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The year was 2001. The battle for the King of New York crown was officially on between Jay-Z and Nas, and all eyes were on the Mecca of hip hop to see how the beef would play out.

Meanwhile, other regions of hip hop, especially the South were slowly making their way up the industry ladder, with names like Mystikal, Missy Elliott and Ludacris dropping high-profile albums that would push their city further on the map.

In the other news, the gap between the commercial and underground sides was getting bigger. While the likes of Murder Inc., Aftermath and Roc-A-Fella were slinging out big hits and chart-topping releases, we also had artists like J-Live, Cannibal Ox, Immortal Technique and CunninLynguists proudly waving the underground banner.

From Masta Ace’s Disposable Arts to Nas’ Stillmatic and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, here are the top 25 best hip hop albums of 2001.

25. Busta Rhymes – Genesis

Released: November 27, 2001

Label: Flipmode, J

Singles: “What It Is”, “Break Ya Neck”, “As I Come Back”, “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”

Features: Clive Davis, Rah Digga, P. Diddy, Jaheim, Kokane, Kelis, Mary J. Blige, Flipmode Squad

24. Mystikal – Tarantula

Released: December 18, 2001

Label: Jive

Singles: “Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall)”, “Tarantula”

Features: Juvenile, Butch Cassidy and Method Man & Redman

23. DMX – The Great Depression

Released: October 23, 2001

Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam

Singles: “We Right Here”, “Who We Be”, “I Miss You”

Features: Stephanie Mills, Faith Evans and Mashonda

22. Ja Rule – Pain Is Love

Released: October 2, 2001

Label: Murder Inc., Def Jam

Singles: “Livin’ It Up”, “Always on Time”, “Down Ass Bitch”

Features: Caddillac Tah, Black Child, Ashanti, Case, Charli Baltimore, Boo & Gotti, Jennifer Lopez, Jodie Mack, O-1, Missy Elliott, Tweet, 2Pac

21. D12 – Devil’s Night

Released: June 19, 2001

Label: Shady, Interscope

Singles: “Shit on You”, “Purple Pills”, “Ain’t Nuttin’ but Music”, “Fight Music”

Features: Obie Trice, Truth Hurts, and Dina Rae

20. Wu-Tang Clan – Iron Flag

Released: December 18, 2001

Label: Loud, Columbia

Singles: “Uzi (Pinky Ring)”, “Back in the Game”, “Rules”

Features: Flavor Flav, Ronald Isley

19. AZ – 9 Lives

Released: June 12, 2001

Label: Motown

Singles: “Problems”, “Everything’s Everything”, “AZ’s Back”

Features: Ali Vegas, Amil, Beanie Sigel, Foxy Brown and Joe

18. Fabolous – Ghetto Fabolous

Released: September 11, 2001

Label: Desert Storm, Elektra

Singles: “Can’t Deny It”, “Young’n”

Features: Ja Rule, Jagged Edge, Lil’ Mo, Nate Dogg, Pain in Da Ass

17. Redman – Malpractice

Released: May 22, 2001

Label: Def Jam

Singles: “Let’s Get Dirty (I Can’t Get in da Club)”, “Smash Sumthin'”

Features: DJ Kool, Icarus, Mally G, Scarface, Treach, Method Man, Saukrates, Streetlife, D-Don, Double-O, Roz, Shooga Bear, Pacewon, Keith Murray, Missy Elliott, DMX, Adam F

16. Immortal Technique – Revolutionary Vol. 1

Released: September 18, 2001

Label: Viper Records; Fontana, Nature Sounds

Singles: N/A

Features: Big Zoo, Poison Pen, Diabolic, Jean Grae & Pumpkinhead

15. Cormega – The Realness

Released: July 24, 2001

Label: Legal Hustle, LandSpeed

Singles: “You Don’t Want It”, “Get Out My Way”

