Rap music enjoyed a landmark year in 2000, with a number of classic albums shaping the sound of the genre. Here are the 20 best rap verses from that year.
Reaching its commercial apex during the ’90s, the future appeared bright for hip-hop as the culture entered the new millennium. Firmly established as the voice of the youth, with strongholds from the inner-city to the suburbs, rap music was big business and showed no signs of relinquishing its grip on the pulse of American counterculture.
Building on the momentum built over the previous years, when artists found a balance between their aspiration for mainstream success and creative integrity, rap music enjoyed a landmark year in 2000, with a number of classic albums, breakout artists, and hit records shaping the sound of the genre. However, while a number of acts made a memorable impact within those 365 days, a choice few separated themselves from the pack with singular performances that not only moved the needle, but touched the core of the culture through their lyrics. A hot song or a hook that’s seemingly inescapable on the radio is a dime a dozen, but those moments when a rap artist can penetrate the soul through the power of their words or the tone of their voice is the true mark of a great MC.
Whether an artist is attempting to paint a picture, convey a message, or build on a concept, the perfect verse can crystallize your place within the annals of hip-hop and be passed down from one generation to the next. We decided to go back to 2000 and rank the 20 best rap verses from that year.
20. Nelly — “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)” (Nelly’s second Verse)
When Nelly’s debut single, “Country Grammar (Hot Shit),” first hit the airwaves, the song appeared to have come out of nowhere. In addition to Nelly’s melodic flow and charismatic presence, the song caught fire due to the fact it represented for a pocket of the country that had been overlooked in the rap game up to that point in time. Laying down his St. Louis charm, and showing solidarity among his southern and midwestern counterparts, Nelly tosses around couplets with the swiftness of a trained prizefighter.
Standout line: “Say now, can you hoes come out to play now/Hey, I’m ready to cut you up any day now/Play by my rules Boo and you gon’ stay high/May I answer your Third Question like A.I/Say hi, to my niggas left in the slamma/From St. Louis to Memphis, from Texas back up to Indiana.”
19. Memphis Bleek, H. Money Bags, Beanie Sigel & JAY-Z — “My Mind Right (Remix)”(JAY-Z’ verse)
What’s beef, you ask? Well, in the rap game, beef is when you throw down the gauntlet and openly dare your opponents to take their best shot, which JAY-Z did with his guest spot on the remix to Memphis Bleek’s “My Mind Right.” Released as a single from Bleek’s sophomore album, The Understanding, “My Mind Right” captured the front-line of the Roc-A-Fella army inviting all the smoke, particularly Jay, who blatantly throws Harlem World member Meeno under the bus and takes a few thinly veiled shots at Nas. Credited as the song that brought the tension between Hov and Esco to the forefront, this verse saw him rise to the occasion and sparked a chain of events that would alter hip-hop history.
Standout line: “Niggas forget niggas as soon as your coffin off in the ground/Family man, look at your kids orphans now/Used to just smack rappers, I’m extorting ’em now/Taking all that’s supporting ’em now, down to your bitch/Nigga you sick, fronting like you tougher than what you are/’Til the gun is coming through the driver’s side of your car/Using my name in vain like I won’t damage the boy/You think niggas was shooting your fat ass out of canons before.”
18. Rah Digga — “Curtains” (Rah Digga’s second verse)
As the First Lady of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad and an affiliate of the New Jersey rap collective Outsidaz, Rah Digga’s rhyme skills were battle-tested by the time her debut LP, Dirty Harriet, dropped during spring 2000. A standout on the album was “Curtains,” with the Brick City lyricist running roughshod over a backdrop produced by Busta himself. Catching full stride on the second verse, Rah Digga throws in a few extra bars for good measure, resulting in one of the sleeper rap verses for that year.
