Hip Hop Year In Rewind: 2001

In a season of year-end awards and reflections, HipHopDX's J-23 looks back 10 years to a year that saw crossover, underground greatness and the biggest Hip Hop battle since Biggie and 2Pac.

Cassettes were made obsolete by CDs, and CDs were being made obsolete by MP3s. Longtime fans and artists were driven to the underground as the major label and radio landscape had frozen over in the ice age. A Tribe Called Quest broke up, De La Soul were suddenly veterans, 2Pac was dead, Eazy was dead and Dre and Cube were friends again. 2001 stands in stark contrast to 1991 in just about every way imaginable.

Unlike 2011 where anyone and everyone work together, regardless of region, label, style or sub-genre, 2001 was highly divided for artists and fans alike. Though, it was events that took place in 2001 that got us where we are today, but more on that later.

“Out for the gold and after that the platinum” – Frustrated Vets Switch It Up For Bigger Sales

Respect and decent sales doesn’t put chains around your kids neck. Unwanted collaborations and radio friendly beats did not fare well for any of these artists.

Mobb Deep - Infamy: This one lives on in infamy alright...
Tha Liks - X.O. Experience: A name change and The Neptunes didn’t put them on the next level like Diamond D
Mr. Cheeks - John P. Kelly: This horrible album rightly flopped
O.C. - Bon Appetit: Inexplicable and unforgivable dud after two incredible LPs

“'Cause nowadays it’s the ways of the underground” - 20 Independent Albums You Should Own

Rawkus, Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Stonesthrow and the rest carved out their own piece of the pie and became a haven for those disenfranchised by the commercial scene

CunninlynguistsWill Rap For Food: The year's most pleasant surprise
Chino XL – I Told You So: Production lacked, but Chino is a virtuoso on the mic
Ultra - Big Time: Ultramagnetic downsized to Kool Keith and Tim Dog rapping about fucking animals
Tech N9ne - Anghellic: A big block in building his empire
Aceyalone - Accepted Eclectic: Acey displays his huge range on one his better LPs
Typical Cats - Self-Titled: Chicago’s best kept secret
Asheru & Blue Black - Soon Come: Carrying the torch before Little Brother came along
REKSAlong Came The Chosen: This one has been criminally slept on for years
Tragedy KhadafiAgainst All Odds: QB royalty isn’t to be slept on
Immortal TechniqueRevolutionary Vol. 1: Lots of songs about puppies and rainbows
Swollen Members - Bad Dreams: Battle Axe was stellar in the early '00s
Pep Love - Ascension: Always Hiero’s unsung hero
All Natural – Second Nature: Always Chicago’s unsung hero
Mystic - Cuts For Luck & Scars For Freedom: Singer/rappers take note, this is how you do it
Mr. Complex - Hold This Down: Complex was an underground New York mainstay. What happened?
Killah PriestPriesthood: First indie release was slept on, but probably his best
Lodeck: Bash It: Go listen to “Stethoscope Alley”
Codename: Scorpion - Self-Titled: Uneven at times, but some serious bangers
Lexicon - It’s The L: Just a whole lot of fun
Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me: One of the best Hip Hop albums to come from England

“Startin’ drama with Chino? God forbid / Auction my lyrics on eBay, that's god for bid” - Chino XL Is Lyrical Jesus

Too many fans only know Chino XL as one of the rappers that 'Pac cussed out and not as one of the greatest lyricists of all-time. His career has been held back by mediocre production and infrequent releases, but bar-for-bar Chino is tough to fuck with. Witness one of his finest performances on “Nunca” from 2001’s I Told You So, delivered at breakneck speed over thundering bass:  

