As the 1990s concluded, Black music found itself at yet another intersection with the emergence of neo-soul, banging dance hits, and a whole new introduction to rap music. Black women such as Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Rihanna rose to fame and declared their prominence while hip-hop kings like Jay Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne dominated the charts.
Here is the fourth installment of our take on the most significant Black music songs from the first decade of the 2000s.
“Party Up (Up in Here)” — DMX, 2000
DMX became one of hip-hop’s reigning kings in the late ‘90s, noted for his driving lyrics, enhanced by his vicious bark and rugged New York swag. While his career has spawned many anthems, none completely owned the streets to the church quite like “Party Up (Up in Here).” Produced by musical partner Swizz Beatz, “Party Up” is known globally as DMX’s most successful and impactful song. Embodying rage and excitement, the single peaked at #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100, was nominated for a Grammy, and remains the late artist’s most successful single in the U.S.
“Thong Song” — Sisqo, 2000
The cultural impact of “Thong Song,” the second single from Unleash the Dragon, can’t be overstated. In an era where R&B and hip-hop were now considered a part of popular music and lexicon, Sisqó struck gold—literally—with this Tim & Bob-produced track that took on a life of its own, separate from the artist who created it. The legendary video remained a Total Request Live (TRL) staple, featuring Sisqó flying over women in bikinis and the genius addition of lush violins, while the song earned Sisqó four Grammy nominations, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“A Long Walk” — Jill Scott, 2000
By 2000, neo-soul had emerged as a genre that was as commercially successful as it was chill-out cool. Hailing from one of the many soul capitals, Jilly from Philly was sweet cream that rose to the top of with an aphrodisiac style and authentic essence that has remained her signature. Released as the third single from her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? - Words and Sounds, Vol. 1, the song focuses on the complexity of dating and increasing intimacy through cerebral conversations. “A Long Walk” reached #9 on the Billboard R&B charts and was later sampled on Disclosure’s 2013 album, Settle.
“Bag Lady" — Erykah Badu, 2000
With Isaac Hayes’“Bumpy’s Lament” sample, courtesy of Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive” as the basis for this remix, Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” has become more than just a fan favorite—it’s therapy for Black women. Advising women to “pack light” and release emotional baggage, the first single from Mama’s Gun, Badu’s sophomore album, the anthem set the tone for the evolution of Erykah’s growth as a woman and as an artist. As we all sang along, the world felt her release, propelling the song to peak at #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and at #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” — JAY-Z, 2001
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the eighth wonder of the world!” And with that introduction, JAY-Z officially cinched his spot as a part of modern pop culture. “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” was released as the first lead single from The Blueprint, following Hov’s ruthless diss record, “Takeover.” Produced by Kanye West who makes masterful use of The Jackson 5’s “ABC” as track’s sample, the song features Hov effortlessly narrating his rise to fame while borrowing the “izzle” language code pioneered by Mac Dre, E-40, and Snoop Dogg. The song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his first Top 10 single as a solo artist. He premiered the song in a now-legendary performance at the inaugural BET Awards in 2001.
“Bootylicious” — Destiny’s Child, 2001
After Destiny’s Child changed its group lineup twice, numerous media outlets began to count them out. But the release of their third album, Survivor, and hits like “Bootylicious” proved that no one could stop these icons-in-the-making. Sampling Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” (who also appears in the video), the lyrics were inspired by media reports about group lead Beyoncé’s perceived weight gain. In response, Queen Bey, partnering with Rob Fusari and Falonte Moore, wrote a song so searing that the term “bootylicious” made its way into the Oxford Dictionary. The song’s vibrant video, dedicated to Michael Jackson, featuring costumes that would become Halloween signatures, helped propel the song to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, a feat that, to date, has not been achieved by any subsequent girl group.
“Get Busy” — Sean Paul, 2002
Riddim and Dancehall grew from the shadows of Jamaica and fully flowed into the mainstream with the turn of the century. Acts like Sean Paul offered a refreshing take on the blend of hip-hop and riddim that would soon infiltrate pop radio. The first single from Dutty Rock, “Get Busy” would make Paul one of Diwali Riddim’s biggest names globally. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 at #1 and was even performed on “Saturday Night Live.” It would be songs like “Get Busy” that would help give way to the Diwali Riddim era erupting into the mainstream.
“Crazy in Love” — Beyonce featuring JAY-Z, 2003
“Successful” in no way captures how much of a mega phenom Beyonce’s lead single from her debut solo album became. This legendary debut and its accompanying video featuring her future hubby were unlike anything most had ever seen coming. With The Chi-Lites’ “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” serving as the basis for “Crazy in Love’s” legendary hook + chorus, Bey figuratively—and quite literally—strutted her way into music history.” The song was ranked #118 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs of All Time list and was named by the outlet as the Greatest Song of the 21st Century. “Crazy” won two Grammy awards, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, spawned a memorable performancet at the BET Awards, and has been featured in numerous films, commercials, and video games.
“What We Do” — Freeway (featuring JAY-Z & Beanie Sigel), 2003
“What We Do” by Freeway never reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the place this song holds in the hearts of Philly natives and others from urban neighborhoods on the Eastern coast will never fade. The lyrics by Freeway, Hov, and Beanie, speaking of survival, by any means necessary, offer a sobering view of the reality of the hustle of young Black men. Produced by Just Blaze, the song is one of the best songs to emerge from the golden age of Roc-A-Fella.
