Eminem_Gary Friedman

The 125 Best Rap Singles of 2000

In the first year of the 21st century, hip-hop mutated in unusual ways, and a canyon grew between the haves and the have-nots.
|

At the start of the 21st century, hip-hop in the U.S. seemed hopelessly fractured between the underground and the overground. One side claimed itself as a protector of the culture, with sampled beats that hearkened to its old-school origins and witty lyricism inspired by the art of MC battling. Meanwhile, the mainstream sought out the heat of the nightclubs — Manhattan’s famed The Tunnel became a touchstone — with heavily promoted singles that could cross over from urban radio ubiquity to MTV and the pop charts.

But as the year 2000 wore on, this narrative defined by what spoken-word artist, musician and satirist Mike Ladd called a war between the salt-of-the-Earth “Infesticons” and the corporatist “Majesticons” proved more complicated than anticipated.

Since ascending to prominence in 1997 with memorable 12-inches by Mos Def, Reflection Eternal, Company Flow, and others, Rawkus Records became synonymous with “independent rap,” a term that had less to do with a record distributed outside the major-label system than whether it espoused traditional hip-hop values. Then came “Oh No,” a collaboration between Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch…and L.A. crooner Nate Dogg. Backpackers howled in protest as Mos bragged about the ascending price of his “rookie card,” a contradiction from just a year earlier when he dismissed pop-rap as the province of “modern-day Sambos.”

Mos Def and the Rawkus camp represented a wave of indie stars anxious to breach hip-hop’s velvet rope; accusations of betrayal be damned. Reflection Eternal tried to crack the clubs with “Move Somethin’,” and De La Soul attempted the same with “Oooh.” Slum Village confused audiences with Jay Dee’s soulful, amniotic beats and the trio’s hard-bitten, Do or Die-styled pimp raps. Common turned to Jay Dee for production on Like Water for Chocolate, resulting in tracks both romantic, like “The Light,” and decidedly raunchy and homophobic, like “Thelonious.”

Eventually, “Oh No” felt more like a canny shift than an act of selling out. After a peak in interest in 1999, journalists at mainstream mags like The Source, XXL, Vibe, and Rap Pages began ignoring the underground. They were more fascinated by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ fraught attempts to develop Bad Boy newcomers like Black Rob and Shyne, and The Neptunes’s divisive new “rock” project, N*E*R*D. Quirky variants like Antipop Consortium, the Anticon collective, and Five Deez producer Fat Jon only drew coverage in “rave” mags like URB. Hilariously and despite their major-label deals, backpacker groups like Dilated Peoples and Jurassic 5 got more attention from alternative-rock radio than mixtape jocks. Meanwhile, cult acts like Quasimoto, the nom de plume for Oxnard producer Madlib; New York rapper/producer MF DOOM, and L.A. duo People Under the Stairs nurtured devoted followings that soon paid dividends.

The question of whether to keep it street, pop, lyrical, or somewhere in between proved a strategy that only men could explore. Meanwhile, women were expected to be physically appealing to the opposite sex. Da Brat stripped down to her underwear and rapped about “niggas I like” on “That’s What I’m Looking For.” It was clearly a sham — the decidedly butch Chicago rapper came out as a lesbian years later — but the industry seemed happy to indulge in the fantasy anyway. Technically, there wasn’t anything wrong with dirty raps: after emerging as a protégé of onetime boyfriend Trick Daddy, Trina won over skeptics with her sharp-tongued cadence and aggressive flow on “Da Baddest Bitch.” Yet both then and now, sexing up was the only option if women wanted to reach a mass audience. Those who didn’t comply, like Deadly Venoms and Rah Digga, saw their careers languish, no matter how often they reassured us that they were strictly dickly.

Looming in the distance was the rise of peer-to-peer technologies like Napster, which allowed users to share unlicensed digital files like MP3s, WAVs, and FLACs with relative ease. A few noisy skeptics like Dr. Dre viewed this as a mortal threat, but it was hard to take the superstar producer seriously when he sold over five million copies of his second solo album, 1999’s 2001, while his protégé Eminem conquered the planet. The media rosily claimed that Napster served as free advertising, a “long tail” that would lead fans to buy more CDs instead of changing their consumption behavior. Unfortunately, these would-be futurists proved horribly wrong. Over the ensuing decade, download culture slowly eroded the music industry’s profit model until it neared collapse.

