The List: Top 150 People, Places And Things In Hip-Hop During The XXL Era

nelly
> Nelly (pg. 62)

There was a time when Nelly was the hottest rapper out. The St. Louis-native signed to Universal Records then dropped his debut album, Country Grammar, in 2000 and went nine-times platinum. The LP featured four smash hit singles including “Country Grammar (Hot Shit),” “Batter Up,” “E.I.” and “Ride Wit Me.” Two years later the lady-friendly rhymeslinger dropped Nellyville, which sold six million copie.  Another two years later, Nelly Nell accomplished an even bigger feat with the release of his third album, Sweat/Suit. The effort, which came out as two separate discs, sold four million copies collectively. Sure, the second leg of his career faltered a bit, but Nelly made his impact bringing fun hip-hop to heads across the land.

> Funkmaster Flex (pg. 62)
> Kanye West (pg. 64)
> Big Pun (pg. 64)
> Lil Wayne (pg. 66)
> Nas (pg. 66)
> The Diplomats (pg. 66)
> Lil Kim (pg. 66)
> Missy Elliott (pg. 67)
> Mary J. Blige (pg. 68)
> Tupac (pg. 69)

The late great 2Pac was known for being a combination of pensive and reckless. Both of those attributes individually inspired generations of rappers after him. “He influenced a lot of artists posthumously,” radio/TV host Sway Calloway explains. “After his death and even before his death, the way he rapped—his diction and the emphasis he placed on words—the different ways that he delivered his lyrics, that you heard a lot in Master P and a lot of No Limit artists. Just guys who came from a street background—’Pac was a muse for them.” 2Pac allowed hip-hop to speak up by any means necessary. He defended himself, even if he was wrong. That boldness is still felt today through other artists after him, along with his own extensive posthumous catalog. Since his death in 1996 ’Pac’s estate has released seven albums that include unreleased 2Pac material that have gone 16-times platinum collectively. There have also been two live albums, five compilations and two remix LPs plus one soundtrack. In death he has been able to influence new generations of MCs with this music and his untimely passing that has become a cautionary tale about beef taken to the extreme. “The things he would say could lead to a riot if he wanted them to,” Sway continues. “I think 2Pac taught a lot of artists how to take their anger and their emotions and articulate them.”

> R. Kelly (pg. 69)
> DJ Drama & Gangsta Grillz (pg. 70)
> Biggie (pg. 72)
> Timbaland (pg. 72)
> Drake (pg. 72)
> Swizz Beatz (pg. 72)
> ?uestlove (pg. 74)
> Mos Def (pg. 74)
> Foxy Brown (pg. 76)
> OutKast (pg. 76)
> T.I. (pg. 76)
> Nicki Minaj (pg. 78)
> Sean “Diddy” Combs (pg. 81)
> Young Jeezy (pg. 81)
> Common (pg. 81)

Labels
> Interscope Records (pg. 56)
> Def Jam Recordings (pg. 57)
> Sony/Columbia/BMG (pg. 59)
> End Of Rawkus Records (pg. 60)

When Rawkus Records shut its doors in 2007, it signified more than just another indie label going belly up. It was the end of an era and a movement that Rawkus helped to nurture and promote since it began in 1996. The NYC-based Rawkus was a hip HQ for (mostly) East Coast rappers that included Hi-Tek, Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, both solo and as the group Black Star. Artists frequently collaborated with each other, and while the overall vibe was noncommercial, smart and progressive, Rawkus was never soft.

> Ruff Ryders (pg. 61)
> Atlantic Records (pg. 62)
> Universal Music Group (pg. 64)
> Cash Money Records (pg. 64)
> No Limit (pg. 69)
> Epic (pg. 70)
> Warner Music Group (pg. 80)
> Koch Records (pg. 80)
> EMI/Priority/Capitol (pg. 81)
> Murder Inc. (pg. 81)