People thought that, after the turn of the Millennium, we’d be driving in hover cars and living with alien. In fact, what 2001 really looked like was Nintendo Gameboys, Mariah Carey’s fictional biopic Glitter and women wearing dresses over jeans (really).
READ MORE: 20 indie anthems from 2001 that still slap
Missy Elliott, ‘Get Ur Freak On’
One of the rapper’s best tracks of all time, ‘Get Ur Freak On’ was revolutionary. Before the likes of Missy Elliott, there weren’t many unapologetically voluptuous girls who were just as brash and confident as their peers. Queen Latifah was rapping in oversized, masculine looks fitting in with hip-hop’s established aesthetic, but she wasn’t as high fashion as Missy. As she delivered iconic raunchiness mixed with that double denim look, this track set Elliott up for worldwide acclaim as rap’s newest leading lady.
Why it still sounds huge: The Timbaland-produced beat rings true alongside all the onomatopoeic ad-libs.
Jennifer Lopez, ‘I’m Real’ feat. Ja Rule (Murder Inc remix)
When she was still that budding Jenny from the block, this remix saw the ‘Ready For Tonight’ singer rubbing shoulders with the hottest rapper in the biz at the time, Queens’ Ja Rule. For year rumours circulated that J.Lo’s supposed vocals were actually those of Murder Inc’s first lady, Ashanti (who helped write the track), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that if this came on in the club today, we’d all bounce along.
Why it still sounds huge: The yin and yang of Ja’s husky vocals and Lopez (or Ashanti’s?) velvety tone will have you changing your pitch to sing both parts.
Ja Rule feat. Ashanti ‘Always On Time’
Remember we said that Ja Rule was the hottest rapper of the 2000’s? Well, it was all because of this very song. An era-defining guitar heavy instrumental and a sampled fresh-faced Ashanti introduces you to that infamous chorus we all picked up so easily – whether you were in diapers or studying for your Masters. It was the soundtrack to countless nights out, and kids who grew up with this as a classic throwback can still enjoy the sunshine-filled chimes of the song on a dancefloor.
Why it still sounds huge: Ja Rule’s gruff vocals contrast with the summery instrumental, making it a unique musical experience tinged with nostalgia.
Lil Mo and Fabolous, ‘Superwoman Pt.II’
Lil Mo was known for a minute for her huge vocals on ‘Can’t Let You Go’ and ‘Put It On You’, trading on the starpower of superstar rappers such as Fabolous and Ja Rule. In her short stint in the mainstream, though, she had delivered two timeless love tracks. The zooming synths were ahead of their time and, with the addition of nonchalant chick magnet Fabolous, the New Yorkers made a romantic power anthem that bigs up women around the world.
Why it still sounds huge: In addition to those stunning, soulful vocals, the song’s crisp production sounds more like that of a 2010s track.
Jagged Edge feat. Nelly, ‘Where The Party At?’
Jagged Edge knew they had a hit on their hands with this instant floorfiller. At the time, Jagged Edge were the best R&B boy band around, as they were signed to Bad Boy Records (who iconically looked after Biggie Smalls, coming off the successful Valentine’s Day classic ‘Let’s Get Married’. Combining their star power and effortless harmonies, ‘Where The Party At?’ lives on in the hearts of ‘00s kids everywhere.
Why it still sounds huge: Demanding to get the party started, that opening roll on the glockenspiel endlessly enthrals.
Nas, ‘One Mic’
Pushing aside the beef he’d had with Jay-Z around the release of ‘Stillmatic’, Nas’ ‘One Mic’ is the one for those who covet well-crafted bars. The low, sombre ode to the simple life was the catalyst for many budding rap fans’ love affair with the genre because it’s so dense but easily digestible. Setting the bar so high for lyricists in the limelight, Nas continued his streak as the most methodical rappers of all time with this bedroom filler.
Why it still sounds huge: The track’s relatability still holds up 20 years later, making it a multi-generational classic that can hopefully live on for another two decades.
Eve, ‘Who’s That Girl?’
This Philly Ruff Ryder was putting it on for the ladies in 2001. With her ‘Scorpion’ album showing off her imaginative pen and great ear for making hits, it’s no wonder Eve’s second album earned her a Grammy nom with its infectious, generational classics. ‘Who’s That Girl?’ makes you feel like the main character in the song. As walking down the street to that wail of jumpy piano keys, everything revolves around you – and that’s non-negotiable. No wonder the titular lyrics live on as a meme in the community of Eve fanatics who know that they’re that girl.
Why it still sounds huge: If you exchange Eve’s name for your own, the lyrics are an affirmation full of self-confidence, which was kind of lost in pop music at the time.
Diddy, ‘Bad Boys For Life’
Forget the endless name changes: P. Diddy solidified his place in hip-hop with this joint. Making an anthem for his very own Bad Boy Records label – which is legendary in its own right – this track is firming in the hall of famed hip-hop music for its iconic visuals accompanying it too. Sitting atop a beautiful home in the middle of suburbia, Diddy delivers quick-witted nonchalant rhymes with exuberant cockiness, which Bad Boy’s roster was renowned for.
Why it still sounds huge: Given the amount of cultural clout coins this track has, listening back to it invokes a whole other world of nostalgia.
Foxy Brown and Kelis, ‘Candy’
When you’re listing the best producers of the ‘00s, you’ll naturally gravitate towards Timbaland, Scott Storch and Dr. Dre. However, The Neptunes are the true dominators of the Y2K era. ‘Candy’ could have been a sickly pop track, but Foxy’s deep gangster delivery was a stark contrast to milkshake-making Kelis‘ cutesy voice.
Why it still sounds huge: ‘Candy’ is a sonic representation of a Sour Patch Kid. It’s sweet at the centre, but the overwhelming flavour is that of Foxy’s deliciously sour raps.
Busta Rhymes, ‘Break Ya Neck’
Remember when Busta Rhymes had dreads? Well, loc’ed up and ready to go, ‘Break Ya Neck’ places his quick, tongue-twisting bars are at the forefront of a garbled synthetic instrumental. Busta’s dizzying delivery in the verses still wows all these years later – the song is so lyrically dense it could take 20 years could unpick – while the chorus is entertainingly relatable and simple: “Just let me give you real street shit / To ride in yo’ shit with / Recline yo’ seat, rewind this heat…”
Why it still sounds huge: It’s not often that a song goes out of its way to inflict physical pain, so you could say ‘Break Ya Neck’ pioneered some of the sounds we mosh to today. Same energy; different era.