As we kiss goodbye to the first decade of this century, we’ll be looking back at some of the best hip hop albums from 2000 onwards. Over the next month, we’ll span some 30 albums with words, tracks and videos to mark some great music.
We start today with a few gems from 2000.
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (January 2000)
Fresh out the pen, Ghostface dropped this absolute gem in the first month of the decade. Whatever happened during his trial and time locked up must have had quite an effect on him, as he stepped into the 21st century with a flow that was on a completely different level of conciousness to 1996’s Ironman. He marks out his intentions unequivocally from the get-go.
Nutmeg is full of crazy metaphors, layers of double-layered meaning and a flow that is a million miles away from comprehensible prose. This is poetry, make no mistake about it, and it’s delivered at a level of intensity that makes an already hype Ghostface seem positively relaxed on Ironman. What remains constant from the 90s, though, is that wonderful, rich production that owes so much to the beauty of 60s and 70s soul.
The further you venture into the album, the more you hear portents for the future. He plays with the part-singing-part-rapping style that forms such a strong part of later albums on Ghost Deini. The thread of his own, very unique, nostalgic raps that started with All That I Got Is You shows up on Child’s Play – a theme that continued throughout the decade. And, of course, on the Clyde Smith skit is the infamous 50 Cent diss – a beef now definitively squashed.
When we sat down to listen to Supreme Clientele on those cold winter nights of 2000, how many of us knew just how complete a picture of the next ten years of hip-hop Ghostface had made?
Dilated Peoples – The Platform (May 2000)
Whilst east-coast artists like Company Flow pushed a dark, angry sound, a growing movement on the west-coast favoured concious raps and a lighter sound. Carried on a wave driven by Jurassic 5, and with plenty of momentum of his own as a hugely successful DJ, Babu was at the heart of Dilated Peoples and their strongest work – The Platform.
The Alchemist joins Evidence on the boards, delivering a classic boom-bap sound infused with rare soul samples previously popularised by UK DJ David Holmes. On the raps, Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience spat technical battle rhymes that brought back the glory days of the late 80s.
Closely affiliated with tha Alkaholiks, their influences come through loud and clear as the album plays through. By the time you get to Ear Drums Pop, you’ll hear a guest rap from Everlast that fuelled a bitter beef with Eminem.
The Platform is one of those rare things in hip-hop, an album that slowly grows on you. It’s also an album that grows stronger towards the end. If you’re willing to invest some time in it, you’ll be rewarded with discovering one fantastic record.
Work the Angles
Ear Drums Pop
Deltron – Deltron 3030 (May 2000)
“It’s the year 3030. And, here at the corporate institutional bank of time, we find ourselves reflecting. Finding out, that in fact, we came back. We were always coming back.”
And so Damon Albarn’s croaky estuary-English, glottle-stops and all, summarises this album on the opening skit.
Deltron 3030 is a wonderfully layered piece of dramatic irony, as Deltron Zero, our storytelling rapper from the year 3030 reflects back on what is our present and future, all accompanied by a sonic backdrop akin to a 1970s dystopian science fiction film. Luckily, Deltron 3030 is also a peerless hip-hop joint with instant appeal.
Dan the Automator had already flexed his skills on the mind-blowing Dr. Octagonecologyst and the Handsome Boy Modelling School concept album. Unlike Handsome Boy Modelling School, however, Deltron 3030 is tightly focussed. Lyrics stay on-theme, skits are short and relevant and production is consistently futuristic and claustrophobic. He also made the smart decision to use indie-rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien – then at the peak of his powers.
This futuristic, space-rap album touches on some very contemporary fears. Virus is the focus for a reflection on the armageddon-that-never-was, the Y2K bug. Upgrade meditates on the constant pressure for self-improvement. Madness discusses stifling social conformity.
Most importantly, it’s all done to a soundtrack full of unforgettable beats created by a master of his craft. Make no mistake, this is as fine as any Dan The Automator work.
OutKast – Stankonia (October 2000)
OutKast’s previous album was light years away from this. Granted, Aquemini featured similar themes – political dissidence, strong influences from George Clinton era funk and Prince-esque sexuality – but this was an album that sounded like it truly belonged in the 21st century.
Opening with a chiming, computerised voice and a savaging of American society, it was quickly apparent that this was an album that would be huge. Somehow retaining OutKast’s off-kilter sense of humour, anarchic dirty south roots and dreamy funk tendencies whilst sounding slick, Stankonia was the album that made superstars of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. This was their MTV album.
You’d barely got over the effortless braggadocio of So Fresh, So Clean when you were listening to what would become one of the biggest hits of 2000 – Andre 3000’s ode to his ex-girlfriend Erykah Badu. Every psychedelic-influenced track was perfectly balanced by a thugged-out joint. For every I’ll Call Before I Come, there was a Snappin’ & Trappin – all interspersed with off-the-wall skits like Kim & Cookie.
There can be little argument that B.O.B. is the zenith of Stankonia. Released just weeks before George W Bush was controversially elected President, Bombs Over Baghdad is eerily prescient when looked back on. As a song, it’s also an unstoppable dancefloor classic, proving that OutKast knew how to rock a party and rock your synapses in 2000.
(Sorry – embedding disabled by YouTube)
To be continued…
Words by MF Hart.