At this point I was back in Brooklyn and I was definitely on my NY shit. Ghostface’s The Pretty Toney Album, Jadakiss’ Kiss Of Death, Fabolous’ Real Talk, Talib Kweli’s The Beautiful Struggle, Mobb Deep’s Amerikaz Nightmare, Infamous Mobb’s Blood Thicker Than Water, Vol. 1, and Nas’ Street’s Disciple was the type of home cooking I was craving. Little did I know this would be my last supper with the cats from New York.
Hip-hop was expanding. It was getting bigger and the Big Apple would no longer be the boss of it. Those crazy kids down South were making all the right moves. Lil Jon was the king of crunk and anything he touched was gold. A party wasn’t a party until the DJ played a Southern set. Lil Scrappy’s “Head Bussa,” Trillville’s “Neva Eva,” Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck,” and Petey Pablo’s “Freek-a-Leek.” Their sound would cause Fat Joe’s rap crew Terror Squad to lean back. Even better, their shit started to make sense. T.I. was now on everyone’s radar and when he delivered Urban Legend, featuring the smash “Bring Em Out” blessed with the Jay-Z sampled hook, which I saw as a co-sign from one king to the next, he was on his way to ruling over more than the South.
Between Tip, Luda, Andre 3000, and Killer Mike the region was building a respectable stable of lyricist to balance out the crude nature of crunk music. However, they would still need more people to make it stick. In comes Lil Wayne. Coming off the bling-era, which he helped give birth to, the Cash Money rapper had been on the low for much of the decade. 2002’s 500 Degreez was okay, but on Tha Carter, Weezy was spittin’ hotter than 500 degrees. This would mark the beginning of his ascension to the title of “Best Rapper Alive.”
Another rapper who would make his mark in 2004 was Kanye West. The producer-turnt-rapper finally got his chance to shine and he didn’t disappoint with his debut, College Dropout. I had a hard time convincing some friends that ’Ye made a classic album. They kept throwing “he can’t rap” arguments in my face. I knew he wasn’t on par with the best, but homie’s earnest approach and soul-stirring production were undeniable.