My Decade In Rap, Pt. 2 [2003-2005]
Picking up from where we left off yesterday, here’s the next chapter of the past decade of music as I remember it.
Hands down, 2003 was the best year of the decade for me. Still West Coastin’, I was starting to feel a certain kind of way about missing out on some monumental happenings back East. Dipset was on Roc-A-Fella and I was hearing rumors that beef was brewing between Jay and Dame. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson had started his rise to the top of hip-hop’s food chain back in 2002, but I couldn’t feel the full effects given that I was on the Left Coast.
Add to that the fact I took myself out of the loop of mainstream happenings by hunkering down with a very exclusive playlist of albums from ’02. I only enjoyed “Wanksta” in passing, but all that changed on February 6, 2003. I purchased Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ at Rasputin Music in San Francisco and by the time I hopped off the Bart on the Oakland side, I was a changed man. I had a newfound passion for hip-hop. I was hyped! I felt like I had discovered the illest rap album ever and no one was up on it yet. The only other time I felt that was in 1995 with Big’s Ready to Die and Nas’ Illmatic in 1993.
Needless to say, GRODT was in heavy rotation, but it wouldn’t stand alone in my 6-changer CD. Jay-Z and Dame Dash had put together a nice roster of acts with the State Property guys from Philly and the addition of Harlem’s own Diplomats. In the span of a month I was listening to Freeway’s soulful debut Philadelphia Freeway and dumbing out to the Diplomats ignorant raps on Diplomatic Immunity. While I’ll admit I was slumming on my usual lyrical standards I was really feeling Juelz Santana’s debut From Me To U. The Dip’s off the wall unapologetic approach was only keeping in step with what them crazy dudes down South were doing.
Lil Jon’s 808 heavy tunes kept the party crunk, Three 6 Mafia had me feeling like a pimp, and Ludacris was def proving that he could hold his own lyrically with the cats up North, but I was most impressed with the skinny cat with unforgettable verse on Bonecrusher’s “Never Scared.” (“Noooooo, I ain't bad, just don't kiss no ass or take shit/And I'm a grown man, find you somebody to play wit.”) T.I.’s Trap Muzik was an instant hit with me. It wasn’t long before I was dropping the Jay-Z of the South comparisons to sell Trap Muzik as a classic album (in the South at least).
While Tip was a harder sell to the homies back East, Outkast’s double album Speakerboxx/Love Below was welcomed with open arms (well, Andre 3000’s offering more so than Big Boi’s). I was back home from Cali just in time to experience the G-G-G-G-Unit frenzy and say farewell to Brooklyn’s finest, Jay-Z. As the rap giant embarked on his retirement tour (not before trying to slip the Blueprint 2.1 by us), I was sad to see him go, but proud that he was going out on top. The Black Album was going to be his jumper to win it all. Grand opening, grand closing—or so we thought.