Standout line: “Twenty thousand seaters, heads givin me pounds/Even biggin me for shit I did for Lyricist Lounge/Like, “How can I be down?”, hoes I don’t trust ya/Playin me close so I can hook you up with Busta/Fuck an entourage, I’m the bitch that roll dolo/More still than mo-mo’s and a 4-4 on my polo/With the toaster, make ya run like Sammy Sosa/Could take about 50 MC’s like Tony Tocca”
17. Cam’ron & Prodigy of Mobb Deep — “Losin’ Weight” (Cam’ron’s verse)
Littering his debut album, Confessions of Fire, with various tales that saw him meddling in the art of macabre, Cam’ron continued to rely on his dark sense of humor on his sophomore effort S.D.E. Despite failing to mirror the success of his previous offering, S.D.E. was well-received by the streets, with joints like the Prodigy-assisted “Losin’ Weight” getting listeners open. Doling out a little life advice passed down by his sociopath of an uncle, the Diplomat gets grisly for the love of the almighty dollar throughout the length of this diatribe.
Standout line: “When I was 11 got the toolie thick/My uncle pulled me to the side and he schooled me quick, told me some gooey shit/You can’t get paid in an earth this big?/You worthless kid, nigga don’t deserve to live/Go and get it motherfucker, if you murder kids/Bottle up carbohydrates and preservatives/He got hit up that same night/But ever since my dough, my flow, and my ho game been tight.”
16. Big L — “Flamboyant” (Big L’s first verse)
Harlem legend Big L’s untimely murder on February 15, 1999 sent shock-waves through the hip-hop community, with many lamenting the fact that his best years and music were still ahead of him at the time of his death. In an attempt to bookend his career on a high note and keep his legacy alive, close friends and associates put together The Big Picture, a posthumous album of unreleased material, freestyles, and rare gems in 2000. The album’s lead single, “Flamboyant,” would be Big L’s highest-charting song to date and contains one of the late punchline king’s most quotable rap verses, a reminder that, even in death, Corleone was too advanced for his time.
Standout line: “Make sure my mic is loud and my production is tight/Better watch me ’round your girl if you ain’t fuckin’ her right/You damn playa haters never want to see me blow/Flamboyant Entertainment CEO/Yo, the spotlight is mine, it ain’t his no more/When Lee come home, niggas can’t live no more/And I’m straight, keep a Harlem World mindstate/I never lounge where you find Jake.”
15. Capone-N-Noreaga & Foxy Brown — “Bang Bang” (Foxy Brown’s verse)
The rivalry between Brooklyn rap stars Foxy Brown and Lil Kim brewed throughout the latter half of the ’90s, with the former friends battling it out for the top slot on the charts and in the hearts of the public. While veiled jabs and slights between the two were fueled by constant comparisons by the media and fans alike, things took a swift turn in 2000 when Foxy Brown put the beef on front street with her incendiary verse on “Bang Bang” from Capone-N-Noreaga’s sophomore album The Reunion. All but mentioning Kim directly by name, the Chyna Doll made it clear that the bad blood was real with this stanza, which was also the catalyst for the infamous 2001 shooting in front of Hot 97 involving members of C-N-N and Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s entourages.
Standout line: “Hot damn ho, here we go again/Pop shit like a cock, +Lyte+ weight as your +Rocks+, bitch/You talk slick, fuck is all that sneak shit?/You and Diddy, y’all kill me with that subliminal shit, bitch/Why’s you frontin and kickin that street shit?/Please, impress me, go back to that freak shit/While your broke-ass was guzzlin’ nuts and shit/I was choppin the weights, leak and O.Z.s and shit.”
14. dead prez — “Hip-Hop” (M-1’s first verse)
At a time when excess in hip-hop had begun to jump the shark, rap duo dead prez took it back to the days of African medallions with their debut album, Let’s Get Free. Hailed as a sociopolitical statement in the vein of classics like Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and X-Clan’s To the East, Blackwards, Let’s Get Free was led by the pulsating single “Hip Hop,” which includes a flawless performance by group member M-1. Surveying the cultural landscape while holding no punches, M-1 employs a rapid-fire delivery that’s true to his moniker while throwing the middle finger up in the face of the industrial rap complex.
Standout line: “One thing bout music when it hit you feel no pain/White folks say it controls your brain, I know better than that, that’s game/And we ready for that, two soldiers head of the pack/Matter fact, who got the gat?/And where my army at?/Rather attack than not react.”