“My defeat? you better have more blindfolded Faith than a kidnapped version of Biggie's widow / Kiddo, you ain't worth hot spittle till I’m hospitable enough / To put you inside of a hospital after I smoke critical amounts of dust / Thus my mind spoke on Jedi pedestals and roasting demos / Semi Seminoles who try to test testicles of this emcee's quotables / I'll make the proudest of all Dominicans swing flags for Puerto Rico / And kill any blanco gringo referring to Chino as Chico / By summoning the smoldering murdering minister that’s mastering mayhem / Slaying day out and day in outspoken like a dayton / Rim that be keeping 'em staggering through lyrical pattern and/traveling through my abdomen unraveling at the speed of a javelin / Still reppin' Vatican and invade like Mexican notify next to kin cats I'm invested in / Don't worship Christ, they worship the thieves crucified next to him / Boys and men cringes, through poison pen syringes / These niggas couldn't be stars if they were thrown by Chinese ninjas / Chino you bring phantasm plus you G like the dwellas / And been touched by an angel like Della, me fear y'all niggas? Never..."

“Sid you ever think that we would be this rich?” - 5 On The Come Up

The stars of the late '90s were fading - or at least making terrible albums - and a new crop of stars who would own radio for years to come stepped in.

T.I.I’m Serious: The makings of a star were there, but the album was pretty weak
LudacrisWord of Mouf: Luda hadn’t mastered how to make a good album, but the talent was there
Jadakiss Kiss The Game Goodbye: Solo debut was a huge disappointment
FabolousGhetto Fabolous: At least it was better than Ja Rule
Lil JonPut Yo Hood Up: Adlibs would never be the same

“I wasn’t down with the mainstream, or should I say their team” - 9 Major Albums That Didn’t Suck

Major labels churned out so much horrible music  during these years, it was shocking when a good one album dropped, no matter who released it.

Dungeon Family - Even In Darkness: They did this with their eyes closed, but still an easy win
UGK - Dirty Money: Before it was fashionable to jock UGK, they were still awesome
Ghostface KillahBulletproof Wallets: Sample clearances cut it’s heart out, but another feather in Ghost’s cap
Erick SermanMusic: E-Double’s most acclaimed solo album
D12Devil’s Night: Really good album, still holds up today
Busta Rhymes - Genesis: Dre, Dilla, Just Blaze, Neptunes, Nottz, Diamond D, Scott Storch. Yeah...
RedmanMalpractice: His worst album, but Red is great by default
The Coup - Party Music: “5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO” is more relevant now than ever
Sticky FingazAutobiography of Kirk Jones: Solid concept with some brilliant moments
The Beatnuts - Take It or Squeeze It: Their incredible production continued
Wu-Tang Clan - Iron Flag. Another letdown, but their trash is someones treasure

“Actually, that’s best come to best” -  The Best of 2001

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein: An epic masterpiece that defined a movement
Jay-Z- The Blueprint: Jay-Z hooks a new generation
Atmosphere - Lucy Ford: The jump off album for a lot of their huge fanbase
Masta Ace - Disposable Arts: The comeback of the decade
Aesop Rock - Labor Days: An underground star was born
Nas - Stillmatic: Return of the nasty
De La Soul - AOI: Bionix: De La’s always had it, and never lost it
Cormega - The Realness: The title sums it up
Dilated PeoplesExpansion Team: Remains their high water mark
J-LiveThe Best Part: Five years late and worth every second we waited

The Blueprint, Jay-Z vs. Nas & The Beginning of a New Era

A good chunk of Hip Hop’s landscape in 2011 can be traced back to the Nas and Jay-Z beef and The Blueprint.

Nas - New York’s prodigal son was testing his fans patience, and he had been being so for years. The atrocious Nastradamous had a lot of folks writing Nas off, or at least the Nasty version. But the beef with Jay reignited Nas; creatively he stepped it up and he was once again playing the underdog role that suited him. This shot to the arm of his career came at a pivotal moment...

Jay-Z & The Changing of the Guard - The multi-platinum stars of the late '90s were beginning to fade, fall off or only become relevant to teenage girls (here’s looking at you Ja Rule). While DMX, Master P and Puffy were losing the limelight to Ludacris, T.I. and Fabolous, Jay and Nas were at risk of being shoved aside by the next big thing. Up and comers utilized the tried and true hitmakers Jay often did, and Jigga wisely turned his sound around and jump started the careers of Kanye West and Just Blaze, who brought Soul samples back to the mainstream. Jay has not left the mountain top since.

