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There was Dr. Dre, there was Eminem, and in 2003, there was 50 Cent to complete the three-headed monster of Aftermath, Shady and G-Unit.

Rap fans these days won’t understand because they weren’t there, but when 50 Cent made his debut with the now-classic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, it was nothing like hip hop had ever seen before. He and his G-Unit crew swept through the industry like a hurricane, taking out everyone and everything in their path.

But there were still a few rappers big enough not to get swallowed by the 50 Cent tidal wave. Namely OutKast and their double album that achieved diamond status with a couple of number one hit singles, and Jay-Z with his retirement album.

Diplomats also continued their string of releases with their incredible group album that married triumphant production from Just Blaze and Heatmakerz with their boastful wit. Down south we also had T.I. kicking down the door with his game-changing Trap Muzik.

From The Diplomats’ Diplomatic Immunity to OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, here are the top 25 best hip hop albums of 2003.

25. Atmosphere – Seven’s Travels

Released: September 23, 2003

Label: Rhymesayers, Epitaph

Singles: “Cats Van Bags”, “Trying to Find a Balance”, “National Disgrace”

Features: Brother Ali, Sage Francis

24. DMX – Grand Champ

Released: September 16, 2003

Label: Ruff Ryders, Def Jam

Singles: “Where the Hood At?”, “Get It on the Floor”

Features: 50 Cent, Cam’ron, Eve, Styles P, Monica, and Jadakiss

23. The Neptunes – Clones

Released: August 19, 2003

Label: Star Trak, Arista

Singles: “Hot Damn”. “Frontin'”, “Light Your Ass on Fire”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “It Blows My Mind”

Features: Clipse, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Jay-Z, Ab-Liva, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Fam-Lay, Super Cat, Jadakiss, Nas, Kelis, N.O.R.E., Ol’ Dirty Bastard

22. Obie Trice – Cheers

Released: September 23, 2003

Label: Shady, Interscope

Singles: “Got Some Teeth”, “Shit Hits the Fan”, “The Set Up”, “Don’t Come Down”

Features: Lloyd Banks, Eminem, 50 Cent, Nate Dogg, Timbaland, Dr. Dre, D12, Busta Rhymes

21. Fabolous – Street Dreams

Released: March 4, 2003

Label: Desert Storm, Elektra

Singles: “This Is My Party”, “Can’t Let You Go”, “Into You”

Features: Lil’ Mo, Mike Shorey, Paul Cain, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige, Styles P, Jadakiss, M.O.P., Tamia

20. Joe Budden – Joe Budden

Released: June 10, 2003

Label: On Top, Def Jam

Singles: “Pump It Up”, “Fire (Yes, Yes Y’all)”

Features: Lil’ Mo, Busta Rhymes and 112

19. Viktor Vaughn – Vaudeville Villain

Released: September 16, 2003

Label: Sound-Ink Records, Traffic Entertainment Group

Singles: “Rae Dawn”, “Saliva”, “Mr. Clean”

Features: Lord Sear, Brother Sambuca, Rodan as Dr. Moreau, Louis Logic, Apani B as Nikki

18. Canibus – Rip the Jacker

Released: July 22, 2003

Label: Mic Club, Babygrande

Singles: “Spartibus”, “Indibisible”

Features: N/A

17. Soul Position – 8 Million Stories

Released: October 7, 2003

Label: Fat Beats, Rhymesayers Entertainment

Singles: “Jerry Springer Episode”, “Inhale / Right Place, Wrong Time”

Features: Greenhouse Effect, Copywrite and Jakki da Motamouth

16. Aesop Rock – Bazooka Tooth

Released: September 23, 2003

Label: Definitive Jux

Singles: “Limelighters”, “Freeze”, “Easy”

Features: Camp Lo, Party Fun Action Committee, El-P, Mr. Lif

15. Ludacris – Chicken-n-Beer

Released: October 7, 2003

Label: Disturbing tha Peace, Def Jam South

Singles: “P-Poppin”, “Stand Up”, “Blow It Out”, “Splash Waterfalls”, “Diamond in the Back”

