the year in 2003... and the panel says...
Note again: this is not an award show. These are simply personal lists of preferences. And so when we add the numbers up, how often someone was mentioned, then that doesn't really mean anything (and the numbers after the titles are the number or times the something got mentioned). It's still interesting though.
best albums
- Jay-Z The Black Album 19
- OutKast Speakerboxx / The Love Below 17
- Little Brother The Listening 12
- Viktor Vaughn Vaudeville Villain 11
- Brother Ali Shadows On The Sun 7
- Aesop Rock Bazooka Tooth 6
- Immortal Technique Revolutionary Vol. 2 6
- Mars Volta Deloused In The Comatorium 6
- Binkis Recs. The Reign Begins 6
- Jon Doe Meet Jon Doe 6
There's a couple of things to note here: First, the OutKast number includes also those, that only mentioned Andre3000's part of it. I mean, who's gonna split hairs, right?
What's however really interesting, that in total, 203 albums get mentioned. So there's 203 different albums that our panel considers to be the best of the year 2003. That's a lot in a year many also consider wack. It however also means that while many seem to have been good, there were very few, if any really outstanding records. I mean, even Jay only got mentioned by 24% of the panel.
Also interesting is that Gang Starr's "The Ownerz" was only mentioned four times. This is an album that at the beginning of this year, would have be considered a given for best album. But well, the actual record seems to have left many people cold. Also a sign of that is, that DJ Premier was only mentioned three times as 'best producer', what's less than many unknown or up and coming producers. Further "The Listening" by Little Brother officially came out in 2002. What didn't matter though, for it to be mentioned quite a few times. And finally, with Mars Volta's "Deloused In The Comatorium", we got a non-rap album in the top ten.
best songs
- Andre 3000 Hey Ya! 8
- Kanye West Through The Wire 6
- Talib Kweli Get By 6
- Ludacris Stand Up 5
- Alicia Keys You Don't Know My Name 4
- Beyonce feat. Jay-Z Crazy In Love 4
- Jay-Z Encore 4
- Missy Elliott Pass That Dutch 4
- Pharrell Williams feat. Jay-Z Frontin' 4
- Pitch Black It's All Real 4
Here it's even more widespread: 247 titles get names, and Andre's song only gets 10% of the vote. Speaking of Andre, this somewhat 60s retro song took the top spot, huh? So a non-rap song. Now, is that a sign of the tolerance and widespread musical interest of our panel, or just a sign for the poor state of rap? Whatever….
There's also a couple of R'n'B joints in there, what leads us to the finding that the 'underground' / 'independent' scene doesn't know hits. What's with that? And by the way, if you look at the top spots, one producer really took the reign there, as he was responsible for half of the top ten songs. Who? Well, read on…
best producers
- Kanye West 29
- 9th Wonder 17
- The Neptunes 17
- Madlib 16
- Timbaland 16
- RJD2 14
- Just Blaze 13
- Jon Doe 9
- J-Zone 9
- MF Doom 8
Now how about that? Kanye enjoys getting the most mentions anyone in any category gets, when he clocks in 29 for best producer. That's 37%. Apart from that, there's only few surprises, the usual suspects The Neptunes, Madlib, Timbaland, RJD2 get nods. At the same time 9th Wonder takes the list by storm and with Jon Doe a guy sneaks into the list, that many still have to get to know. And if you look at the rest of the list, with ArcSin (6), Johan of Stacs Of Stamina (4) and Muneshine (4) more up and comers are mingling in the top twenty. While producers like Alchemist, DJ Premier, Large Professor and others are all coming late. Looks like a change of generation at the horizon. Oh yeah, 188 different producers get named.
best emcee
- Jay-Z 19
- MF Doom 19
- Ghostface 12
- Aesop Rock 7
- Nas 7
- Brother Ali 6
- Immortal Technique 6
- Talib Kweli 5
- 50 Cent 4
- GM Grimm 4
- Illogic 4
- Slug 4
- Sole 4
Just as many people called "The Black Album" the best of the year, as did call Jay-Z the best emcee. And don't be surprised if it's mainly the same people. However, MF Doom gets as many nods here, Showing that these two really the men of the year. Jay-Z takes home top spot in 'best album', 'best emcee' and is on three of the top 10 'best songs'. While Doom only takes home the top pick here, he mingles in all categories within the front few. His Viktor Vaughn album is forth, the "Take Me To The Leader" also gets three nods, and he even gets several mentions later down the lists, like 'hip hop in 2004 will be' and 'best artwork' and also enters the best producers top ten. Ghostface and Nas get into the top ten (yes, it's top 13, but five getting four mentions) simply on the strength, while Brother Ali and Immortal Technique give them a run for their position. While Aesop Rock already gets as many mentions as Nas. 50 Cent by the way also makes it to this list, while his album clocks in at 11th position with only 4 nods. Probably the same people that also call him the best emcee. 150 different people get mentioned here.
best labels
- Day By Day 14
- Definitive Jux 14
- Rhymesayers 13
- Stones Throw 12
- Roc-A-Fella 8
- Anticon 5
- Big Dada 4
- Lex 4
- Chocolate Industries 3
- Def Jam 3
- Female Fun 3
- Ninja Tune 3
Now what a neck to neck race that was. And here the independent labels take over with flying colors. Only Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam make it to the list, while the rest is hogged by the indies. And even though Definitive Jux gets several 'biggest disappointment' and other complaining remarks, they take the top spot, along with the new label on the block Day By Day. Considering what the latter has promied next year (new GM Grimm, Akinyele, Jet Jaguar, Mr. Voodoo, etc. etc. material), it will be interesting to see what'll happen. But with Rhymesayers and Stones Throw following close behind, and also considering what they promised, it's not like there's no one that'd like to take that top spot. In total 61 labels get named.
best artwork
And now finally, a special nod to the Artwork. First Aesop Rock's album artwork for "Bazooka Tooth" was the single most mentioned thing. At the same time however, Lex Records gets a lot of props and mentions for their incredible artwork, either explicitly, or with their releases getting mentioned. What shows, people appreciate that stuff. And you can't download it. Now if that ain't a bitch.
And there you have it. Our panel has chosen. Now enjoy discussing and mumbling and bicker. Well, it's only 367 days (or so) until the next one.
Until then, all the best for 2004 from everyone involved and behave (unless you don't). Rock the vote!

for the urbansmarts team
Christian / tadah