The countdown pace picks up as I'm going to start posting them three at a time:
What I wrote in 2002:
It's fitting that, after Eminem, the artist that British MC Mike "The Streets" Skinner has been most compared with is Trainspotting novelist Irvine Welsh, because the shockingly assured debut album from this 23-year-old one-man-band is pop music of tangible literary value. Original Pirate Material is a breathlessly detailed ethnography of British flat-rat culture, but its greatness lies not just in how observant Skinner's reports are but also how modest and good-hearted, how the guy-talk of "Don't Mug Yourself" is matched by the romantic regret of "It's Too Late," how the menacing nightlife vision of "Geezers Need Excitement" and substance abuse of "Too Much Brandy" are balanced against the wistful nostalgia of the rave remembrance "Weak Become Heroes."
Song Sample: "Let's Push Things Forward"
Single: "Smells Like Booty" — Freelance Hellraiser (2002)
Nirvana meets Destiny's Child in a mash-up masterpiece.
Song Sample: "Me Gustas Tu"
Single: "Hate to Say I Told You So" — The Hives
The decade's best hard-rock hit.
The indie-rap album of the decade, taking hip-hop places it's never been before. From my 2001 year-end list:
Charismatic alt-rap everyman Slug may offer hip hop as "therapy on top of turntable riffs" on this coming-out party, but he also may have crafted the most empathetic album in the genre's 20-year history. And unlike too many of his collegiate contemporaries, he never skimps on hip hop's basic beats-and-rhymes pleasure principle.
Song Sample: "Party for the Fight to Write"
Single: "Take Me Out" — Franz Ferdinand (2004)
Sort of the "Every Breath You Take" of the aughts, its meaning provocatively shifty. Here's a live version: