50. Roots Manuva – Witness (1 Hope) – 2001
The record that set the template for the past decade of British hip-hop, no question, was Rodney Smith’s ‘Witness’. Standing out on it’s own at a time when empty voices and futuristic beats were invading the British charts from across the pond, Smith rode atop that phenomenal bass line with two distinctly British senses, morality and humour. Others may have pushed the envelope further since, but ‘Witness’ struck a blow for British urban music at a time when I wasn’t even sure such a thing existed.
49. Klaxons – Atlantis to Interzone (2006)
Wow, what a NOISE! There, my first thoughts on hearing ‘Atlantis…’ for the first time at the arse end of 2006. It’s those first thoughts that have stuck through everything that’s followed the Klaxons since. Through the thankfully ludicrously short lived ‘new-rave revolution’, the endless shoehorning into episodes of ‘Skins’; the delayed and deleted second albums. Still, every time I hear ‘DJ! Bam, Splat, Kerpow!’, I involuntarily produce a disturbingly wide grin and think, Wow, what a NOISE! Whatever happens to them next, I’ll never get bored of that.
48. Battles – Atlas (2007)
I once heard this record as Led Zeppelin covering ‘Fraggle Rock’, remixed by Justice. The only thing more ridiculous than that description? That it’s true. ‘Atlas’ is seven minutes of pure propulsion. Forwards, upward, inwards at times but never relenting. The drums that drive the whole thing, a steady menacing march allowing the remainder of Battles glorious noise to pile on top, layer by layer, a bundle of pent up energy gradually being coaxed into eruption. I’ve never heard anything like it and nor I suspect, will I again.
47. Aaliyah ft Timbaland – We Need A Resolution (2001)
One of the saddest events of the decade was the death of Aaliyah, aged just 22 in the summer of 2001. A superstar in the making, ‘We Need A Resolution’ was her final single and remains one of the great modern R&B records. Based around a sparse, cold, Timbaland beat, the singer and her producer play out the tale of a relationship in meltdown, and the search for a resolution neither know where to find. The interplay is flawless, largely because of the youthful maturity displayed in Aaliyah’s delivery. Hers was a unique skill, that of understatement. So when she reaches for those high notes it has meaning. “You got issues/I got issues” she deadpans, before soaring “But I know I miss you”. It breaks my heart every time.
46. Amerie – 1 Thing (2005)
So whilst everyone went nuts over ‘Crazy In Love’, and later ‘Umbrella’, ‘1 Thing’ snuck past largely unnoticed as the R&B jam of the decade. It’s apt then, that Amerie’s one and only bona fide hit is one of the slightest pieces of music the genre is ever likely to see. Eschewing the blockbuster production of the records mentioned above, ‘1 Thing’ glides by atop a series of beautiful ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ moments. There’s the motown drums, bent out of all proportion, the seemingly random stabs of wild guitar and a synth line that creeps through unnoticed to dominate the tracks final half. Riding atop of all this are a thousand Amerie’s, scrambling to make each’s breathless voice heard, making every lyric an impassioned plea. “My high heels are clicking towards your door”, she gasps, although it’s unlikely they will again. How do you top a record this perfect? Beyonce & Rhianna can have their careers; they’ll still never come close to ‘1 Thing’.