Kanye West - 'Ye’s rise to stardom following his Grammy-Award winning turn on The Blueprint led his reign of incredible influence on Hip Hop for years to come. Love or hate him, there is no denying his impact; the first star to eschew the baggy pants and jerseys uniform in favor of his own style, bringing the underground and mainstream together with his love of both Jay-Z and Talib Kweli, and the aforementioned move back to sampling after tinny keyboard sounds had been dominating radio.

“And now introducing the star of the show” - Producers Step Into The Limelight

No longer relegated to liner note credits and shout outs, producers started playing the front and releasing their own albums.

Jay Dee - Welcome To Detroit: The above applies perfectly to Dilla
Hi-TekHi-Teknology: A serious banger that polished Tek’s resume
Molemen – Rituals of...: Panik, Memo & PNS keep’em laced
Molemen - Chicago City Limits: Chicago crew keeps it in the family
Pete RockPetestrumentals: Absolutely no chance this wouldn’t good
Dan The Automator - Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By (Lovage): As advertised
3582 - The Living Soul: J. Rawls meets Fat Jon to do Ohio proud with this instrumental number
Joey Chavez - Music From The Connection: A silky number much different from his Sid Roams work
Yesterdays New Quintet - Angles Without Edges: Only Madlib would start a band only consisting of himself

Read: Hip Hop Year In Rewind: 1991

J-23 is HipHopDX's Editor-At-Large. He was a full-time member of the staff from 2001 to 2011, and served in many roles throughout that time, most notably a long-time Music Editor. J lives in London, Ontario.


  • Anonymous

    So did j-23 retire?

  • Anonymous

    ****HIP-HOP HISTORY FACTS**** Question: Who was the 1st male west coast artist that Russell Simmons ever signed to Def Jam? Answer: Mel-low (Compton, CA) Mel-low's music video "Blaze It Up" feat Redman was the first video by a Def Jam artist to ever get banned from being played on BET and MTV. The "BLAZE IT UP" music video became an underground hit!!! The video went on to become the #1 video in America on THE BOX ("The Box" was the largest call-in request music video show in America at the time) and it held the top spot for a whopping 8 weeks straight, holding off other artist like Dr Dre, Michael Jackson, and many more major artist from the top spot. Here's a link to BLAZE IT UP and a few more Mel-low videos ***BLAZE IT UP*** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkBPl2MlEGM MONEY, HOUSE, and CLOTHES http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDkdi26aFqM B.G. THANG http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av8aE2W2n-4 Know your Hip Hop history so you can be prepared for the new Hip Hip game show coming to TV later this year!


    Jay and Nas were totally beasting at this time,goddamn!And Jay just didn't stop from there,dude been killing it ever since!

    • Anonymous

      ''I'm so far ahead of my time, I'm bout to start another life Look behind you, I'm bout to pass you twice Back to the future and gotta slow up for the present I'm fast, niggaz can't get past my past How they propose to deal with my perfect present? When I unwrap "The Gift & the Curse" in one session'' >>> your existence.

  • Anonymous

    "Redman Malpractice: His worst album, but Red is great by default" lmao his best album you mean...

  • kps

    Tha Liks - X.O. Experience best Alkaholiks album hands down! Amazing production!

  • Nate

    Stillmatic is a overrated piece of shit. Nobody would rate it that high if it wasn't for that shitty name and I Am and Nastradamus before that shit. The Lost Tapes >>> Stillmatic.

    • TiiDo

      @Mr Flamboyant I co-sign,dude is just being difficult. Stillmatic was monstrous, bar for bar it was iller than The Blueprint. Jay just had better production to compliment his style.

    • Mr Flamboyant

      Nate just wanted to be different. Just like he's different by stating he's getting a civil marriage to his boyfriend. Bitch ass nigga.

    • oakland187

      i'm not as articulate as sam, so i'm just gonna say if you think stillmatic was weak your rap-retarded. one of my favorite rap albums of all time!

