Remember when DJs used to play hip-hop and R&B, not electronic pop music? Long before David Guetta and Flo Rida dominated the world's superclubs, you heard the beat of the Neptunes, the voice of Pharrell Williams, and the rhymes of Jay-Z. Rap music was the language of club culture, the soundtrack for a magical place where every guy could fantasize that life was just one big music video teeming with scantily-clad women, gallons of Patron and Courvoisier, and wanna-be thugs flaunting their diamond-encrusted chains.
We have already revisited 2003 and the triumphant emergence of the Dirty South. So this playlist focuses on the other big story that year. 50 Cent's "In Da Club" from his world-conquering Get Rich or Die Trying encapsulates how the two subcultures finally reconciled since the days when New York dudes used to call Southerners "bammas," and Southern folk complained that New York rap sounded too noisy and busy. When Fiddy opened "In Da Club" with "go shorty, it's your birthday," he paid homage to Luke Campbell's '90s bass hit "It's Your Birthday." He often acknowledged that his drawling voice was influenced by Southern rap. Meanwhile, the Neptunes – Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo – hailed from Virginia, a state right in between the North and the South. Their synthesizer funk was heard on dozens of hits, including, Jay-Z's "Change Clothes," Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body," Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" and Kelis' "Milkshake." And Houston-born Beyoncé and Brooklyn-born Jay-Z's budding romance made the North-South friendship official.
But let's not get too literal, for 2003 was full of minor yet important themes. There was Dipset's brief takeover of NY rap via its mixtapes and the "Dipset Anthem"; Beyoncé's Dangerously In Love and her long-awaited arrival as a multimedia supernova; and Jay-Z's hasty "retirement" on The Black Album, which led to all sorts of tributes to the self-proclaimed "best rapper alive." And dancehall was more popular than ever, thanks to Sean Paul, Elephant Man and popular backing tracks like Lenky Marsden's "Diwali" riddim (heard on Lumidee's "Never Leave You" and Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go"). It all went down in da club.