The 2000s was a transformative era for rap and hip-hop as the genre continued to expand and evolve its sound, style, and themes. As old-school MCs began to pass the torch to the next generation, the landscape of rap music underwent significant changes. This dynamic era saw the rise of several artists who would redefine the game, bringing their diverse talents and ingenuity to the forefront.
In this article, we’ll highlight the top 10 best rappers of the 2000s who managed to shape the genre’s direction through their remarkable performances and iconic album releases. These influential artists proved instrumental in ushering in a new wave of hip-hop, pushing the boundaries and carving out a lasting legacy that would inspire countless future artists.
From lyrical geniuses to masterful storytellers and innovative producers, these rappers left an indelible mark on the genre’s evolution and became household names worldwide. Their contributions over the years have solidified their positions as some of the most influential voices in modern hip-hop history.
Defining the 2000s Hip-Hop Scene
The transition from 90s Hip-Hop
The 2000s brought a noticeable shift in the hip-hop landscape as the raw and gritty sounds of the 90s started to give way to a more polished and refined sound. With key elements such as storytelling, wordplay, and lyricism still relevant, the 2000s saw an emergence of new artists who combined traditional hip-hop techniques with more melodic hooks and beats, bringing variety to the genre.
Influence of Pop and Mainstream
The 2000s rap scene was heavily influenced by integrating pop and mainstream sounds, creating a more accessible and radio-friendly music style. This melding of genres attracted a broader audience to hip-hop music, as evidenced by massive hits from artists like:
- Jay-Z: His albums “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album” showcased his talents as an iconic figure in hip-hop, reaching impressive sales numbers and solidifying his legacy.
- Lil Wayne: His ever-evolving sound and delivery, combined with his witty wordplay, established him as one of the most influential and successful rappers of the 2000s.
- Nelly: His catchy, melodic hooks made him a staple in hip-hop and mainstream music during the decade.
Regional Impact: East Coast, West Coast, and South
New York continued to dominate the East Coast hip-hop scene in the 2000s, with artists like Nas and 50 Cent maintaining a solid presence in the industry. Other regions began cultivating their unique styles, with artists from Philadelphia and Atlanta gaining significant traction.
The West Coast hip-hop scene of the 2000s was characterized by a laid-back vibe, with artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre continuing to impact the genre. However, new talent emerged from the region, such as The Game, who helped keep the West Coast sound alive and thriving.
The South saw a significant rise in hip-hop influence during the 2000s, with Atlanta becoming the hub of prominent Southern hip-hop. Notable artists and groups like OutKast, Ludacris, and T.I. brought unique, catchy, and infectious sounds to the scene, showcasing the South’s versatility and creativity within the genre.
Top 10 Best 2000s Rappers
Eminem, born Marshall Mathers, is considered one of the most talented and influential rappers of the 2000s. His albums, such as “The Marshall Mathers LP” and “The Eminem Show,” received critical acclaim and achieved tremendous commercial success. Eminem’s unique style, controversial lyrics, and storytelling abilities earned him a respected position in the hip-hop industry.
Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is another prominent figure in the 2000s rap scene. He released multiple successful albums during this era, including “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album.” Jay-Z’s cultural impact, business ventures, impactful lyricism, and unique flow have undoubtedly made him a legend.
Nas, born Nasir Jones, continued to thrive in the 2000s after his successful debut in the 90s. In this decade, he released albums such as “Stillmatic” and “Hip Hop is Dead,” solidifying his relevance and reputation as a skilled emcee. Nas’ thought-provoking lyrics and storytelling skills make him a well-respected figure in the rap community.
OutKast, consisting of members Andre 3000 and Big Boi, greatly influenced the hip-hop landscape during the 2000s with their distinctive blend of Southern rap and experimentation with various musical styles. Their album, “Stankonia,” and singles such as “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya!” are still celebrated today for their creativity and impact on the genre.
5. Dr. Dre
Rap legend Dr. Dre, although already successful in the 90s, maintained his position in the music industry through the 2000s as a producer and mentor for many upcoming artists. His production expertise and his work on albums like “2001” showcased his significance in the rap community as both a rapper and a tastemaker.
6. Kanye West
Kanye West emerged as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 2000s. His early albums, such as “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration,” introduced his unique production style and conscious lyrics. As Kanye’s career progressed, he continued to redefine the genre and push boundaries through his music.
7. 50 Cent
Curtis Jackson, known as 50 Cent, instantly gained popularity with the release of his debut album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” in 2003. His delivery, combined with a perfect blend of aggressive and catchy hooks, turned him into a prominent figure in the rap world and contributed to the early success of his record label G-Unit.
8. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., rose to prominence in the 2000s due to his distinctive voice, charisma, and enthralling wordplay. With releases like “Tha Carter II” and “Tha Carter III,” Lil Wayne demonstrated his ability to create influential hits that garnered significant commercial success.
9. Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott, a multitalented artist, maintained her status as a significant force in the rap industry during the 2000s. Her unique style of mixing R&B elements, catchy hooks, and forward-thinking music videos contributed to her lasting impact. Albums like “Under Construction” and “The Cookbook” displayed her prowess as an emcee, songwriter, and producer.
Born Christopher Bridges, Ludacris emerged as a fierce rapper in the 2000s with his animated delivery and trademark humor. Albums such as “Word of Mouf” and “Chicken-n-Beer” showcased Ludacris’ skill as a lyricist and entertainer, solidifying his place in the hip-hop scene during the decade.
Nelly started the decade with a bang with his hit album “Country Grammar.” He continued to dominate the charts with several other hits and even ventured into collaborating with a country star. His ability to blend genres and maintain his unique style makes him an essential artist of the 2000s.
DMX brought an aggressive and raw sound to the hip-hop scene in the 2000s. His albums, such as “And Then There Was X,” showcased his distinctive style and memorable tracks like “Party Up (Up in Here).” DMX’s energy and passion left an undeniable impact on the hip-hop world.
The Game rose to prominence with his debut album “The Documentary,” which featured hit singles like “Hate It or Love It” and “How We Do.” He is known for his lyrical skills, storytelling abilities, and influence on the West Coast rap scene during the 2000s.
Fat Joe made a mark on the 2000s hip-hop scene with his unique flow and catchy hooks. His collaborations with influential artists such as Ashanti, Ja Rule, and Remy Ma resulted in hit songs like “What’s Luv?” and “Lean Back.” Fat Joe’s contributions to the genre should not go unrecognized.
While Snoop Dogg’s initial success came in the 90s, he continued to make an impact in the 2000s. Teaming up with Pharrell, he delivered the smash hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” which solidified his role as a force in the industry. Snoop Dogg’s laid-back style and charismatic persona made him a beloved figure in hip-hop.
Rick Ross emerged in the mid-2000s with his debut album “Port of Miami” and the hit single “Hustlin’.” His signature gruff voice and tales of the drug trade made him an influential figure in hip-hop during that decade. Ross proved his staying power in the industry with multiple successful albums and collaborations.
Busta Rhymes’ rapid-fire delivery and animated personality entertained fans in the 2000s. He released several noteworthy albums such as “The Big Bang” and “Back on My B.S.,” which featured hit tracks like “Touch It” and “Arab Money.” Busta Rhymes’ dynamic presence and innovative music videos helped define the 2000s hip-hop landscape.
Impact of 2000s Rappers on the Music Industry
Sales and Chart Performance
The 2000s was a landmark era for hip-hop and rappers, with many artists achieving impressive sales and chart performance. Some key releases that dominated the Billboard charts were Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint,” Ludacris’ “Back for the First Time,” and Kanye West’s “The College Dropout.” These albums became highly influential, shaping the genre and selling millions of copies worldwide. For example, Ludacris’ debut album was released through Def Jam, establishing him as a noteworthy artist within the hip-hop community.
Several breakthrough albums from the 2000s cemented the genre’s status in the music industry:
- Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint”: This album has been widely regarded as a classic, containing numerous hit singles and influential tracks.
- Ludacris’ “Back for the First Time”: This album includes the famous song “Southern Hospitality” and positions Ludacris as a significant force in hip-hop.
- Kanye West’s “The College Dropout”: This innovative album shifted away from traditional hip-hop themes and showcased Kanye’s unique style and production skills.
These albums began to define the sound and style of 2000s hip-hop, paving the way for future artists and expanding the genre’s reach.
Influencing New Artists
The success and innovation of the 2000s rappers had a lasting impact on new artists emerging in the 2010s. Their trailblazing work inspired a new generation of musicians, including prominent figures such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Nicki Minaj. These artists built upon the foundations laid by 2000s hip-hop stars and further pushed the boundaries of the genre. Consequently, they have continued to achieve impressive sales and consistently dominate the charts. Overall, the 2000s rappers’ impact on the music industry is undeniable, influencing the direction and development of the genre in unforgettable ways.
Critical Aspects of 2000s Rappers
Lyricism and Flow
The 2000s rappers brought a unique blend of lyricism and flow to the hip-hop landscape. Notable figures like Andre 3000 and Ice Cube elevated their game with powerful storytelling and impactful messaging in their lyrics. Against the backdrop of their iconic predecessors like Nas’ Illmatic, they managed to carve a distinctive identity through their impressive wordplay and unconventional rhyme schemes.
In addition, many 2000s rappers also dabbled in R&B, further diversifying their portfolio and expanding their reach in the music industry. Their ability to blend rap and R&B seamlessly allowed them to explore new avenues of creativity, crossing genre boundaries and adding layers to their artistry.
The 2000s also saw a surge in innovative productions in the rap game. From embracing electronic sounds to tinkering with unusual samples, producers pushed the envelope in creating beats that set the stage for their artists’ storytelling. The fresh and experimental soundscapes crafted during this era have a lasting impact on contemporary hip-hop production.
