A. team Sa-Ra Creative Partners, “Agent Orange” earned some industry buzz. But Rawkus never released Innervision. It took eight years and a switch to SRC/Universal before Pharoahe Monch issued his second album, Desire, in 2007.
The Rawkus ad also spotlights Novel, a rapper/singer with familial ties to soul greats — his grandfather is Solomon Burke, and his father is Motown executive William “Mickey” Stevenson. A tagline claimed, “The highly-anticipated debut album, The Word, coming soon. The single, ‘Peach,’ out now.” “Peach” came out, but The Word did not, although Rawkus mailed promo samplers of the latter.
Here’s another Novel ad from XXL’s October 2003 issue, courtesy of the L.A. street brand Drunknmunky, that claimed that The Word would drop in 2004. After leaving Rawkus/MCA, Novel found his industry footing as a songwriter for Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis, Joss Stone, and others.
2003 not only belonged to 50 Cent and Outkast, but it was also the year of crunk, thanks to Lil Jon. This splashy TVT ad from The Source’s August 2003 issue salutes the magazine’s 15th anniversary as well as the King of Crunk’s dominance. It promises three albums that never came out: Snoop Dogg affiliates Tha Eastsidaz’s Gang Bang Music, Atlanta rapper Chyna Whyte’s Bad Blood, and Atlanta singer Oobie’s Oobaybi.
Finally, this ad from XXL’s September 2003 issue finds De La Soul promoting the Lifted Research Group (LRG) brand as well as AOI III, the final installment in their controversial Art Official Intelligence trilogy. But after leaving Tommy Boy Records, De La Soul canceled AOI III. In 2004, they released The Grind Date on Sanctuary Records.
Ras Kass featured photo by Piotr Sikora. Published in XXL, June 2003.