Essential Playlist: The 25 best hip-hop tracks from 2003
(Credit: Hip Hop Hero)


Essential Playlist: The 25 best hip-hop tracks from 2003

The only way one can describe the year 2003 is as impactful. It was musically highly significant, especially concerning hip-hop. Akin to the year prior, 2003 saw the ushering in of a new sound and a new look for hip-hop but on a larger scale. In both the US and the UK, new figures were appearing. However, something about the year 2003 seems brutal and unforgiving. The artists that exploded into the mainstream did so with extraordinary bravado, which is missing today.

Perhaps social media has led to acts wanting a more curated, photogenic entrance into the game. Although there are exceptions, nowadays, most musicians slowly phase themselves into the mainstream. However, two decades ago, an emcee entered the culture saying, ‘I’m here. Get used to it!’

The early 2000s saw some of the figures accelerating in the late ’90s reach full speed. As such, it was an enthralling and thrilling era for music across the board. While naturally, some acts were tarnishing the culture. They got weeded out pretty hastily.

Some of the wealthiest artists in hip-hop arose in the late-’90s and early 2000s, so it does beg the question, “What was so special about that time?” The ’90s were undoubtedly exceptional. However, the culture was too centralised, with New York and LA being the only two cities getting any shine. As a result, a wealth of quality music got disregarded in favour of an entertaining beef. 2000 saw a gaping void in the culture. Although some artists such as Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and Eminem managed to ride out the year, many artists from the previous decade declined rapidly. However, with their ear to the streets, many artists turned executives were unearthing hidden gems.

On the production front, previously unknown producers from the late-’90s dominated with acts such as The Neptunes, Swizz Beats and Kanye West, all erupting in the early 2000s. Although these beatmakers didn’t just suddenly emerge in 2003, it is pretty safe to say that 2003 was when they hit full speed. Some stayed at full speed for longer than others, as evidenced by Kanye West. Scott Storch was a big name in the early-2000s. However, it would be a lie to say he didn’t have a name before the turn of the millennium, and the same can be said for Timbaland.

Concerning artists, 2003 was undeniably 50 Cent’s year. Get Rich Or Die Tryin‘ was a smack in the face for hip-hop and reinvigorated some emcees who had gone soft. Missy Elliot was also ruling the airwaves in 2003. However, she was pretty seasoned by this point. With two decades of hindsight, we’re going back and revisiting some of the most iconic and impactful songs of 2003.

In the playlist below, you can go back 20 years to see what we believe to be the 25 best songs of 2003.

The 25 best hip-hop tracks from 2003:

  •  50 Cent – ‘In Da Club’
  • 50 Cent – ‘Many Men’
  • 50 Cent – ‘P.I.M.P’
  • Jay-Z – ‘Dirt Off Your SHoulder’
  • Jay-Z – ‘PSA’
  • Jay-Z – ’99 Problems’
  • Jay-Z – ‘Change Clothes’
  • Jay-Z – ‘Lucifer’
  • Pharrell Williams – ‘Frontin’
  • Ludacris – ‘Stand Up’
  • G-Unit – ‘Stunt 101’
  • Gang Starr – ‘Skills’
  • Gang Starr – ‘The Ownerz’
  • The Diplomats – ‘Dipset Anthem’
  • Timbaland & Magoo – ‘Indian Flute’
  • Outkast – ‘Hey Ya’
  • Outkast – ‘Roses’
  • Lil Kim – ‘The Jumpoff’ ft Mr Cheeks
  • Lil Kim – ‘Magic Stick’
  • Black Eyed Peas – ‘Hey Mama’
  • Joe Budden – ‘Pump It Up’
  • DMX – ‘Where The Hood At?’
  • Missy Elliot – ‘Pass That Dutch’
  • Dizzee Rascal – ‘Stop Dat’
  • Dizzee Rascal – ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’