The 2000s yielded many great things, not least in the world of music. The rise of the internet gave a new platform for artists to share their music. And the shift from Rockstar to Pop and Hip Hop star, which started in the 90s, continued with unprecedented speed.
A genre that saw growth like no others was Hip Hop. Building upon the sounds and styles laid down by the pioneers of the decades before; young artists began incorporating the art of rap into everything. From abstract modern jazz to even creating a subgenre of Heavy Metal called Nu-Metal.
Being able to rap verses of artistic truth to a beat is a skill that few possess. But, the 2000s saw the rise of great ones. So, I decided to take a look at some of the best Hip Hop songs from the 2000s. So, here in no particular order, are my picks for the best 2000s rap songs, starting with…
- Top 17 Best 2000s Rap Songs
- In Da Club by 50 Cent
- Jackson By Outkast
- Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliot
- Exhibit C by Jay Electronica
- 99 Problems by Jay-Z
- The Way I Am by Eminem
- A Milli by Lil Wayne
- Takeover by Jay – Z
- Royal Flush by Big Boy (feat. Andre 3000 and Raekwon)
- Touch The Sky by Kanye West (feat. Lupe Fiasco)
- Swagga Like Us by T.I. and Jay-Z (feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne)
- Lose Yourself by Eminem
- Get By by Talib Kweli
- Drop It Like Its Hot by Snoop Dogg (feat. Pharrel Williams)
- Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys)
- Candy Shop by 50 Cent (feat. Olivia)
- Hot Boyz by Missy Elliot (Remix feat. Lil Mo, Nas, Eve, and Q-Tip)
- Looking for More Awesome Songs?
- Best 2000s Rap Songs – Conclusion
Top 17 Best 2000s Rap Songs
In Da Club by 50 Cent
Album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
We’ll start our list with a bang, just like the artist who recorded this track started his career. “In Da Club” is arguably the biggest hit from his massive debut album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Additionally, it’s perhaps the biggest 50 Cent hit ever.
Production on the seminal album began after Fifty was discovered by Eminem. The rapper was introduced to the legendary Dr.Dre, and within five days, the two of them had produced seven tracks. The very first of which was “In Da Club.”
A different approach…
Much of the material on 50 Cent’s first album is quite dark. Therefore, he decided to take at least one track in a different direction in terms of its tone. The result was one of the most popular 2000s rap songs.
“In Da Club” is a simple, upbeat tune to party and celebrate life. Fifty explained to one interviewer that even Dr. Dre was taken aback at first by the change in direction, but knew from the start that it worked. The result was a massive hit.
It went to #1 in most of Europe and #3 in the UK. In March of 2003, it made Billboard history by becoming the most listened to song on radio within a week. It’s certified Platinum in Denmark, Italy, and Sweden and double-platinum in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Jackson By Outkast
I’m quite sure that the artists and producers knew that this single would do well. They just weren’t expecting it to do quite as well as “Ms. Jackson” did in the end. As a result, it is one of the best 2000s rap songs.
Inspired partly by Andre 3000’s relationship with singer/songwriter Erykah Badu and her mother, “Ms. Jackson” is a heartfelt song about having a child out of wedlock. Various aspects of the situation get touched upon throughout the song.
Quite a popular tune…
“Ms. Jackson” was #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for a whole week. It was also #1 in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Likewise, “Ms. Jackson” went five times platinum in Australia, triple-platinum in the US, double-platinum in the UK, and platinum in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
The track won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. And its accompanying music video won a BET Award for Video of the Year and MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Video.
Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliot
Album: Miss E… So Addictive
The moment that Elliot and Timbaland created the little bhangra-influenced bassline that plays throughout “Get Ur Freak On” must have been magical. The hypnotic and infectious main bassline is played on a Tumbi, while the rhythm is played on a pair of Tabla.
If you haven’t seen the music video, stop and go watch it…
The Asian guy doing the splits is speaking Japanese and what he says translates to, “Everyone start dancing together wildly now – let’s make some noise, let’s make some noise.” He’s heard again during the outro saying (in Japanese once more), “One Two Three Four.”
“Get Ur Freak On” reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a Top 10 hit in the Netherlands as well as the United Kingdom, making it Missy Elliot’s first Top 10 in the country.
It has since been remixed and used in films, appeared in television shows, and certified platinum in both the US and the UK. Not to mention becoming one of the most iconic hooks in Hip Hop history. I mean, you know it when you hear it, right?
