The music world was definitely in a state of transition 20 years ago. While most of the world was still reeling from the tragedy of 9/11, most of the music coming out at that time was not yet ready to throw its thoughtful hat into the ring, as most bands were playing security with music that they thought would work. That didn’t mean there weren’t bands pushing each other, and most of them ended up producing some of the greatest records of their careers.
It won’t just be an “I love the 2000s” worship fest here, either. For every record that makes it onto a list like this, they are still considered great works of art from that era today. While there are certainly some “from the era” subjects sprinkled here and there, you also have bands that try something they weren’t sure about and come away with career-defining masterpieces.
From the rap side of the spectrum to the rock highlights still vying for attention, these are all new artists looking for blood, while oldies of the genre gave us a reason why they were still living legends. . It may have been 20 years since they were released, but many of the songs from these albums can speak to you no matter when they were released.
In the early 2000s, the focus of popular music was slowly shifting towards hip hop. Although gangsta rap still had its place on the charts for most of the ’90s, it was here that rock began to overtake giants like Eminem and Jay Z on each of Billboard’s lists. You can only put up with the boastful stuff for so long, though, and we’ve got something much more spatial on NERD’s debut album.
Being much more downtempo and lowkey, it’s the kind of music that felt more indicative of acts like A Tribe Called Quest than what the gangstas had been doing for years. From the opening notes of something like Rock Star, you can hear the Neptunes trying to push themselves as producers, cutting different beats from every genre imaginable and putting them into the right context.
And you better believe the rest of the hip hop world was listening to that record too. Even with his work on records like The Blueprint, Kanye West’s trademark style feels indebted to what the Neptunes were doing here, especially when he opted for the more spacious songs from his debut like Spaceships. If we’re being honest, this album deserves most of its kudos by giving us a great introduction to Pharrell Williams as a rapper and producer. When you look beyond that to his work, In Search Of feels like the spark that was about to ignite a wildfire.