One unexpected benefit of the internet apocalypse is that rap fans became increasingly aware of the genre’s regional varieties, whether it was crunk producers like Atlanta’s Lil Jon or rappers like Houston’s Lil Flip. Adventurous listeners didn’t have to wait anymore for ambitious Southern labels like Cash Money and No Limit to earn a major distribution deal before they could find its product in stores. Now, they could learn about local heroes like Pastor Troy through message boards and newsgroups, and sample a few MP3s with Limewire.

As hip-hop mutated in unusual ways, a canyon grew between the haves and the have-nots. In The Source, Jay-Z was overheard making fun of Bronx pioneers bitter over his success. None of those OGs could have imagined that, nearly three decades after impoverished youth developed the genre in neighborhood parks, a rapper with street credibility could launch a global arena tour, sell millions of records, and titillate fanboys with “Big Pimpin,” an insanely popular music video where Damon Dash doused buxom models with expensive champagne. With Jay’s Roc-A-Fella, DMX’s Ruff Ryders, Dre’s Aftermath and Outkast’s Dungeon Family, rap was all clicked up and ready for big business. But it seemed hard to tell whether these platinum crews were creating a new major league, or just the same old meat market.


The 125 Best Rap Songs of 2000

  • Afu-Ra, “Equality” (D&D Records)
  • Akrobatik, “Internet MC’s” (Eastern Conference Records / Rawkus)
  • Ali Vegas, “Theme of New York” (Track Masters / Columbia)
  • Anti Pop Consortium feat. Pharoahe Monch & L.I.F.E., “What Am I?” (75 Ark)
  • Atmosphere, Ford Two: “The Woman with the Tattooed Hands” / “Nothing But Sunshine” (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  • Bahamadia, “Commonwealth (Cheap Chicks)” (B-Girl Records / Good Vibe Recordings / Atomic Pop.com)
  • Beanie Sigel, “The Truth” (Roc-A-Fella Records)
  • Big L, “Flamboyant” (Rawkus)
  • Big Moe, “City of Syrup” (Wreckshop Records)
  • Big Pun feat. Donnell Jones, “It’s So Hard” (Loud Records)

  • Big Pun feat. Tony Sunshine, “100%” (Loud Records)
  • Big Tymers, “Get Your Roll On” (Cash Money Records / Universal Records)
  • Big Tymers feat. Juvenile, Lac & Lil Wayne, “1 Stunna” (Cash Money Records / Universal Records)
  • Black Rob, “Whoa!” (Bad Boy Entertainment)
  • Black Thought, “Hardware” (MCA Records)
  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Resurrection (Paper, Paper)” (Ruthless Records)
  • Buck 65, “The Centaur” (Anticon)
  • Bumpy Knuckles, “Bumpy Knuckles, Baby” (KJAC Music and Entertainment / Landspeed Records)
  • C-Murder feat. Snoop Dogg & Magic, “Down for My N’s” (TRU Records / No Limit Records / Priority Records)
  • Cage, “Suicidal Failure” (Eastern Conference Records / Rawkus)

  • Cali Agents, “The Good Life” (Ground Control Records)
  • Capone -N- Noreaga / Capone -N- Noreaga feat. Foxy Brown, “Phone Time” / “Bang Bang” (Tommy Boy)
  • Cash Money Millionaires, “Project Chick” (Cash Money Records / Universal Records)
  • cLOUDDEAD, “Apt. A” (Mush)
  • Cocoa Brovaz, “Super Brooklyn” (Duck Down)
  • Common, “The Light” (MCA Records)
  • Company Flow / Cannibal Ox, “DPA (As Seen on T.V.)” / “Iron Galaxy” (Def Jux)
  • Cypress Hill, “(Rap) Superstar” (Ruffhouse Records / Columbia)
  • Da Brat, “That’s What I’m Looking For” (So So Def Recordings)
  • De La Soul feat. Redman, “Oooh.” (Tommy Boy)

  • De La Soul feat. Chaka Khan, “All Good?” (Tommy Boy)
  • Def Squad feat. Erick Onasis, DJ Quik & Xzibit, “Focus” (DreamWorks)
  • Deltron 3030, “Virus” (75 Ark)
  • Dilated Peoples, “The Platform” (Capitol Records)
  • DJ Quik, “Pitch in Ona Party” (Arista 2001)
  • DJ Shadow, “Dark Days” (MCA Records)
  • DJ Vadim feat. Sarah Jones, “Your Revolution” (Ninja Tune)
  • DMX, “Party Up (Up in Here)” (Def Jam Recordings)
  • Don Cisco feat. Roscoe, “Oh Boy” (Thump Street Records)
  • Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, “The Next Episode” (Aftermath Entertainment)