Exhibit C by Jay Electronica
Album: Exhibit C
Jay’s rags-to-riches story is perhaps not the most unique in musical history. But, at the time, it came with a sound and power that the world had not yet heard and was certainly not ready for, because the track wasn’t picked up commercially.
Considering how important the track has become since its release on iTunes in 2009, it’s strange to think that Jay and producer Just Blaze produced the bulk of the track in just fifteen minutes. It was intended for Jay Electronica’s appearance on the popular satellite rap radio show Shade 45.
Since its release…
The track has gained massive underground status, and the instrumental versions (available on the original EP) have been used by countless other artists in cover versions as well as remixes. All in all, a special and iconic track. And it is one of the most underrated Rap songs of the 2000s.
99 Problems by Jay-Z
Album: The Black Album
Working with Jay-Z on The Black Album was the first time producer Rick Ruben had worked on any Hip Hop or rap-related music in years. Not that the hiatus had dulled his skills for the genre in any way.
The track is based on a stripped-down beat with a guitar hook which Ruben has become somewhat known for doing well. There are also samples from “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, “Long Red” By Mountain, and “Get Me Back on Time” by Wilson Picket.
Telling an important tale…
The track revolves around Jay’z’s troubles in dealing with all manner of things. From rap critics who badmouth his songs to having simple disagreements with other people. Notably, the song has been analyzed by fans and even lawyers because of the experience detailed in the second verse.
Jay-Z described an experience of being pulled over by police while he had illegal substances in his vehicle. The verse has sparked much debate around racial profiling, search and seizure, as well as constitutional rights. What’s your take on how Jay-Z got away that day?
“99 Problems” won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and it has been certified platinum in both the US and the UK. Jack White has described the song as “the story of America … in a nutshell, [it’s] the story of all the struggles in America, black or white, [and of] class systems”.
The Way I Am by Eminem
Album: The Marshall Mathers LP
Eminem has inspired some of the most fanatical fans of any artist in history. While grateful for his success, Em has often expressed uncomfortable feelings toward the behavior of fans through his music. It’s not often that such directness exists when an artist communicates with fans.
Em doesn’t stick to just himself, though. After the first chorus, he rolls into some wide-ranging commentary on American society and its value systems. All the while maintaining that cutting 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 flow that sits at the backbone of this Dr. Dre-produced track.
If there’s one thing a rapper needs to be able to do, it’s tell it like it is. And, few artists have maintained their frantic devotion to the unvarnished truth than Eminem has. It might not always be pretty, but at least it’s for real every time.
A Milli by Lil Wayne
Album: Tha Carter III
The producer of this massive track, Bangladeshi singer Shanell, met Wayne on a tour when he was still just an opening act. When he later asked her to contribute to Tha Carter III, she played some Bangladeshi music. And one of those beats would become the foundation for “A Milli.”
The feel on “A Milli” is much more freestyle than some of Wayne’s other stuff. It’s perhaps this spontaneity that makes it stand out so much. Not to mention that sick beat.
The track won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. It was Wayne’s second Top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #8. It was his second #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. “A Milli” has been certified five times platinum in the United States.
Takeover by Jay – Z
Album: The Blueprint
Back in 2001, Jay-Z was somewhat out of the spotlight. When he did get some attention, it was in the form of disses from the likes of Nas, Jadakiss, and Prodigy. There were also two criminal trials in progress during the production of The Blueprint.
“Takeover” was produced by Kanye West (some would say his big-time production debut), and within the first few seconds, it was clear that Jay-Z was back in a big way. Furthermore, the track is widely considered the first public release to acknowledge the feud between Jay-Z and Nas.
Many memorable disses on the track…
But, none can be viewed as significant as a reference to Prodigy’s youth, “You was a ballerina – I got the pictures I seen ya.” It’s fair to say it is one of the best rap dis songs from the 2000s.
During a performance of Takeover at Hot 97’s Summer Jam in 2001, a giant Picture of Prodigy as a child in ballet clothes was displayed on the screen to thousands of fans. The track inspired what would probably go down as the biggest feud in Hip-Hop history.
A series of replies and subsequent diss tracks would follow. Although, many would argue that, in the end, the careers of both artists got boosted.
Royal Flush by Big Boy (feat. Andre 3000 and Raekwon)
Album: Royal Flush
“Skew It on the Bar-B” from Outkast’s 1998 album, Aquemini, was the last track that these three artists collaborated on before they did “Royal Flush.” Why there had been a ten-year gap is a good question, because they make nothing but fire when they come together.
