[feature] New Year’s Count-Up: 2003 in five songs

Jay-Z has 99 problems, though I'm told that not a single one of them is a bitch.

- Dec 25, 2012

As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 2003!


Jay-Z - "99 Problems"

Rick Rubin dusts off all the classic samples — "The Big Beat" by Billy Squier, "Get Me Back on Time" by Wilson Pickett, and "Long Red" by Mountain — and delivers a heavy-as-shit track for one of Jay-Z's iconic performances. This is the sound of a legend writing his own name in history. Watch the video; the rapper's dead, but the mogul's just been born.

The Mars Volta - "Inertiatic ESP"

The Mars Volta - Inertiatic ESP

While this only displays flashes of the latin King Crimson sound that their ouvre centres on, "Inertiatic ESP" trots out The Mars Volta as capable miniaturists. It's a febrile 4-minutes that covers the same ground as their more bloated tracks. Without the wankery of what comes after, De-Loused in the Comatorium draws a big, bold line between post-hardcore and prog rock.

Missy Elliott - "Pass that Dutch"

Missy Elliott - Pass That Dutch

Long before Nicki Minaj, there was Missy Elliott, our original quirky girl MC. While most other hip hop was busy sampling soul songs, Timbaland's production drew from the club world. Note the quaking bass on the quarter note, the soft synth touches, handclaps, and whistles. Typical Missy video, too: Irish step dancing in a crop circle while a UFO hovers overhead.

The Postal Service - "Such Great Heights"

The Postal Service - Such Great Heights (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Ahh, the sound of young love — puerile, idealistic, kinda gooey. When this came out, I used the lyrics in my MSN screen name — a love note to my highschool girlfriend, exemplary of the times. The success of "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," the first collaborative track from emo rock golden boy Ben Gibbard and glitch producer Dntel, led to this one-off full album that attests to the pervasiveness and elasticity of second-wave emo in the early 'aughts.

Prefuse 73 - "The End of Biters - International"

Prefuse 73 : "The End of Biters - International" (2004) (widescreen)

Guillermo Scott Heren at his most bombastic, elaborating on turntablism and showing what, exactly, a CPU can do. On "Biters," Prefuse 73 cuts Sparky D's "Never Ran, Never Will" into confetti, while bobbing on a smooth jazz groove.

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