13. Big L & Big Daddy Kane — “Platinum Plus” (Big Daddy Kane’s verse)
In hip-hop, one of the worst tags to have bestowed upon you “washed up,” which legendary rapper Big Daddy Kane was billed as following the release of his seventh studio album, Veteranz’ Day, in 1998. However, while many deemed the Brooklyn native as past his prime, he silenced those notions two years later with his appearance alongside Big L on the Harlem rapper’s posthumous single, “Platinum Plus.” Putting forth a dexterous performance that showed his ability to recapture the chops that made him one of rap’s most formidable emcees during his heyday, Big Daddy Kane redeemed himself with one of the most explosive guest rap verses of the year.
Standout line: “And cats still wonder can they get as hot as he been/That probably depends, let me show you how to begin/Bang chicks in Marriotts down to Quality Inns/Hit the bar spend cash like Monopoly ends/Plushed out, rock gators and exotical skins/Come in the hood, flippin the chicken and broccoli Timbs/Niggas come in the game, block they shot at the rim/That ain’t in you – the fuck you gon’ possibly win.”
12. Jadakiss — “Blood Pressure” (Jadakiss’ first verse)
Extricating themselves from their contract with Bad Boy Records following the release of their debut album, Money, Power & Respect, The LOX reunited with the Ruff Ryders for the release of their sophomore effort, We Are the Streets, in 2000. Reinvigorated by the change in scenery and disgruntled with their former CEO, the trio channeled that ire into some of the hardest bars of their career, particularly Jadakiss, who ascended into the top tier with lyrical exploits like this salvo. From addressing his status as one of the best at his craft, to throwing a random jab at the shiny suit man himself, Jada leaves no witnesses while adding to his list of body-bags.
Standout line: “Life is like walkin’ a yard/Niggas will stab you with a fork in the heart/And The Source got muthafuckas thinkin’ they hot/Like my dope, got fiends thinkin’ they shot/When you thinkin of da best, nigga, think of The Lox/I’ll cut your fuckin’ hand off if your pinky ring is hot/Then come through your block in a sticky green drop/Hop out, let off fifty-three shots/Wouldn’t care if I hit fifty-three cops”
11. Slum Village — “Raise It Up” (J Dilla’s verse)
J. Dilla shunned the narrative of what constituted a conscious rap artist on this fiery salvo from Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 album. Professing his affinity for pricey jewels, flashy cars, and the trappings of life as a hit-maker, Dilla, then known as Jay Dee, stepped into the forefront with this stanza, setting the record straight that he had more in common with your prototypical platinum rap star than a disenfranchised underground king.
Standout line: “You ain’t never seen me balling out at the bar right?/I don’t rock my ice and bounce foreign cars/And my Rover ain’t the hottest Rover you ever seen/That ain’t a TV screen/It ain’t sitting on eighteens dog/I ain’t gaining no green and my chain don’t swing uh/I ain’t doin my thing, I ain’t doin a thing.”
10. Reflection Eternal — “Good Mourning” (Talib Kweli’s second verse)
Joining forces with Mos Def for the critically acclaimed collaborative album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, Talib Kweli became one of the most visible faces in the wave of socially conscious rap artists that emerged during the late ’90s. Two years later, Kweli returned, this time alongside Cincinnati-bred producer Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal, with Train of Thought, an album that further established the Brooklynite as one of the most touted and successful artists to make the leap from the underground to the majors. Chock-full of heady rap verses rife with observational insights, Train of Thought has no shortage of thought-provoking stanzas, but Kweli’s portrait of life in the thick of the BK diaspora on this selection is simply superb.
Standout line: “In case you die in your sleep you ask the Lord for a blessin’/Sometimes they sneak up so quiet that the silence is deafenin’/You’ll never know who the assassin is until it’s your time to go/ Your life is flashin’, askin’ for forgiveness but you move too slow.”
9. Scarface — “Look Me in My Eyes” (Scarface’s first verse)
In 2000, as law enforcement attempted to place rap’s biggest artists under siege, many of the genre’s most respected MCs addressed the matter at hand, Scarface being among them. On “Look Me in My Eyes,” a single from his sixth solo studio album, The Last of a Dying Breed, the Houston native recounts various encounters with local and federal authorities, claiming his innocence and charging the powers that be with targeting him and other Black men attempting to turn their life around. Attacking the track with a passion that’s palpable from the outset, Face’s lyrical onslaught is a relentless one and makes for a riveting showing on his part.