The track gives the impression of going through a series of hills. Brief vocal breaks lift you up between the downwards sloping verses. Working together, the trio smacks you with harsh realities, veiled truths, and aggressive commentary on the government.
And Andre 3000 simply destroyed it on this one. It’s one of those verses you have to listen to again immediately after you’ve heard it the first time. One of the best he’s ever recorded. And is one of the best 2000s rap songs as well.
Touch The Sky by Kanye West (feat. Lupe Fiasco)
Album: Late Registration
Rap has plenty of violence and ego, and there’s no lack of controversy either. But most good rappers eventually get around to making music that gives off good vibes. “Touch The Sky” is one of those tracks that contains tremendous positive energy.
This is Lupe Fiasco’s career debut and is the only track on Late Registration that wasn’t produced by West. Fiasco initially didn’t want to be part of the track when West asked him to collaborate. But, after some persuasion from his better half, he got on board. And aren’t we glad he did so?
The track was a notable success; it peaked at #6 on the UK Singles chart making it West’s fifth Top 10 in the country. “Touch The Sky” has been certified platinum in the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The accompanying music video features a great Evil Knievel tribute/metaphor.
Swagga Like Us by T.I. and Jay-Z (feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne)
Album: Paper Trail
Kanye West (who is also the producer of this track) had wanted to work with British rapper M.I.A. for a long time. But, the hectic schedules of both artists had not allowed them the time.
So, when M.I.A’s massive single “Paper Planes” dropped, West’s fervor only increased. In the end, he decided to sample a bit of “Paper Planes” and make a song out of it. It would be the first since the death of his mother.
A Hip Hop super-group?
The track was finished with producer Mike Caren and then sent over to T.I., who was busy recording material for his album, Paper Trail. T.I. extended an invitation to fellow rappers Jay-Z and Lil-Wayne to contribute verses.
The result is a track so loaded with star power it can’t do anything but become a hit. This the track did, despite being critically unsuccessful.
“Swagga Like Us” peaked at #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and became a Top 40 hit in many other countries. It earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song and won a Grammy for Best Performance By a Duo or Group.
M.I.A. was nine months pregnant at the time of the ceremony. Despite this, she joined West, Jay-Z, T.I., and Wayne on stage for a performance of the song.
Lose Yourself by Eminem
Album: 8 Mile Soundtrack
If you’ve ever seen the film that features this song, 8 Mile, then you’ll remember the iconic scene of B-Rabbit sitting on the Bus writing some stuff on yellow paper. Well, that is the actual piece of paper that Em was using to write the lyrics for “Lose Yourself.”
Whether intentionally or due to time constraints, Em had written the song while filming “8-Mile”. He made basic recordings of the verses in a mobile studio near the set for him to use when not filming.
Opportunity comes once in a lifetime…
Lyrically, the song is a masterpiece and will forever go down as one of Em’s greatest. He tells the story flawlessly and perfectly embodies the character of B-Rabbit, with whom he most assuredly shares a few attributes. Seeing him do this song live brings chills to anyone’s spine.
“Lose Yourself” is one of Eminem’s most successful songs. It hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and managed to stay there for twelve consecutive weeks. It was the rapper’s first #1 on the chart. And it would stay in the top ten for a total of sixteen weeks.
This track has sold more than ten million copies in the US, earning a diamond certification. It also received the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Get By by Talib Kweli
If there is a track that solidified Kweli as a legit solo act, it’s got to be this single from his third album. The track was produced by Kanye West (yet again) and helped make the album, Quality one of the most successful releases of 2002.
Initially, producers and management were banking on the first two singles for the album to make an impact. But, when both failed to make any noise, they released “Get By.”
It did more than just get by…
Because of the controversial lyrical content, many thought the song wasn’t commercially viable. Despite this, it became Kweli’s most successful track. The track samples Nina Simone’s version of “Sinnerman.”
With seemingly no effort but an immense amount of passion, Talib starts close to home with stories of selling drugs just to “get by” and slowly widening his train of thought. Eventually, it culminates in some very honest self-critiques and a good look at society.
“Get By” is Kweli’s most successful single as a solo artist. It peaked at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100, #28 on the US Billboard Rhythmic chart, and #16 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart.
Drop It Like Its Hot by Snoop Dogg (feat. Pharrel Williams)
The phrase “Drop It Like It’s Hot” was around long before this song. But, I am quite sure most folks would not have known about this provocative dance move had it not been for Snoop and Pharrel.
