Here are the 10 most groundbreaking rappers of the 2000s, who took rap/hip-hop to the next level, as we go year-by-year in our countdown, identifying the MCs who made their legendary mark by elevating the genre.
Having already established himself in a big way in 1999 with Dr. Dre produced “The Slim Shady LP,” the release of “The Marshall Mathers LP” in 2000 debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for 8 weeks, selling 1.78 million copies in its first week. The album has since sold 21 million copies worldwide as one of the best-selling albums of all time. It won best rap album at the 2001 Grammy awards and the single “The Real Slim Shady” won best rap solo performance.
In 2001, Ludacris released his sophomore album “Word of Mouf,” which debuted at #3 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 281,000 copies its first week, and was 3X platinum a year later. The single “Move B**ch” reached #10 on the Billboard hot 100, and #3 on the hot rap songs, and #3 on the hot R&B chart.
Harlem rapper Cam’ron released his third studio album “Come Home with Me” which peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200, selling over one-quarter million copies its first week and eventually was certified platinum. The first single “Oh Boy” shot to #1 on the hot R&B/hip-hop singles chart and held it for 5 straight weeks. It also reached #1 on the US hot rap songs.
Discovered by Eminem and signed to his own Shady Records label and boosted by the production of Dr. Dre, 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) released his first album “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 872,000 copies its first week, and sold over 9 million copies in the US alone. The first single “In da Club” was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the US Billboard hot 100, as well as #1 on the hot rap songs, mainstream top 40, and hot R&B charts.
T.I., also known as TIP, released his third studio album, “Urban Legend,” in 2004. The LP debuted at #7 on the US Billboard 200 and #1 on both the top R&B and top rap albums chart, T.I. finally cracked the top ten the Billboard hot 100 with his #9 single “Bring Em Out.” Song also reached #4 on the rap charts, and #6 on the R&B charts. He went on to become a three-time Grammy winner, with 7 of his 11 studio albums reaching the top 5 in the US Billboard 200 chart.
Rapper Jane Jenkins, originally known as Lil’ J on this first album, going by Young Jeezy on his next LP, is now known as Jeezy. In 2005, Young Jeezy released his third album, but his first for a major label, entitled: “Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101.” It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 2 million copies. The second single, “Soul Survivor,” reached #1 on both the Billboard US hot rap songs and hot R&B songs, went to #4 on the Billboard hot 100, #10 on mainstream top 40, and #2 on US rhythmic.
Future 4x Grammy-nominated rapper Pusha T (Terrence Thornton) made a name for himself as part of the hip-hop duo Clipse, dropped their independent label release “Hell Hath No Fury” in 2006, produced by The Neptunes, which made an impressive #14 debut on the Billboard 200, selling 80,000 copies in its first week. The lead single “Mr. Me Too,” which features Pharrell Williams, reached #65 on the US hot R&B/hip-hop songs chart.
In 2007, Kanye West released his third studio album “graduation.” It debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200, selling nearly a million copies in its first week, going on to sell over 5 million albums.
The second single “Stronger” reached #1 on the US pop 100 charts, the mainstream top 40 and Billboard hot 100, as well as #3 on the hot rap songs. The album produced for additional hit singles.
In 2008, Lil Wayne released his sixth studio album entitled “Tha Carter III.” The LP debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 chart and sold over 1 million copies in its first week, went on to sell 6 million copies. The album one Grammy for best rap album and the song “Lollipop” when best rap song and the song “A Milli” won best rap solo performance. The first single “Lollipop” which features heavily auto-tuned vocals as an effect, reached #1 on the Billboard hot 100 chart and held it for five nonconsecutive weeks.
Credited for the “Toronto sound,” Canadian rapper Drake (Aubrey Drake Graham) released his EP mixtape “so far gone” in February 2009. The mixtape, released on his own independent label, was the major catalyst in launching his career. The indie effort saw the second single “” reach #2 on the Billboard US hot rap songs and #3 on the R&B chart. The third single, “Best I Ever Had,” soared even higher, going all the way to #2 on the US Billboard hot 100 chart, reaching #1 on the US hot rap songs and R&B charts, #10 on the mainstream top 40. The song was nominated for two Grammy awards: Best rap solo performance and best rap song.