Standout line: “So fuck you in ya asses, you know it’s all a lie/You just wanna destroy me, just like you did my god/But now I must expose you, and tell my boys the truth/Listen up my niggas: “The F.B.I. been watching you”/Especially if you black, and trying to leave the streets/And get off in this music, you see the way they doing me/Running in my crib, making niggas lie/Nigga get a scapegoat and take this 25”
8. Prodigy of Mobb Deep — “Keep It Thoro” (Prodigy’s second verse)
At the top of the new millennium, the title of King of New York was up for grabs, with various rap stars vying for the crown, Mobb Deep member Prodigy among them. Building a strong case with his impressive performances on three consecutive studio albums alongside group-mate Havoc, P looked to stake his claim even further with his debut solo LP H.N.I.C. Not one to craft contrived club bangers, Prodigy stuck to his guns by rolling out “Keep It Thoro” as the first single from the album, a move that was completely on-brand for the gruff crime-rhyme Houdini. Aside from breaking bread, ribs, and c-notes on the opening verse, P goes to unprecedented levels of violence, threatening to throw whole television sets at opposing rap crews and guaranteeing heavy airplay in one fell swoop.
7. Outkast — “Ms. Jackson” (André 3000’s verse)
A master at the art of storytelling, André 3000 outdid himself with this yarn about baby mama drama, which would be one of his last rap verses under the Outkast umbrella. Penning an open letter to the fictional “Ms. Jackson,” 3 Stacks gives a play-by-play on how the innocence of puppy-love can manifest into the bitterness of a scorned lover. Netting Outkast their first chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 2002, “Ms. Jackson” houses one of the most electric rap verses of Andre 3000’s career and is a testament to his ability to pen otherworldly raps while retaining the common touch.
Standout line: “Ten times out of nine, now if I’m lyin’, find/The quickest muzzle, throw it on my mouth and I’ll decline/King meets queen, then the puppy love thing/Together dream ’bout that crib with the Goodyear swing/On the oak tree, I hope we feel like this forever/Forever, forever ever? Forever, ever?/Forever never seems that long until you’re grown/And notice that the day-by-day ruler can’t be too wrong”
6. JAY-Z & Beanie Sigel — “Where Have You Been” (Beanie Sigel’s verse)
Opening the year with the release of his highly-anticipated debut album, The Truth, Beanie Sigel’s voice was inescapable in 2000, with the Philly firebrand lending his talents to various projects, including JAY-Z’s own chart-topping album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. Dominating multiple cuts on the album, Sigel played the role of lyrical enforcer for the majority of his air-time but showed the depth of his penmanship on “Where Have You Been,” which finds him having a public heart-to-heart conversation with his absentee father. Drawing up a level of emotion that’s impossible to manufacture, the Broad Street Bully poured his heart out for what remains one of his most earnest moments on wax.
Standout line: “I remember being kicked out the house ’cause I looked just like you/Said I’d be nothing but a crook—just like you/The niggas in the hood was shook? Well they just liked you/’Cause all they said was Little Whitey, look, I’m just like you/But dog I can’t see it at all, shit, we never kicked it at all/We never pitched or kicked at a ball/Dog, you never taught me shit/How to fight, ride a bike, fix a flat, none of that sorts of shit.”
5. Eminem — “The Way I Am” (Eminem’s first verse)
Minting himself as a star and pushing the envelope with the shock-value of his major-label debut, The Slim Shady LP, Eminem had built a reputation as the rare unbuttoned star who was liable to drop a polarizing quote or politically incorrect lyric at the drop of a dime. And if anyone expected the backlash received from various human-interest groups to temper his commentary, they were highly disappointed when he upped the ante throughout his blockbuster 2000 release, The Marshall Mathers LP. However, one sobering moment from the album that pulled the curtain back and gave a glimpse into the trials and tribulations that come with life as Slim Shady is “The Way I Am,” which contains one of the most intense outbursts from the “Rap God” that you’ll ever hear on wax.
Standout line: “I sit back with this pack of Zig-Zag’s and this bag/Of this weed, it gives me the shit needed to be/The most meanest MC on this… on this Earth/And since birth/I’ve been cursed with this curse to just curse/And just blurt this berserk and bizarre shit that works.”