When someone asks you about minimalism, you can point to this song with a big red arrow. It’s still one of the sparsest mixes you’ll come across in Hip Hop. Yet, it’s got so much power and drive due to that catchy vocal line.
All you’ve got is a drum machine with some white noise, a keyboard, and those quirky tongue clicks. However, when that is mixed with the vocals, the track just becomes a different animal.
So very hot…
“Drop It Like It’s Hot” has become one of the most iconic 2000s rap songs and is easily one of the biggest Hip Hop songs ever. This hot track reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Snoop’s first) and remained there for three weeks.
It also topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, which was another first for Snoop. It was #1 in New Zealand for four consecutive weeks and #10 in the UK. And it has been certified double-platinum in the US and Platinum in the UK.
Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys)
Album: The Blueprint 3
This track has a sound as wide and large as the city that inspired it. “Empire State of Mind” is one of those songs that just screams “important.” The track was written by New York natives and songwriting partners Angela Hunte and Janet “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic.
Originally Jay’s label rejected the song, but a few months later, EMI’s “Big Jon” Platt heard the tune at a barbeque and was convinced it would be perfect for Jay-Z. The track was listened to again, and this time round, Jay-Z loved it. So much so that he did the recording that same night.
For me, this track is one of Alicia’s finest moments as well, both as an incredible piano player and a singer. One critic hit the nail on the head when he used the term “orchestral rap ballad.” Keys’ voice and playing style were perfect for this track.
King of New York…
This classic rap song from the 2000s was a massive success. It became a Top 10 hit in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, and Sweden. It was Jay-Z’s first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for five consecutive weeks.
The track was nominated for Three Grammy awards and won two. Namely, Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It has been certified triple-platinum in the US and Australia.
Candy Shop by 50 Cent (feat. Olivia)
Album: The Massacre
It makes sense that we should have at least two of Fifty’s songs on a list of the best 2000s rap songs. The 2000s were good for many rappers, but as far as 50 Cent goes, it might as well have been his decade. He’s listed as the most successful rap artist of the 2000s with seven #1 singles.
“Candy Shop” was received with mixed emotions by critics and fans alike. Although, when we strip the lyrical content from the production and focus on the latter, it’s hard to find fault with the incredible track that Scot Storch and Fat Joe put together.
The use of Middle Eastern sounds, combined with that hypnotic swinging beat, creates a perfect space for 50 Cent’s velvet voice to flow over. The track samples “Ooh I Love It (Love Break)” by The Salsoul Orchestra.
Sweet, sweet success…
“Candy Shop” was a smash hit, becoming 50 Cent’s third #1 single and climbing to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 within five weeks of its release. The track remained #1 for nine consecutive weeks and stayed on the chart for a total of 23 weeks.
The track also topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Rap Tracks, and Rhythmic Top 10. And it earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song. Eventually, it was certified platinum in the US, UK, Australia, Denmark, and Germany.
Hot Boyz by Missy Elliot (Remix feat. Lil Mo, Nas, Eve, and Q-Tip)
Album: Da Real World
Yes, I know this is not a 2000s song since it was released in 1999. But, when you take into account the massive track this ended up becoming, you’ll realize why it deserves its spot here.
The music video for this one features a lot of pyrotechnics and dancers, as well as Missy rapping in a massive stadium. It might sound a bit bland, but the way it was shot makes it very compelling to watch. The track features some great verses from all the artists and became an “Urban Hit.”
“Hot Boyz” broke some chart records. First, for the most weeks spent on top of the US R&B chart. Second, for the most weeks spent on the Hot Rap songs chart.
Here’s why it’s included…
The track remained on the Hot Rap Songs chart for eighteen weeks, from December 4, 1999, to March 25, 2000. This track may have been released in the previous century, but it came into the new one on top of the charts. That is why it deserves a spot on this list.
Looking for More Awesome Songs?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best 90s Hip Hop Songs, the Best Sad Rap Songs, the Best Songs of The 2000s, the Best Stripper Songs, and the Best Reggae Songs Ever for more great song selections.
Also, you’ll need to hear those jams. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best JBL Wireless Headphones you can buy in 2023.
Best 2000s Rap Songs – Conclusion
With epic diss tracks, awesome anthems, and sexy songs and words to party to, the 2000s has rap music for every occasion. Someone might look at you and say, “That’s old,” when you play one of these tracks at a party. But you can just smile and say, “It’s timeless.”
Until next time, happy listening.