Features: Mobb Deep and Tragedy Khadafi

14. J Dilla – Welcome 2 Detroit

Released: February 26, 2001

Label: BBE

Singles: N/A

Features: Frank-N-Dank, Dwele, Blu, Elzhi, Been, Phat Kat

13. Erick Sermon – Music

Released: October 30, 2001

Label: J Records

Singles: “Music”, “I’m Hot”

Features: Keith Murray, Redman, Cadillac Tah, Daytona, Khari, LL Cool J, Marvin Gaye, Olivia, Scarface and Sy Scott

12. Jadakiss – Kiss tha Game Goodbye

Released: August 7, 2001

Label: Ruff Ryders, Interscope

Singles: “We Gonna Make It”, “Knock Yourself Out”, “Put Ya Hands Up”

Features: Eric McCaine, Antoine Stanton, Nas, Pharrell, Styles P, Sheek Louch, Bill, Cross, Icepick, Parle, Carl Thomas, Swizz Beatz, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Mashonda, Drag-On, Eve, DMX, 8Ball, Yung Wun, Fiend, Ann Nesby

11. Sticky Fingaz – Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones

Released: May 22, 2001

Label: Universal

Singles: “Get It Up”, “Come On”, “Ghetto”, “Baby Brother”

Features: X1, Black Child, Raekwon, Still Livin, Canibus, Rah Digga, Redman, Dave Hollister, Petey Pablo, Eminem, Fredro Starr

10. Beanie Sigel – The Reason

Released: June 26, 2001

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Singles: “Beanie (Mack Bitch)”, “Think It’s a Game”

Features: Memphis Bleek, Jay-Z, Freeway, Omillio Sparks, Scarface, Daz, Kurupt, and Rell

9. Ludacris – Word of Mouf

Released: November 27, 2001

Label: Disturbing tha Peace, Def Jam South

Singles: “Area Codes”, “Rollout (My Business)”, “Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!)”, “Move Bitch”

Features: Three 6 Mafia, I-20, Fate Wilson, Nate Dogg, Mystikal, Sleepy Brown, Jazze Pha, Twista, Jagged Edge, Chimere

8. CunninLynguists – Will Rap for Food

Released: October 30, 2001

Label: Urban Aces

Singles: “So Live!”, “616 Rewind”

Features: Kory Calico, Jayze, Game, Mr. Raw, Anetra, Mr. SOS, J. Bully, Anetra & Cashmere the Professional

7. Masta Ace – Disposable Arts

Released: October 16, 2001

Label: JCOR Entertainment, Interscope

Singles: “Don’t Understand”/”Acknowledge”

Features: Tonedeff, Greg Nice, Jean Grae, Strick, Young Zee, Mr. Lee, Punchline, Wordsworth, King Tee, J-Ro, Rah Digga

6. Nas – Stillmatic

Released: December 18, 2001

Label: Ill Will, Columbia

Singles: “Rule”, “Got Ur Self A…”, “The Flyest”, “One Mic”

Features: AZ, Amerie, Millennium Thug, Keon Bryce, Blitz The Ambassador

5. Aesop Rock – Labor Days

Released: September 18, 2001

Label: Definitive Jux

Singles: “Coma”, “Boombox”

Features: Illogic, C-Rayz Walz

4. J-Live – The Best Part

Released: May 1, 2001

Label: Triple Threat Productions

Singles: N/A

Features: Asheru and Probe.dms

3. Missy Elliott – Miss E… So Addictive

Released: May 15, 2001

Label: The Goldmind, Elektra

Singles: “Get Ur Freak On”, “Lick Shots”, “One Minute Man”, “Take Away”, “4 My People”

Features: Charlene “Tweet” Keys, Method Man & Redman, Ludacris, Timbaland, Ginuwine, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Da Brat, Jade, Lil’ Mo, Jay-Z

2. Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein

Released: May 15, 2001

Label: Definitive Jux

Singles: “Vein”, “The F-Word”

Features: L.I.F.E. Long, C-Rayz Walz

1. Jay-Z – The Blueprint

Released: September 11, 2001

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Singles: “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Jigga That Nigga”, “Song Cry”

Features: Eminem

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