4. Common & Bilal — “The 6th Sense” (Common’s third verse)
Establishing himself as the preeminent soloist out of the mid-west during the ’90s, Common entered the new millennium with Like Water For Chocolate, which earned him the first gold plaque of his career and saw him take the leap from the underground to the mainstream. Garnering rave reviews across the board, the album’s shining moment comes via the DJ Premier produced “6th Sense,” which Common closes out by pondering the positive and negative impact hip-hop has had on the world and community around him.
Standout line: “Somedays I take the L to gel with the real world/Got on at 87th, sat by this little girl/She recited raps, I forgot where they was from/In ’em, she was saying how she make brothers cum/I start thinking, how many souls hip-hop has affected/How many dead folks this art resurrected/How many nations this culture connected/Who am I to judge one’s perspective?”
3. Ghostface Killah & RZA — “Nutmeg” (Ghostface Killah’s first verse)
In the three years between the release of Ghostface Killah’s debut solo album, Ironman, in 1996, and Supreme Clientele, in 2000, a lot occurred within the parameters of the Wu-Tang Clan member’s orbit. In addition to serving time in the penal system after pleading out to an assault charge, GFK made a trek to Africa, where he penned this master class in unbridled, abstract lyricism that left listeners scratching their heads, but enthralled enough to attempt to make sense of it all. Stringing together nonsensical phrases together for the sake of rhyming isn’t a crime that’s easily forgiven for rap purists, but for Ghostface, it was yet another example of the inventive wizardry that sets him apart from the pack.
Standout line: “Scientific, my hand kissed it/Robotic, let’s think optimistic/You probably missed it, watch me Dolly Dick it/Scotty Wotty copped it to me, big microphone hippie/Hit Poughkeepsie, crispy chicken, verbs, throw up a stone, Richie.”
2. M.O.P., Remy Ma, Teflon & Busta Rhymes — “Ante Up (Remix)” (Remy Ma’s verse)
First popping up on posthumous albums by Big L (The Big Picture) and mentor Big Pun (Yeeeah Baby) in 2000, Bronx bombshell Remy Martin scored her first show-stealing feature with her showing on the remix to M.O.P.’s single “Ante Up (Robbin-Hoodz Theory)” later that same year. Cast alongside Busta Rhymes, who’s notorious for outshining collaborators in a group setting, Remy Ma not only holds her own, but provides the most memorable performance on the track. From threatening to strip all comers of all of their finances and jewelry, to paying homage to Big Pun mid-verse, Remy Ma put the rap world on notice that she was more than equipped to hold court alongside the best in the game.
Standout line: “I take your show money, take your ‘dro money/Yo, yap that fool cause I don’t know money/For my peeps that hate slow money, I put em in the industry/So they can come and take all your money/Wish I could bring Pun back, bitch run that/Bitch run that, bitch run that/So keep acting like you don’t know where the funds at/And I’mma show y’all motherfuckers where the guns at.”
1. JAY-Z — “Dynasty Intro”
Having climbed to the mountain-top of the rap game with two consecutive chart-topping albums, the self-proclaimed Michael Jordan of rap was eyeing his first three-peat, which he would complete with the release of his fifth studio album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. Despite being embroiled in a legal stemming from his involvement in a 1999 stabbing at a New York City nightclub, the controversy did little to hamper Hov, as he continued to deliver radio smashes like “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)” while thrusting his core stable of talent to the forefront. However, the album’s crown jewel comes immediately upon pressing play, as he puts on a clinic that ranks among the most awe-worthy rhyme spills on his resume.
Standout line: “The theme song to The Sopranos/Plays in the key of life on my mental piano/Got a strange way of seeing life, like I’m Stevie Wonder with beads under the do-rag/Intuition is there, even when my vision’s impaired, yeah/Knowing I can go just switching a spare/On the highway of life, nigga, it’s sharp in my sight, oh!/Keen senses ever since I was a teen on the benches/Every time somebody like Ennis was mentioned.”
Preezy Brown is a New York City–based reporter and writer, filling the empty spaces within street and urban culture. A product of the School of Hard Knocks, Magna Cum Laude. The Crooklyn Dodger. Got Blunt?