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In the last edition, we finished with 2003. Now onto 2004.
Although he’s seemingly just another black guy on an extended vacation in the Kardashian home who can’t shit without it making national news, there was once a time when Kanye West was a relatively unknown personality. He had some production credits on The Blueprint, but many still held doubts that ‘Ye would make it as an artist. Kanye’s The College Dropout was one of the first albums to be released in 2004, setting the tone for the year. It took almost five years to produce, but it proved to be worth the wait. “Slow Jamz,” “Through the Wire,” “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” and “The New Workout Plan” are arguably some of his best works ever, and the album went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
This is probably the point at which you’d like to interject and talk about how Kanye sucks now, The Life of Pablo was awful, and that he’s terribly overrated. Please do. I shouldn’t have to remind anyone that this is America, where you’re free to express your opinion regardless of how little it relates to the current topic of conversation. To discourage exercising such a freedom would be a travesty. Sometimes, I’ll share my stance on capital punishment with the drive-thru workers at Chick-Fil-A. They’re just so nice.
If you wanted to build a playlist of throwbacks like this one, 2004 is a good start. There shouldn’t be a single person reading this that doesn’t know every word to “Yeah!” Even if you don’t like rap, you know the words. I promise. Remember any of these, though? The girl-on-guy friction in the crowd at a Ying Yang Twins band party could melt permafrost.
“Tipsy” – J-Kwon
“Slow Motion” – Juvenile
“Lean Back” – Terror Squad
“Salt Shaker” – Ying Yang Twins
“Drop It Like It’s Hot” – Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell
“Sugar (Gimme Some)” – Trick Daddy
“Burn” – Usher
As if not already enough, MIKE JOOOOOOOOOOOOONES (Who?) went platinum with Who Is Mike Jones? the same year. Other than Too $hort or Uncle Luke, Mike Jones was probably the first rapper to go mainstream with a target audience and demographic comprised almost entirely of strippers. At least 70% of the one dollar bills in the city of Houston have probably had Mike Jones’ fingerprints on them at some point. “Still Tippin’” is by far one of the most important songs of the whole decade, and nothing makes me want to be from Texas more than that song.
2004 was also the year that Mystikal was sentenced to six years for sexual battery, and the year everyone saw Janet Jackson’s tit at the Super Bowl. Nice. Jay-Z became president of Def Jam Records, proving that selling crack is a viable starting point if you want to make it in the business world.
NOTE: I am choosing to intentionally ignore talking about Eminem’s Encore album because that shit was pretty dark. I find the album fantastic, but the subject matter is a little aggressive for a Tuesday.
Other notable albums released in 2004:
Young Buck – Straight Outta Ca$hville
Ludacris- The Red Light District
Trick Daddy- Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter
The Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs
Eminem – Encore
Usher – Confessions
It would be 2005 that gave us more than we ever deserved.
Albums that dropped in 2005 (The asterisks denote how many times the album has been certified platinum):
50 Cent – The Massacre******
Kanye West – Late Registration***
The Game – The Documentary**
Young Jeezy – Let’s Do It: Thug Motivation 101*
Ying Yang Twins – U.S.A. (United States of Atlanta)*
Paul Wall – The People’s Champ*
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter II*
Pretty Ricky – Bluestars
Gucci Mane – Trap House
Bun B – Trill
Pimp C – Sweet James Jones Stories
Nelly – Sweatsuit
What the fuck? I don’t even know where to start. How do you articulate how good “Disco Inferno” is? How many times did you put aluminum foil on your teeth and rap Paul Wall’s verse in “Grillz”? Everything I know about being a trap star I learned from Young Jeezy. Gucci Mane’s first album gave us “Icy”, the iconic collab with the Snowman. There are many stories about how their beef started and how it went down, but it would be the last time they ever worked together. Meanwhile, it was taking your mom, like, four months to figure out what Jamie Foxx was saying in “Gold Digger.” Bun B and Pimp C were making sure we knew they were still getting throwed, and the Ying Yang Twins kept asses shaking all over the south. Every one one of those albums in that list have multiple singles that bring back overwhelming waves of nostalgia. We didn’t deserve all of that.
…and then we have Tha Carter II. It’s time to talk about Lil Wayne.
Lil Wayne is the answer, if the question is “Who was the best rapper of the 2000s?” He is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Dr. Carter remains the undisputed champ of the mixtape game, with 20 of his 24 total (meaning official releases and collaborations) mixtapes dropping in just ten years. In addition to 7 studio albums, Wayne also recorded nearly 600 features from 1997-2012. He had been recording so much music that he strung together a bunch of songs and released The Dedication a week after Tha Carter II, in December of 2005. Who does that?
Tha Carter II ended up going platinum, and is widely considered to be Lil Wayne’s best album. Fireman. Hustler Muzik. I’m A Dboy. Shooter. Nobody has ever eclipsed his work ethic and nobody ever will. At the end of 2005, Lil Wayne was the best rapper alive. Sure, Lil Wayne isn’t the same anymore. At the end of the day, you’re going to listen to whatever you like. You may prefer Raekwon the Chef over Young Thug or think Kendrick Lamar transcends Jesus of Nazareth. I’m not here to argue. I’ll never argue with a Kendrick fan, as I fear one day they will refuse to accept I don’t listen to him and beat me to death with one of their crossword puzzles.
Notable events of 2005 (in case y’all forgot):
-Rapper Cam’ron got shot during an attempted carjacking in Washington, D.C. He drove himself to the hospital in his Lamborghini Gallardo still wearing $200,000 in diamonds. Legend.
-Tom Cruise went absolutely batshit on Oprah.
-Kanye said that George Bush doesn’t care about black people on national television.
-Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston got a divorce.
-Michael Jackson was found “not guilty” of all charges.
-R. Kelly was in the middle of that whole, “How old is fifteen really?” trial..
Image via YouTube