Some noteworthy albums from the 2000s with outstanding production include:
- Stankonia by Outkast (including Andre 3000)
- The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem
- The Blueprint by Jay-Z
Collaborations and Features
Collaborations and features played a significant role in the flourishing of 2000s rappers. Teaming up with fellow artists allowed them to expand their reach, expose themselves to new audiences, and showcase their versatility. Whether joining forces with established stars or giving up-and-coming talent a platform, these collaborations often resulted in chart-topping hits and memorable moments in hip-hop history.
Some notable collaborations and features from the 2000s include:
- Ludacris’ Word of Mouf album, which had features from artists like Nate Dogg, Mystikal, and Twista
- The joint effort between DJ Unk and Andre 3000 on the hit single “Walk it Out” Remix
- The collaboration between Kanye West and 50 Cent, played a significant role in shaping the sound and style of 2000s hip-hop.
Overall, the lyrical prowess, innovative production, and willingness to collaborate propelled 2000s rappers to new heights and solidified their place in the rap game.
Legacy of 2000s Hip-Hop
Influence on Later Decades
The 2000s brought a significant shift in the hip-hop landscape as new artists, sounds, and styles took center stage. Jay-Z emerged as an era-defining figure with his best-selling albums The Blueprint and The Black Album. Hailing from Brooklyn, his innovative approach to hip-hop production and lyricism allowed him to influence future artists and the genre significantly.
T.I. also played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of 2000s hip-hop, contributing to the rise of Southern rap and laying the groundwork for future artists like the Maybach Music Group. His unique blend of streetwise lyricism and anthemic hooks resonated with audiences and became a blueprint for aspiring rappers in the following decade.
An unexpected outlier in the 2000s hip-hop scene was Gnarls Barkley, a duo consisting of CeeLo Green and producer Danger Mouse. Their genre-defying hit “Crazy” showcased the potential for hip-hop to transcend traditional boundaries, paving the way for more experimentation and fusion with other genres in the later years.
Enduring Appeal of 2000s Rappers
Not only did the 2000s introduce groundbreaking artists, but it also solidified the lasting appeal of several rappers and their work. Nelly’s debut album, Country Grammar, produced numerous chart-topping hits and became a defining album of the decade. Over time, it left an imprint on hip-hop fans and maintained its relevance thanks to its catchy hooks and universal themes.
Another influential group during the 2000s was The LOX, consisting of Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch. Hailing from Yonkers, New York, the trio’s raw lyricism and gritty street tales earned them a dedicated fan base that spans multiple generations. The LOX has remained a respected force in hip-hop by consistently delivering well-crafted verses and memorable tracks.
Overall, the legacy of the 2000s hip-hop scene is marked by the emergence of innovative artists, sounds, and styles that have left an indelible impact on the genre. This impact continues to be felt today as the groundwork laid by those artists has proven to be influential and enduring in the ever-evolving world of hip-hop.
Frequently Asked Questions
During the 2000s, some of the biggest-selling rappers include Eminem, Jay-Z, and 50 Cent. Eminem became a household name and dominated the charts with hit albums like ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and ‘The Eminem Show’. Jay-Z continued his success with multiple successful albums and numerous hits. Additionally, 50 Cent made a big impact with his debut album ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in 2003 and subsequent releases.
Top female rappers in the 2000s?
Missy Elliott, Eve, and Trina were some of the top female rappers in the 2000s. Missy Elliott remained popular throughout the decade with hits like ‘Work It’ and ‘Lose Control’. Eve had a successful run with songs like ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ and ‘Tambourine’. Trina also found her footing, with tracks like ‘Here We Go’ and ‘Pull Over’.
Best rapper in 2001?
In 2001, Jay-Z stood out as one of the most notable rappers with the release of his critically acclaimed album ‘The Blueprint’. The album solidified Jay-Z as a top artist in the hip-hop genre and featured hits like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
Hottest rapper in 2002?
Eminem was arguably the hottest rapper in 2002, with the release of his highly successful album ‘The Eminem Show.’ The album spawned hits like ‘Without Me,’ ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet,’ and ‘Sing for the Moment,’ making it one of the year’s best-selling albums.
Top three 2000s rap artists?
Some of the top rap artists of the 2000s include Jay-Z, Eminem, and Lil Wayne. Jay-Z maintained his status as a hip-hop icon, Eminem’s distinctive style and captivating storytelling led to widespread success, and Lil Wayne’s versatile flow and prolific output solidified him as one of the most influential rappers of the decade.
Notable late 2000s rappers?
Notable late 2000s rappers include Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake. Kanye West significantly impacted with albums like ‘Graduation,’ ‘808s & Heartbreak’, and ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.’ Kendrick Lamar began to gain attention with his mixtapes and debut album ‘Section.80’. Drake rose to prominence with his mixtape ‘So Far Gone’ and his debut album ‘Thank Me Later.’