Common - Like Water For Chocolate
Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
Blackalicious - Nia
Quasimoto - The Unseen
Slum Village - Fantastic, Vol. 2
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek - Reflection Eternal
Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele
Outkast - Stankonia
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
Dilated Peoples - The Platform
Binary Star - Masters Of The Universe
Dead Prez - Let's Get Free
Kid Koala - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Scienz Of Life - Coming Forth By Day: The Book Of The Dead
Dan The Automator - A Much Better Tomorrow
This was a cool year in hip-hop for many reasons. First of all, we still had major names making great music, and getting radio play for it. Common exploded with hit singles "The Light" and "The 6th Sense". Meanwhile Eminem and Outkast were nearly inescapable, even crossing over into pop radio with songs such as "The Real Slim Shady" and "Ms. Jackson", respecively. But around this time, dope hip-hop had a slight paradigm shift. More than ever there was a heavy reliance on the underground for great hip-hop. This is visible with the busy busy years of Kid Koala and Dan The Automator (both appear with solo LPs, and also behind the boards/tables for Del The Funkee Homosapien's masterful Deltron 3030). Prior to 2000 El-P had made it okay to be truly experimental, and utterly distort what it meant to be "hip-hop". Groups such as Blackalicious, Dilated Peoples, Scienz Of Life, and Binary Star made some of the year's best albums, all while remaining fairly underground, and experimenting in their own ways (maybe not to the extent of Def Jukies or Stones Throw). Sure there were underground groups in the 90s - and lots of them (Organized Konfusion, Souls of Mischief, Group Home just to name a few). But rarely did they experiment with traditional hip-hop formulas (I know, I know. There are some exceptions: Soundpieces: Da Antidote!, Endtroducing...). You had your DJ(s), your emcee(s), and you used samples and basic boom-bap structures to build songs. So the idea of groups and artists really pushing genre boundaries wasn't exactly a novelty in 2000, but it was a stylistic turn gaining increasing prevalence.
Then there was that funky little label called Stones Throw Records, that was just buzzing with creativity behind the minds of Madlib (Quasimoto) and PB Wolf. In 1999 MF DOOM released his debut, Operation: Doomsday (not Stones Throw, but I have a point...). That album combined with The Unseen made it freakishly cool to be a blunted individual artist, creating weird, abstract hip-hop. Lyrics could be free-associative and there were no longer any boundaries. So while mainstream hip-hop in the 21st century would become extremely formulaic, and lose a sense of it's real roots, hip-hop looked to the underground to lead the charge and uphold the true principles of hip-hop.
All in all, 2000 produced a plethora of fantastic albums. Major players were doing their thing, underground heads were getting love in packed small venues across the country, and life was good. Hip-hop was expanding, and faster than ever. So when considering the multitude of sub-genres we have in hip-hop today, just take a second to appreciate how far the boundaries of hip-hop have expanded, and where those influences may have come from.
Here's to another great decade of hip-hop. Who's going to push us forward this time?