50 Cent became a household name in 2003. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

When it rains, it pours. In 2003, we got a torrential downpour of Hip-Hop albums that would go onto become iconic. In fact, some of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all-time turned 20 in 2023.

Much of Hip-Hop is up for debate. Every fan will have their own Top 5 favorite artists, albums, and collabs–and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, some albums are just undisputed. When you look at some of the best albums of the 2000s, oddly most of them were dropped in 2003.

Hip-Hop Albums That Turned 20 In 2023

The music landscape was totally different 20 years ago. MTV was still playing music videos, the style was different, and we were buying CDs, or…we should have been…some of us were occupying our time on sites like Limewire. Shame on all of us! Shame! Tsk tsk.

Today, the biggest names in the game are artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and a bunch of mumble rappers. Back in 2003, we had Eminem, Jay-Z, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson had just become a household name. It seems like all of the biggest names in Hip-Hop decided to drop an album in 2003…and they all delivered.

It’s insane how many timeless albums we were gifted in 2003. We definitely took it for granted. It was a challenge putting together a list of 5 because that meant leaving a ton of excellent albums on the cutting room floor. I reckon it would have made much more sense, and honestly have been easier on me, to share 20 epic hip-hop albums that turned 20 in 2023. Instead, I chose to go with 5 in an effort to save us both time (you’re welcome) but going with such a limited number meant not including some real gems.

Happy 20th Birthday To These Albums

Below, you’ll find my list of 5 favorite albums that turned 20 in 2023. Like I said, it was no easy project. You’ll find some great albums weren’t included in the list, so let’s go over some honorable mentions. The fact that some of these massive albums are merely honorable mentions goes to show how strong the competition was in 2003, and what these artists were up against.

I wasn’t able to include Fabolous’ Street Dreams album on the list. That’s a bummer because there were some iconic hits that defined the time on that record, like “Into You” and “Can’t Let You Go.” Joe Budden’s debut album dropped in 2003, that didn’t make the cut. Fantastic albums by Bubba Sparxxx, Missy Elliott, and Killer Mike also failed to make the list. Those are some big names! So, what did make the final 5? Let’s get to the list!

  • 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin'

    Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is one of the greatest albums of all-time, and it was released in February of 2003. It launched 50 Cent into stardom immediately. The album features timeless tracks like “In Da Club,” “21 Questions,” and “P.I.M.P.” Those were all hits. However, what made Get Rich or Die Tryin’ special was that there were no misses on the albums. In fact, some of the best songs on the album weren’t released as singles. I mean, “Many Men (Wish Death)” features one of the greatest bars of all-time. Happy 20th Birthday!

  • OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

    In 2003, we were introduced to OutKast’s timeless double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. At the time, I felt like I had never seen anything like it. It gave us over two hours of the best of both Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Speakerboxxx was Big Boi’s half, heavy on that Southern hip-hop influence. While 3 Stacks’ The Love Below featured more funk, psychedelic, pop, and jazz styles. Hits came out of both halves of the album. Speakerboxxx had tracks like “The Way You Move,” “Ghetto Musick,” and “Bowtie.” The Love Below featured songs like “Hey Ya!,” “Roses,” and “Prototype.” It went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 2004 Grammy’s.

  • Jay-Z - The Black Album

    Jay-Z’s The Black Album was released in November of 2003. It was advertised as Jay-Z’s final album before retiring. That theme was prevelent throughout the record. However, as we all know…that didn’t end up happening. It did end up being arguably one of his best projects, though. The great album features hits like “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “99 Problems,” and “Change Clothes.” Man, 2003 was a great year.

  • Ludacris - Chicken-n-Beer

    I’ve always loved Luda. If I’m speaking honestly, I always preferred 2001’s Word of Mouf, but Chicken-n-Beer was an outstanding album, as well. It featured hit after hit and really showed off Ludacris’ witty sense of humor. Well-known tracks off the record include “Stand Up,” “Splash Waterfalls,” and “Blow It Out.”

  • T.I. - Trap Muzik

    T.I.’s Trap Muzik will always have a special place in my heart. I listened to it all the time. It was my go-to album to pump me up before football games. It went hard and Tip had so much swagger throughout the entire record. It seemed to feature hit after hit like “24’s,” “Rubber Band Man,” and “Let’s Get Away.”

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