  • Edan feat. Mr. Lif, “Rapperfection” (Sun Moon Records)
  • Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady” (Web Entertainment / Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope)
  • Eminem, “The Way I Am” (Web Entertainment / Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope)
  • Eminem, “Stan” (Web Entertainment / Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope)
  • Eminem feat. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit & Nate Dogg, “Bitch Please II” (Web Entertainment / Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope)
  • Fatlip, “What’s Up Fatlip?” (Delicious Vinyl)
  • Five Deez, “Dope” / “B.E.A.T.” (Dimensia Recordings)
  • 504 Boyz, “Wobble Wobble” (No Limit Records)
  • Ghostface Killah, “Cherchez La Ghost” (Razor Sharp Records / Epic)
  • Hot Boys feat. Big Tymers, “I Need a Hot Girl” (Cash Money Records / Universal Records)

  • Ice Cube feat. Dr. Dre & MC Ren, “Hello” (Lench Mob Records / Priority Records)
  • The Infesticons, “Hero Theme” (Big Dada Recordings)
  • Ja Rule feat. Lil Mo & Vita, “Put It on Me” (Def Jam Recordings)
  • Jay-Z feat. UGK, “Big Pimpin’” (Roc-A-Fella Records)
  • Jay-Z, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It to Me)” (Roc-A-Fella Records)
  • Jay-Z feat. Beanie Sigel & Memphis Bleek, “Change the Game” (Roc-A-Fella Records)
  • J.U.I.C.E., “Sincerely” (Ground Control Records)
  • Jurassic 5, “Quality Control” (Rawkus / Interscope Records)
  • J-Zone, A Bottle of Whup Ass EP: “No Consequences” (Old Maid Entertainment)
  • Katey Red, “Wham, Ba-La-Bam” (Take ‘Fo Records)

  • Kid Koala, “Fender Bender” (Ninja Tune) (video)
  • Killah Priest feat. Ras Kass, “Whut Part of the Game?” (MCA Records)
  • Kool G Rap feat. RZA, “Cakes” (Razor Sharp Records / Epic / Sony Music Soundtrax)
  • Kool Keith, “I Don’t Believe You” (Funky Ass Records / Threshold Recordings)
  • Kurupt feat. Daz Dillinger, “Ride Wit Us” (Antra Records / Artemis Records)
  • L.A. Symphony feat. Fatlip, “What You Say?” (Squint Entertainment)
  • Lil’ Bow Wow feat. Xscape, “Bounce With Me” (So So Def Recordings)
  • Lil’ Flip, “I Can Do Dat” (Sucka Free Records)
  • Lil’ Kim, “Suck My Dick” (Queen Bee Records / Undeas Recording / Atlantic)
  • Lil’ Kim feat. Sisqo, “How Many Licks?” (Queen Bee Records / Undeas Recording / Atlantic)

  • Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz, “Put Yo Hood Up” (BME Recordings)
  • Lil’ Wayne, “Get Off the Corner” (Cash Money Records / Universal Records)
  • Lord Sear, “Ya Mouth Stink” (PDSE / Indie 5000)
  • The Lox feat. Timbaland & Eve, “Ryde or Die, Bitch” (Ruff Ryders / Interscope Records)
  • Ludacris feat. Shawna, “What’s Your Fantasy” (Disturbing the Peace / Def Jam South)
  • Ludacris, “Southern Hospitality” (Disturbing the Peace / Def Jam South)
  • Mad Skillz, “Ghost Writer” (Eastern Conference Records / Rawkus)
  • Mark B & Blade, “Ya Don’t See the Signs” (Wordplay)
  • Memphis Bleek, “My Mind Right” (Roc-A-Fella Records)
  • MF Doom & MF Grimm, MF: “No Snakes Alive” (Brick / Landspeed Records)