“Hey Ya!” — Outkast, 2003
This genre-bending classic catapulted Outkast (Big Boi and Andre 3000) from Atlanta-based rap stars to mega pop royalty. The Ramones and Aretha Franklin’s “Say A Little Prayer” inspired this infectious tune about the end of a relationship and those who stay in couplings past their expiration date. The first single from Andre 3000’s half of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, “Hey Ya!” garnered major commercial and critical acclaim, peaking at #1 in the United States and several other countries, winning a Grammy, and ranking #182 on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Songs of All Time. The video accompanying the song featured Andre as multiple members of a band; paying homage to The Beatles’ early appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“Milkshake” — Kelis, 2003
Kelis’ lead single from her third studio album, Tasty, smash hit “Milkshake,” written and produced by The Neptunes (Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), pays homage to women’s voluptuous attributes that men find irresistible. With Vanity 6 and Mary Jane Girls-esque ambiguity, Kelis’ cheeky and coy tease about sexual pleasure and lust shot up the charts, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been featured in films such as Norbit, Mean Girls, and Dodgeball, while the video made FHM’s list of Sexiest Music Videos of All Time.
“Drop It Like It’s Hot” — Snoop Dogg (featuring Pharrell), 2004
The phrase “Drop it like it’s hot” wasn’t anything new in hip-hop by 2004. But it took the magical connection between Snoop and The Neptunes to include it in what Billboard stated is the most popular rap song of the decade. Many things about Snoop Dogg’s lead single from his seventh studio album make this track great: the slightly noticeable use of the spray can and tongue clicks in the production, Pharell’s cool swagger as he warns to “think before you come for Skateboard P,” and Snoop’s tongue twister lyrics that add a wavy West-Coast flavor to the song. It peaked at #1 on Billbard’s Hot 100 and was nominated for two Grammys.
“Yeah!” — Usher (featuring Ludacris and Lil Jon), 2004
Every great artist has a breakout moment. Usher’s marked one of the most ground-breaking events in popular music and in recent memory. “Yeah!” produced by Lil Jon and featuring Ludacris incorporates crunk and R&B in a way that changed the musical landscape. Released as the lead single from Usher’s diamond-certified album Confessions, “Yeah!” won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammys, was certified platinum, peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, ranked #1 for Best Songs of 2004 by Time magazine, and #2 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs of All Time list.
“Knuck If You Buck” — Crime Mob featuring Lil’ Scrappy, 2004
“Knuck If You Buck,” featuring Lil’ Scrappy, is as entrenched into Black music as The Cha-Cha Slide. Integral to the history and culture of crunk music, it’s a glorification of elbow-throwing and dreads-shaking that peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by RIAA. Despite its controversional underlying theme, the song remains a staple in party culture and was ranked #7 on Complex’s list of "25 Rap Songs That Makes Us Want to Punch Someone in the Face."
“Gold Digger” — Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, 2005
The hook and chorus of this bonafide hit single are now legendary. Sampling Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” the song’s lyrics play on the idea of what gold-digging means in modern society and the duality of how both play into those gender roles associated with wealth and monogamy. When it debuted, the single broke the record for the most digital downloads in a week, was ultimately nominated for a Grammy, and ranked #63 on the Top Hot 100 Billboard Songs of All Time.
“We Belong Together” — Mariah Carey, 2005
Listed as the "Song of the Decade "and the 14th most popular song of all time by Billboard, Mariah Carey’s comeback relied on her ethereal talent and a hit record that was expertly written and produced. Carey, Jermaine Dupri, Johnta Austin, and Manuel Seal delivered the goods. “We Belong Together” is a classic ballad of a woman’s longing for a long-lost lover. Remaining at #1 on Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks, the hit broke several airplay records, garnering the largest one-day and one-week audiences in history.
“Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” — Chris Brown, 2005
The second single released from Chris Brown’s debut album, “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” spins the narrative of a young guy trying to catch the attention of a potential love interest. Chris Brown burst onto the music scene as a young heartthrob, following in the footsteps of predecessors Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, and Usher, as he sang, danced, and flipped his way into the hearts of teen girls around the country. Written and produced by Dre & Vidal and Johnta Austin, the song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Wipe Me Down” — Boosie Badazz (featuring Foxx and Webbie), 2006
It has one of the most legendary intros of all time: “I pull up at the club/VIP/Gas tank on ‘E’/But all drinks on me!” Boosie’s “Wipe Me Down” has become a party staple at HBCUs, amongst college-age members of sororities and fraternities, and in Black Southern/Trap music. The anthem peaked at #38 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #8 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts.
“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” — Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, 2007
According to Soulja Boy, he was the first to do a lot. One thing that can’t be denied is that he helped pioneer a new era of artists being signed and building brands virtually, over the Internet. In a decade where dances such as Swag Surf and Chicken Noodle Soup defined the culture of the streets in Black neighborhoods around the country, it was “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” that would dominate and become a worldwide phenomenon. Considered the biggest dance fad since the Macarena after the video amassed 27 million views by 2008, the cut spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, was nominated for a Grammy, ranked #21 on Rolling Stone’s list of Best Songs of 2007, became the first song ever to sell three million digital copies, and was named the 23rd most successful song of the 2000s by Billboard.
“A Milli” — Lil’ Wayne, 2008
Tha Carter III ushered Lil Wayne’s transition from burgeoning rap star to mega Grammy award-winning superstar. His second official single, “A Milli,” following the success of the uber-memorable auto-tuned classic “Lollipop” remained a hard-knocking street anthem that Wayne completed in just one take. From calling himself a venereal disease to his claim that he “don’t write s**t ‘cause I ain’t got time,” it’s easy to see why it’s one of his most notorious songs. Winning the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, the song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, with Rolling Stone ranking it the 10th Best Song of 2008 and the 63rd Best Song of the 2000s.