I usually recommend underground stuff in these threads, but if you don’t mind a bit of pop, hip-hop is actually improving as far as mainstream music goes. So I’ll discuss that, since everyone else has and will cover the underground side of things.
Missy Elliot’s done some pretty good stuff, and I really like Cop That Disc which I’m hearing a lot at the moment. Of course, if you like Missy you’ll like Timbaland who mostly produces, but if you of something produced by him, chances are it’s going to be pretty good. Same with the Neptunes, who, despite being responsible for Nelly’s terrible Hot In Herre actually make respectable commercial hip-hop. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Got Your Money is a few years old now, but still good.
If you can cope with gangsta-isms and blatant misogyny, 50 Cent has his moments - I can’t get the P.I.M.P remix with Snoop out of my head. Jay-Z also gets a lot of props, but I don’t see why - he seems to be very oridnary rapper, despite the, at times, good production (and if you like the production on his work, his producer Kanye West has a pretty catchy song called Through The Wire out).
Of course, since I’ve mentioned 50 Cent, I’ll mention Eminem, who you’ve of course heard of. Eminem’s very overrated, but he does have definite talents as an MC. And current Eminem protege Obie Trice is being talked up, but I think his greatest strength is the Eminem connection. Got Some Teeth is cartoony fun, but nothing outstanding.
And everyone else has mentioned Outkast, but they’re worth mentioning again, simply because they’re that good.
And just some underground stuff that hasn’t been mentioned yet:
- Danger Mouse and Jemini - The Only One
- MF Doom as Viktor Vaughn feat. Apani B - Let Me Watch
- Buck 65 - Wicked and Weird
- Dizzee Rascal - I Luv U
- The Streets - Stay Positive
- Sage Francis - Fairy With Broken Wings
- Black Eyed Peas with Chali2na - Get Original (back before they became mainstream)