I’m almost afraid to publish this, since I know I’ll get all kinds of grief about it. Before you comment on what a dope I am for omitting Graduation/Fishscale/Speakerboxxx/etc., please read the title of this post again. Only independent releases were considered. But this did include street albums and mixtapes.
Another point: I debated whether to segregate out rap records, and decided to do so only because I haven’t seen too many bloggers writing decade-rap lists, so I thought this might help fill a void.
Okay, now you can tell me how little I know about rap and what a hater I am and blah blah blah. You bore me. Of all the rap albums that came out between 2000 and now, these 15 moved me the most.
THE TOP 15 INDIE HIP HOP ALBUMS OF 2000-2009
15 (tie). D.J. Cinema and D.J. Mello-The Commission (a.k.a.-B.I.G. and Jay-Z, The Album that Never Was) (2005-Mixtape) and Bobb Deep-Queensbridge (200?-DJ Swindle). These are both “blends,” but they’re the two best blend tapes I’ve ever heard. You can still get Bobb Deep for free here, and I’m sure if you dig around datpiff you’ll find The Commission, too.
14. Dangermouse and Jemini-Ghetto Pop Life (2004-Lex). Find better beats. I dare you.
13. DJ Muggs and GZA-Grandmasters (2005-Angeles). Tough and rugged, this is RZA and Muggs at their finest. And they didn’t need a major label to do it!
12. The Coup-Pick a Bigger Weapon (2006-Epitaph). A duo that is consistently challenging, raw, conscious and hilarious. The Public Enemy for 2000s underground rap.
11. Brother Ali-The Undisputed Truth (2007-Rhymesayers). It breaks my heart that this one didn’t make it into the top ten, especially since I voted it best rap album of the year in 2007, but I had to be honest and Ortiz edged Ali out. But just barely. A rare example of an intelligent, challenging rap album that also has great beats and flow.
10. Joell Ortiz-The Brick: Bodega Chronicles (2007-Koch). Big Pun lives!
9. Masta Ace-A Long Hot Summer (2004-Yosumi). Was Ace done by the end of the 1990s? No f-in’ way. He also gets my vote as one of the most important rappers of the entire decade. Just sayin’.
8. Atmosphere-Lucy Ford:The Atmosphere EPs (2001-Rhymesayers). My favorite Atmosphere release, hands down. Slug is a champ.
7. Joe Budden-Mood Muzik 2: Can It Get Any Worse? (2002-DJ On Point). Joey! It’s . . . It’s . . . It’s that on top MU-zik!
6. Lil’ Wayne-Dedication 2 (2006-DJ Drama). Not a huge fan of Weezy, but this mixtape is undeniable.
5. MF DOOM-Operation Doomsday (2008-Metal Face). Dumile is on the list twice, and both in the top 5. You got a problem with that?
4. Clipse-We It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 (2005-Mixunit). In Volume 1, Clipse released a world of anger about issues with their label, but in Volume 2 they hit a groove I’ve never heard them hit before or since. They took over great beats and made them their own. Check out “Hate It Or Love It,” “The Corner,” and “Daytona 500,” and tell me the Clipse versions aren’t as good as the originals.
3. Lupe Fiasco-Fahrenheit 1:15 Vol. 2, Revenge of the Nerds (2006-Mixtape). I’m picking this one, but really any of his pre-official-release mixtapes are great. I loved his first album, published on a major label, but his second one, “The Cool,” left me cold. Fastest burnout in hip hop history.
2. 50 Cent-Power of the Dollar (2000-Mixtape). It’s trendy to hate on Fiddy these days—and with good reason. He hasn’t done anything worth listening to in years. But the power of his first street album is undeniable. It was so good, it got Columbia records to sign him and then force him to change everything about himself that made this album so good in the first place.
1. Madvillain-Madvillainy (2004-Stones Throw). MF DOOM also got my vote for most important rapper of the decade, based on the consistent quality and groundbreaking nature of all of his official releases and collaborations. He seems never content to do the same thing twice. As for Madvillainy, even some of my rap-hating friends dig it.