Features: 8Ball & MJG, Carl Thomas, Shawnna, Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Flip, Chingy, I-20, Tity Boi, Playaz Circle

14. G-Unit – Beg for Mercy

Released: November 11, 2003

Label: G-Unit, Interscope

Singles: “Stunt 101”, “Poppin’ Them Thangs”, “Wanna Get to Know You”, “Smile”

Features: Butch Cassidy, Joe

13. Bubba Sparxxx – Deliverance

Released: September 16, 2003

Label: Beat Club, Interscope

Singles: “Jimmy Mathis”, “Deliverance”, “Back in the Mud”

Features: Justin Timberlake, Sleepy Brown, Big Rube, Ryan Tedder, Riley dean, Attitude, Duddy Ken, Timbaland

12. Killer Mike – Monster

Released: March 11, 2003

Label: Columbia

Singles: “Akshon (Yeah!)”, “A.D.I.D.A.S.”

Features: Big Rube, OutKast, Big Boi, Sleepy Brown, Bizarre, J-Sweet, Slim Calhoun, Rock D the Legend, T.I., Bone Crusher, Bun B

11. Gang Starr – The Ownerz

Released: June 24, 2003

Label: Virgin/EMI Records

Singles: Skills”, “Rite Where U Stand”, “Nice Girl, Wrong Place”, and “Same Team, No Games”

Features: Krumb Snatcha, Smiley the Ghetto Child, Jadakiss, Boy Big, Fat Joe, M.O.P., Big Shug, Freddie Foxxx, NYG’z, Snoop Dogg

10. Missy Elliott – This Is Not a Test!

Released: November 25, 2003

Label: Goldmind, Elektra

Singles: “Pass That Dutch”, “I’m Really Hot”

Features: Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Elephant Man, Fabolous, R. Kelly, Monica, Beenie Man, Nelly, The Clark Sisters

9. T.I. – Trap Muzik

Released: August 19, 2003

Label: Atlantic, Grand Hustle

Singles: “24’s”, “Be Easy”, “Rubber Band Man”, “Let’s Get Away”

Features: 8Ball & MJG, Jazze Pha, Bun B and Mac Boney

8. Freeway – Philadelphia Freeway

Released: February 25, 2003

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Singles: “What We Do”, “Alright”, “Flipside”

Features: Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z, Nate Dogg, Peedi Crakk, Nelly, Faith Evans, Snoop Dogg, Young Gunz, Rell, Omillio Sparks

7. Jaylib – Champion Sound

Released: October 7, 2003

Label: Stones Throw Records

Singles: “The Red / The Official”, “McNasty Filth / Pillz”

Features: Frank-N-Dank, Talib Kweli, Quasimoto, Guilty Simpson, Percee P

6. Brother Ali – Shadows on the Sun

Released: May 27, 2003

Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Singles: N/A

Features: Slug

5. The Diplomats – Diplomatic Immunity

Released: March 25, 2003

Label: Island Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella, Diplomat

Singles: “Built This City”, “Dipset Anthem”

Features: Freeway, DMX, Master P

4. Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner

Released: July 21, 2003

Label: XL

Singles: “I Luv U”, “Fix Up, Look Sharp”, “Jus’ a Rascal”

Features: God’s Gift, Wiley, Taz

3. OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Released: September 23, 2003

Label: Arista

Singles: “Hey Ya!”, “The Way You Move”, “Roses”, “Ghetto Musick / Prototype”

Features: Sleepy Brown, Jazze Pha, Killer Mike, Big Gipp, Ludacris, E-Mac, Jay-Z, Khujo, Cee-Lo Green, Henry Welch, Slimm Calhoun, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, Rosario Dawson, Mello, Kelis, Norah Jones

2. Jay-Z – The Black Album

Released: November 14, 2003

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Singles: “Change Clothes”, “Dirt off Your Shoulder”, “99 Problems”

Features: Pharrell Williams

1. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Released: February 6, 2003

Label: Interscope, Aftermath, Shady, G-Unit

Singles: “In da Club”, “21 Questions”, “Many Men (Wish Death)”, “P.I.M.P.”, “If I Can’t”

Features: Eminem, Young Buck, Nate Dogg, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo

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