From Outkast to Missy Elliot, throw your hands in the air and feel the rhythm of these immersive old-school hip-hop cuts from the Y2K era.
From rave-influenced electro-synth bangers to kaleidoscopic tracks built from stacks of sampled vintage R&B 45s, here’s a playlist of our favorite millennial hip-hop tracks from the Billboard Hot 100 to the underground. Big kicks, snappy snares, rapid-fire verses and deep, deep bass—y’all know what time it is.
Outkast—Gasoline Dreams (2000)
Outkast’s 2000 smash hit Stankonia kicks into gear with this hi-octane cut where BigBoi’s dry and tight vocal sound stands in stark contrast to Andre 3000’s echoey double tracked chorus. Check out the vocal delay around 0:47 with earphones to appreciate the psychedelic production of this Y2K Dirty South classic.
Run the Jewels—Oh My Darling Don’t Cry (2014)
How many snares does it take to make a beat that goes this hard? All of them. Producer El-P keeps the listener’s interest throughout this chaotic beat with an ever-evolving palette of snare drum tricks. Sampled hits, snare rolls, and glitchy granular effects provide plenty of center-panned ear candy across this banger from 2014’s Run the Jewels 2.
Kelis— Milkshake (2003)
The Neptunes’ heavy-hitting synth bass production makes this sassy schoolyard rap and lead single from Kelis’ Tasty (2003) the perfect track for testing the low end of your new UE FITS. On the treble end, check out how mixing engineer Phil Tan varies the stereo image of Kelis’ vocal to create contrast between the verses and the famous (or is it infamous?) chorus.
Eminem—The Real Slim Shady (2000)
Dr. Dre is alive and well in Eminem’s inescapable earworm from 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP. Forget what you heard in the lyrics because Dre’s G-Funk production is in the house with his trademark staccato analog synthesizers and resonant bassline.
Ghostface Killah— Back Like That (2006)
This 2006 Ne-Yo collab from Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale gave the Wu-Tang MC his highest charting solo single on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Xtreme’s lush R&B production is a far cry from the gritty GZA beats we usually hear Ghostface rap on—take the windchime at 0:19, for instance.
Missy Elliot—Get Ur Freak On (2001)
Missy Elliot and Timbaland combine forces on this top-ten hit from 2001’s Miss E…So Addictive. The minimalist beat makes for great earbud listening—listen to the wiggly modulation on the synthesizer pad from 1:42—1:50 to hear how tiny details build a fire track from start to finish.
J Dilla—Workinonit (2006)
After establishing a career producing singles and remixes for artists like A Tribe Called Quest and Janet Jackson, producer J Dilla pushed his Boss SP-303 sampler to the limit to make Donuts, his 2006 swansong. “Workinonit” masterfully weaves samples of the Beastie Boys, 10cc, Malcolm McLaren and others into a swirling rhythmic concoction.
The hard-panned guitar sample and echo at 0:08 is one of many immersive production tactics at play in this masterpiece from the late J Dilla.
Flying Lotus (w/ Kendrick Lamar) — Never Catch Me (2014)
Flying Lotus channels breakbeat, drum n bass, and ‘70s jazz fusion on this frantic cut from 2014’s You’re Dead!
With a manic bassline supplied by none other than Thundercat and a killer Kendrick Lamar verse, this song is the sound of artists at the top of their game pushing themselves to play harder, better, faster and stronger.
Earl Sweatshirt — Sunday (feat. Frank Ocean) (2013)
Earl Sweatshirt slows things down a bit—all the way down to 70 bpm, to be exact—on this Frank Ocean collab from 2013’s Doris. Sweatshirt uses the languid, luxurious tempo to give his rhythmically off-kilter raps room to breathe, with production to match.
A Tribe Called Quest—Dis Generation (2016)
A Tribe Called Quest disbanded for eighteen years before reconvening in 2016 for their final LP, We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service—and it was worth the wait. Q-Tip draws inspiration from unlikely sources like Iggy Pop solo records and the Stooges to craft a new sonic playground for Jarobi, Busta Rhymes, and the late, great Phife Dawg to trade lyrics like it’s still 1999.
Kendrick Lamar—Alright (2015)
Pitchfork hailed Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” as the number one best track of 2015 and it’s easy to hear why. Pharell Williams sings an uncredited vocal in the chorus in addition to co-producing this third single from To Pimp A Butterfly. Can you hear it?
Landing at number 365 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time and being one of the best-selling records released by underground hip-hop label Stones Throw, Madvillian’s Madvilliany brought hip-hop to new audiences. The New Yorker and The Washington Post—publications not exactly known for breaking hip-hop coverage—praised rapper MF DOOM’s whimsical lyricism and producer Madlib’s crate-digging cult-classic beats.
Real hip-hop heads know the only way to make this playlist even better is to listen to it with the instant custom fit and superior sound of UE FITS true wireless earbuds.