    • sam

      Stilllmatic came out at the right time right after sept 11 and the world was crazy at the time. stillmatic had alot of prophecy, it had one of the best beef songs ever made. great story telling like second childhood,rewind,one mic,etc. It had a great comeback story to it and great lyrics. the album blended together great too. I think people just hate on it years later because you had to be really listening to hip-hop at that time and remember those days in late 2001 and early 2002

  • Sav

    I'm Serious was "pretty weak"!? You're fucking sick.

  • DinkinFlicka

    Great to see DF make the list. I thought it was great as well, but listened to it well after it was popular.

  • CLM83

    Welcome 2 Detroit was a Great Album. Didn't Phife's Ventalation LP Come out that year too? I think 2001 was the last time I actually went out and bought CD's.

  • Anonymous

    I don't really understand the Ultra 'Big Time' mention, since it dropped close to 6 year earlier. Maybe the double vinyl re-issue that dropped that year?

  • Rusty

    Great list. Thanks for giving Chino his well deserved shine. IMO the production was very good at times on that album. And also j23 was dead on with the OC album, I'm a huge fan of his but that album wasn't very good. Although there was one stand out track with Jay-z, Bonafide.

  • Anonymous

    ok im a fan of jayz and the blueprint but i dont seem to understand the huge commotion of the blueprint album and havent it to be considered a classic..there are songs on the cd that are skip worthy..whilst the marshall mathers lp does not..a much more raw and emotionally charged album with every song play worthy..production wise also shits on the blueprint along with eminems why techniques and at the time em was spitting with way more angst and wit than any artist including jay z could keep up with..blue print - takeover,girls girls girls,never change,song cry,heart of the city,renegade..marshall mathers lp - kill u,stan,who knew,the way i am,real slim shady,remember me,im back,marshall nathers,drug ballad,amityville,bitch please,kim,under the influence,criminal..


      @Anonymous, lol theres a reason breaveheart party didnt make the final cut of the album.. and Stillmatic is a classic from then to this day


      Nas had the better dis with "Ether" but Jay had the better album. This is common knowledge my friend.

    • Anonymous

      @HIP HOP HISTORIAN "Braveheart Party" sucked. Nothing on The Blueprint ever got anywhere near that bad. Maybe Stillmatic > The Blueprint lyrically. MAYBE. But as an all around album The Blueprint shits on Stillmatic. The Blueprint = Certified Classic Stillmatic = Great Nas album


      Stillmatic > Blueprint.. because yes Blueprint did have a couple of them skip-able tracks, where as Stillmatic didn't unless you were retarded

    • Anonymous

      Neither have skip able tracks. Both are classics. Just two different styles. The Blueprint is a classic for three reasons: 1)How masterfully crafted it was. From the crisp production to the grade-A mix, to the way the album flowed; The Blueprint was a sonic masterpiece. RARE in hip-hop. Even today. 2)How on point Hov was. No, Jay-Z wasn't exactly doing lyrical gymnastics on this album. Nor was his subject matter anymore interesting than anyone else at the time. But Jay-Z spit some of the best flows of his life on that album. He was already known as on of the best on that front but his cadence, timing , charisma, and wit where all at their peek on TBP. The most striking thing about it though was how effortless it was. The album just poured out of him in two days and it showed. Dude literally was flowing like he was having a out of body experience or something. 3)How much impact it had. Everybody bit the Blueprint style of production. Everybody. People are still biting it today (Drake - Lord Knows). Kanye and Just weren't the 1st to do the soul sampling but they definitely made it as popular as it is today and it all started with this album. Beyond the production, The Blueprint challenged rappers to make higher quality work. You couldn't just write some dope rhymes, get some dope beats, record a handful of random songs and have a dope album anymore. Hip-hop now had orchestration. Not glossy, poppy, soulless orchestration; but genuinely artistic and meaningful orchestration. And it was largely due to this album. Anyone who doesn't consider The Blueprint a classic is obviously not looking at the bigger picture.

