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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
1/1/2004 2:49:46 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Outkast, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, David Banner, Benzino, Jay-Z, Ying Yang Twins and Ol' Dirty Bastard.

With the exception of the dearly departed Soulja Slim from New Orleans, hip hop made it through the year without its popularity being boosted by the murder and scandal that plagued it for the last five years.

The high profile murders that helped make rap music newsworthy in the past decade had nothing to do with its 2003 media domination, though the separate but equally unjustified raids by Federal agents on the headquarters of Murder Inc. and Death Row Records did provide their fair share of sensational coverage. Instead it was mainstream America's acceptance of the music's economic power and social influence. That was the biggest story.

Snoop Doggy Dog, arrested, charged with and later acquitted of the murder of a rival gang member in 1993, became the pitchman for Fortune 500 companies like AOL, Nokia and XM Satellite Radio in 2003, not to mention the star of his own Doggy Fizzle Telefizzle comedy variety show on MTV. Reebok, trying desperately to combat the coveted hip hop market dominance of Nike's Nelly-endorsed Air Force One, gave 50 Cent and Jay Z their very own sneakers, a feat that Jam Master Jay wasn't able to enjoy until he was murdered 17 years after making "My Adidas" with Run DMC.

But there was more to music in 2003 than hip hop, and the ten most important are listed here.

10. Any and Everything 50 Cent
If you Google Jay Z it takes almost double the time to come up with half as many entries as it does if you Google 50 Cent. What more can I say? Except that maybe it's a miracle a dozen or more New York record label execs haven't been put on suicide watch. After 50 Cent was blacklisted by the NYC-based record industry because of his infamous "How to Rob" track, Eminem christened 50 his favorite rapper, plucked him from the battlefield that is Queens and, along with Dre, made him the years' biggest star. While his nine bullet wounds and almost southern drawl played their part in making 50 a star, it was his bonafide hustler mentality that made him a phenomenon. From being smart enough to recognize that LL doesn't have a monopoly on the hip hop hard body, to having sense enough to get his own sneakers, a clothing line and record label before his 15 minutes are up, 50 is as self-made as millionaires can come. But the real trick will be to see if he's able to avoid the sophomore jinx — and run-ins with would-be assassins — in 2004.

9. Beyonce's Solo Destiny
It's amazing how a simple hit record with Jay Z and an amazing display of sex appeal can silence a nation of doubters. With "Crazy In Love" Beyonce Knowles proved that she was a first-rate entertainer and that daddy Mathew Knowles was crazy like a fox. It may have taken two incarnations of Destiny's Child and a wack MTV hip hopera to get her here, but in 2003 Miss B officially arrived. Dangerously In Love, her platinum solo debut, didn't miss a beat either, proving that the Knowles know what they're doing when it comes to music. The hip hop crowd was secured with "Crazy In Love," the fair-weather reggae fans with the Sean Paul-assisted "Baby Boy," and the independent women with "Me, Myself, and I" — and there was a video for each one. Now that her talent has been tested and approved, the only remaining uncertainty is her relationship with Jay Z. Young, sweet, religious R&B hottie gets with a rough and tumble talent from the streets — knock on wood, but if Hov and B turn out to be the next Bobby and Whitney remember that Mark Anthony Neal said it here first.

8. The South Rides Again
Kissing cousin jokes aside, southern rappers kept it all in the family in 2003 and took the hip hop world by storm. David Banner, Lil Flip, OutKast, Lil Jon and the Eastsidaz, and the Yin Yang Twins among others, finally finished what the Geto Boys started in 1990 by d

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