Hiphop Masterpieces From the 2000s
Yeah, of course Blueprint is my number one hiphop album of the last ten years. It's not like it was a very hard choice (and it's not like a few of you didn't guess it). I already wrote about why I love the album so much here.
As we near the top of the Hiphop Masterpieces of the 2000s list, a common thread begins to emerge: business. How to succeed in a cutthroat business environment has always been, to a surprising and largely unrecognized degree, one of hiphop's core lyrical themes. Inspired by films like The Godfather and Goodfellas, following the early lead of EMPD and Q-Tip (who advised that "record company people are shady"), rappers have aligned their egos with their management skills, taking pride in their abilities to compete and win in the rap game (which, Nas famously pointed out, has a lot in common with the crack game). Like the novels of Horatio Alger, modern hiphop offers inspirational stories about working hard, focusing on goals, avoiding traps and pitfalls, coming out on top.
Many music critics placed Kanye West's first album College Dropout near the top of their best-of-the-decade lists. That was an excellent record, featuring his lyrical breakthrough "Through The Wire", but for the LitKicks Best Five of the 2000s I'm going with Ye's third album Graduation, the conclusion of his college trilogy.
Now Peter Piper picked peppers, and Run rocked rhymes
I'm 50 Cent, I write a little bit but I pop nines ...
Oh, he was so authentic. 50 Cent feels like a cartoon character lately, because his last three albums were weak and nobody wants to hear over and over again how much money he has, how big his house is, how far he's removed himself from the street. Get Rich or Die Tryin' was 50's first album. He still had everything to prove when he recorded it, and the story he told was as real and as common as yesterday's newspaper.
(Here's a list for the ages. The first decade of our new millennium will be remembered for many things, but during these years there has been no creative form more alive, more original, and more attuned to a unique sense of craft than hiphop. Born in the late 70s, exploding with raw talent in the mid-90s, classic hiphop (like jazz and blues, an American original) reached a new level of artistic maturity and expression in the 2000s. Some may not be aware of the value of 2000s-era hiphop, but genius must never be ignored, so Literary Kicks is honoring the past decade with a countdown of its five greatest hiphop album masterpieces. We'll profile one album a week, for five weeks, beginning here with #5. -- Levi)