    • sam

      MMLP came out in 2000 not 2001. It has skip worthy songs to like remember me,real slim shady,etc

  • Duke

    Great year for me mainly because it was the year after I got heavily into Hip Hop. Word of Mouf and Genesis were the shit back then. at least to us, we killed those albums in 6th grade. i listened to "Break Yo Neck" until i could spit it word for word, and it took months. Busta was so fast, i'd never heard anything like it in my short 11 yrs. once i got it down it was over. i was also introduced to Jay and Fab. I've been hooked ever since.

  • Assassin221

    Now this is my era, just about a year before I dove into hip-hop. And honestly, I wish I'd been up on it back in '91, I still need to catch up on that shit. It's crazy the time when I got into it is "hip-hop history" now. There was a lot of good shit coming out though, I guess that's when the underground/independent scene was really picking up speed.

  • Anonymous

    The great depression was alright, not too impressive. X could've did better. Anyway dx forgot the jada vs beanie siegel battle jada being my favorite around that time almost lost.

  • Money Emp

    @N.B.: I was referring to his Lyricist of the year Award over sum of your favorite MC's,"BIG" Supporter of Brad Jordan,Although the "The Fix" was A bit Overrated In My Opinion,Not his BEST work Just had Dope production plus a couple of Highly Known features,Ain't Nobody f_ckin wit FACE though,"REAL LIVIN LEGEND" G.B.4Life

  • Money Emp

    All I'm Say Is No SCARFACE (Source Mag's rated Best)before (The Fix)Cam'ron & Diplomats...

  • Arachnid

    Without a doubt Chino XL's, I told you so will take some beating lyrically. The guy is immense, lacking in production though.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah man Chino would be putting out incredible album after incredible album if he had good beats and flowed to them properly.

  • ShooShen

    The Great Depression - DMX Fuck DX

    • BlazeDatIshUp

      How do they even forget about the Dark Man X.... Fuck DX is right.. Damn bunch of bitches for not mentioning that album, cuz I still bump it on my mp3 today..

  • Mitch 3K

    Cant believe how long ago this was, my last year of high school, time fuckin flies Great year for hip hop, all the way across the board, Mainstream/Underground, I agree with dude down below things seemed to be going great till about 03-04, shit fell off and hasnt been the same since, or maybe I'm just getting old,lol

  • TonyBaker

    This was a GREAT article.

  • Azhar

    Blueprint, Realness, and Stillmatic were highlights of 2001

    • Skip Dillenger

      I agree with you. "The Realness" is my favorite album from that year. Also, you can't forget "The Cold Vein". El-P's beat on that album were out of this world. I'm kinda upset I didn't catch on to that album until '04.

  • Anonymous

    Takeover+Super Ugly+Blueprint2+NaS signing to the person that he "completely murdered"> Ether + H to the OMO Ether was the best diss, but Jay-Z definatly won. He tore NaS career apart, and would've ended him if NaS didn't reinvent himself, and the beef didn't give him a spark. That being said I'm a huge fan of both, and Stillmatic is my favorite album that came out in 2001.

  • Sam

    2001 was a great year in hip-hop. It was one of the last great years in my opinion things started to really go down hill sometime in 2003. Nas and Jay-z had the best albums that year. One was more for the radio and the other was more for the nitty gritty hip-hop fan but both were great albums.

  • Anonymous

    Stillmatic to me was not as tight as the realness. Braveheart party was a shitty and skipable song. Unlike the realness you could let it play didn't have to skip shit.


    so we are going to act like Nas Stillmatic album wasn't the best in 2001? FUCK HIPHOPDX and anyone who disagrees with me

  • Anonymous

    What? Chino was a beast, and cormegas the realness was a banger best album of that summer. And I'm from the westcoast. And hhdx is tripping too, kiss first joint was his best album. And t.i. I'm serious was good too.

  • jigga

    You can tell that this article, like most hip hop media outlets have a strong New York bais. Why is Chino XL and cormega even on this list. Thats that n.y. bullshit. It funny when u think about it, cuz no good music has come outta there in years, but they wont hesitate to give there opinion. N.Y......all bark, little bit