30. Clipse, Lord Willin'
Label: Star Trak/Arista
Release Date: 8/20/2002
Hell hath no fury like the Thornton brothers and a microphone, with Lord Willin'solidifying their status as a tandem that was built for the long haul. From a fierce Virginian demeanor to wordplay that was as slick as it was vicious, Malice and Pusha T were resolute in their approach as they rarely strayed away from a formula that is present to this day. A heavy focus on drug references may have put a damper on their lyrical versatility, but songs like "Gangsta Lean" had enough clout to warrant universal appeal.
Not only did Lord Willin' introduce the rap world to Clipse, but it also established the "Neptunes sound," an eccentric fusion of stripped-down drums and synthesized melodies courtesy of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. It was a style they flirted with in the past (Noreaga, Jay-Z, Ludacris), but this album and its soundscapes proved to be a landmark for them. The Neptunes may have produced more successful tracks with other artists afterward, but "Grindin'" still remains their calling card.