  • MF Grimm, “Scars and Memories” (Fondle ‘Em)
  • Micranots, “Pitch Black Ark” / “Exodus” (Subverse Music)
  • Mr. Lif, “Front on This” (Ozone Music)
  • M.O.P., “Ante Up (Robbing-Hoodz Theory)” (Loud Records)
  • Mos Def, “Umi Says” (Rawkus)
  • Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch & Nate Dogg, “Oh No” (Rawkus)
  • Mystikal, “Shake Ya Ass” (Jive)
  • Mystikal feat. Nivea, “Danger (Been So Long)” (Jive)
  • Nelly, “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)” (Fo’ Reel Entertainment / Universal Records)
  • N*E*R*D, “Lapdance” (Virgin)

  • Nobody feat. Medusa, “Fiend and the Fix” (Ubiquity)
  • Nonphixion, “Black Helicopters” (Uncle Howie Records / Matador)
  • OutKast, “B.O.B.” (LaFace Records)
  • Outkast, “Ms. Jackson” (LaFace Records)
  • OutKast, “So Fresh, So Clean” (LaFace Records)
  • Peaches, Peaches: “Fuck the Pain Away” (Teenage USA Recordings)
  • People Under the Stairs, “Youth Explosion” (PUTS Records / Om Records)
  • Pete Rock feat. C.L. Smooth, “Back on Da Block” (Handcuts Records)
  • Phife Dawg, “Flawless” (Superrappin / Groove Attack)
  • Prefuse73, Estrocaro EP: “Point to B” (Warp)

  • Prodigy, “Keep It Thoro” (Loud Records)
  • Project Pat, “Chickenhead” (Hypnotize Minds / Loud Records)
  • Push Button Objects with Del the Funky Homosapien, Mr. Lif & DJ Craze, “360º” (Chocolate Industries)
  • Quasimoto, “Come on Feet” (Stones Throw)
  • Rage Against the Machine, “Renegades of Funk” (Epic)
  • Rah Digga, “Break Fool” (Elektra)
  • Royce Da 5’9”, “Boom” (Game)
  • Ruff Ryders feat. Young Wun, Snoop Dogg, Scarface & Jadakiss, “WW III” (Ruff Ryders / Interscope Records)
  • Shade Sheist feat. Nate Dogg & Kurupt, “Where I Wanna Be” (Baby Ree Records / London Records / Sire Records)
  • Shyne feat. Barrington Levy, “Bad Boyz” (Bad Boy Entertainment)

  • Slimm Calhoun feat. André 3000, “It’s OK” (EastWest)
  • Slum Village, “Fall in Love” (Barak Entertainment / Good Vibe Recordings)
  • Slum Village, “Raise It Up” / “Players” (Barak Entertainment / Good Vibe Recordings / Atomic Pop.com)
  • Snoop Dogg Presents Tha Eastsidaz feat. Jayo Felony & Blaqthoven, “Got Beef” (Dogghouse Records / TVT Records)
  • SPM, “You Know My Name” (Dope House Records)
  • Three 6 Mafia feat. UGK, “Sippin’ on Da Syrup” (Hypnotize Minds / Loud Records)
  • Trick Daddy feat. Deuce Poppito of 24 Karatz, Trina & Co of Tre +6, “Shut Up” (Slip-N-Slide Records / Atlantic)
  • Trina, “Da Baddest Bitch” (Slip-N-Slide Records / Atlantic)
  • Trina feat. Trick Daddy, “Pull Over” (Slip-N-Slide Records / Atlantic)
  • Various, Hip-Hop for Respect: “A Tree Never Grown” (Rawkus)

  • Wu-Tang Clan, “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)” (Loud Records)
  • Xzibit, “X” (Loud Records / Columbia)
  • Ying Yang Twins, “Whistle While You Twurk” (Collipark Records)
  • Youngbloodz feat. Jim Crow & Big Boi of Outkast, “85” (Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment)
  • Zion I, “Revolution (B-Boy Anthem)” (Ground Control Records)

Eminem photo in featured section by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images.
Slum Village photo by Waajeed.
Common photo courtesy of Dazed & Confused.
Screencap of Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch & Nate Dogg taken from “Oh No” video.
Ruff Ryders photo by Nitin Vadukul. Published in The Source, February 2000.
Vinyl and CD artwork taken from Discogs.

RELATED TAGS

The 60 Best Rap Singles of 1984

Hip-hop in 1984 brought Fresh Fest superstars Run-DMC and Whodini, Melle Mel’s breakout year, and the beginning of the Roxanne wars.

Notable Hip-Hop Albums of 2023

In 2023, hip-hop fans found themselves wondering whether small leaps in evolution can be as satisfying as the giant steps of the past.