2001’s top 10 albums (By DJ MF)
2001 will be a year remembered for a slew of really bad releases that basically followed the pop-rap formula set up by Ja Rule (I’m a thug who just wants love) that were countered brilliantly by a select few releases near the end of the year that redeemed the 2 double 01.
10) JAY-Z – THE BLUEPRINT
Coming in at #10 was radio stalwart, and megaselling artist Jay-Z, with “The Blueprint”. Boasting a collection of older soul samples in an effort to return to his roots, when he wasn’t as materialistic as he has become known for, Jigga led things off with a smoking party single (Izzo), humorous looks at women (Girls, Girls, Girls), and a vicious reply to his challengers (Takeover). All while staying away from flossing for the most part, and incredibly enough, not utilizing much of the big name producing talent that is a given with most Jay-Z albums.
9) SMUT PEDDLERS – PORN AGAIN
Moving on up to #9 are the Smut Peddlers, with their first proper album release, “Porn Again”. First off, anyone with a title name like that automatically gets 3 stars. Second, Cage and Eon back up their claims with an album that drips smut, but not in an always blatant manner, mostly due to some clever wordplay from Cage. There’s everything on this, from the storytelling Josie, to the battle track Anti-Heroes, to the sex filled Talk Like Sex Pt.2, this album has it all.
8) KARDINAL OFFISHALL – QUEST FOR FIRE
Canada’s favorite son, Kardinal Offishall, clocks in at #8 with the highly anticipated “Quest For Fire: Firestarter Volume One”. I’ll be the first to admit, I slept mightily on this at first. This album won’t leap out at you- you’ve got to give it time. When you do, you’ll find a great reggae style and flavour to this LP which is pretty unique in the world of hip hop today.
7) VARIOUS – BEATFACTORY’S RAP ESSENTIALS 2001
Continuing the homegrown Canadian theme at #7 is the Beatfactory compilation album, “RapEssentials 2001”. Including tracks from a myriad of notable hip hop artists from and around Toronto, this album had something for everyone- from the peaceful sounds of Solitair and Mathematik, to the rough and rugged flows of Bishop, to the multi-syllabic rhyming of Dan-E-O. A taste-tester of epic proportions.
6) DILATED PEOPLES – EXPANSION TEAM
Dilated Peoples clocks in at #6, with “Expansion Team”, and while #6 is pretty damn good, I feel they dropped the ball a bit on this release. The beats, as usual, are second to none. The DJing as usual, is second to none. My only concern with this album is a little bit of uninspired rhyming from Ev and Rakka. The fact that this can still reach #6, even with those faults shows you how dope of an album this is.
5) J-ZONE – PIMPS DON’T PLAY TAXES
An album released in mid-2001 that managed to go below my radar, and has only recently smacked me upside the head comes in at #5, with J-Zone’s “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes”. Want lyrics? Check Inauguration Day. Want humour? Check The Bum-B*tch Ballad. Want a novel idea done with style? Check No Consequences. This album has it all, and with some of the most amazing production of the year, will manage to get you moving too.
4) NAS – STILLMATIC
The comeback of Nasty Nas comes in at 4 with the release of “Stillmatic”. Finally returning to his roots, but managing to stay evolved since his debut release, Nas made the album everybody wanted here. A stunning reply to his detractors in Ether and Destroy & Rebuild, a handful of conscious tracks, and the requisite sing-a-long lead single, topped off by the stunning One Mic makes this album as sureshot.
3) AKBAR – BIG BANG BOOGIE
Another rookie release manages its way onto the top ten, at #3, with Akbar’s amazing debut, “Big Bang Boogie” which smacked me in the head out of left field earlier this year. Combining the deft production skills of M-Boogie, with the simple yet effective delivery of Akbar, and a theme of “bringing it back to the real”, this album rocked on all levels. It has club bangers such as Hot Ya Hot and more thoughtful tracks such as Hip Hop Is. Just an overall great album, made greater when you realize that it’s a debut!
2) MASTA ACE – DISPOSABLE ARTS
So who’s the bridesmaid? Well, coming in at #2 is grizzled rap veteran Masta Ace with his brilliant “Disposable Arts” LP. Every solo artist in hip hop today should look at this album closely, and learn how to make a proper LP. Hot beats throughout, fused with the distinctive and unique flow of Ace equals success. Not only that, but the presentation of the album is incredible, telling a story as it proceeds from track to track. Essential hip hop.
So who’s the winner?
1) WU-TANG CLAN – IRON FLAG
Well, it looks like a double trophy for the Wu this year. Following their coronation in my Top 25 Singles of 2001, they take the title for best album this year as well, with their 4th release, Iron Flag. The more I listen to this, the more I feel this is easily equal to what the Wu dropped on the world in their solo release, 36 Chambers. Incredible beatmaking throughout by the RZA, topped by Pinky Ring, a complete lack of MC guests outside of the crew (finally), and a refreshing lack of Cappadonna made me smile again.
So there you got it.
Other notables? Tha Liks with “X.O. Experience”, the Ras Kass pre-album that never saw the light of day (but which would have battled for #1, had it), the Beatminerz with “Brace 4 Impak”, and the Beatnuts with “Take It Or Squeeze It”. All hot albums that just managed to miss out.