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Now that 2K4 is upon us, it's time to reflect on a couple of overlooked Texas albums from 2003. Yes, Andre and Big Boi of Outkast are now officially media darlings, and sadly, Marshall Mathers was the first rapper to cop an Oscar, but in less marketable hip-hop circles, last year belonged to a pair of slept-on innovators with Lone Star roots. Keith Ellum, the pride of Prairie View A&M, has crafted a strong set of classic b-boy anthems. In 2003, as part of his seminal group, Gang Starr, DJ Premier released The Ownerz, a ray of light in the crowded arena of mainstream rap. Despite its thematic lack of newness, The Ownerz further solidified Primo's reputation as Texas' greatest DJ/Producer this side of the Houston's DJ Screw, RIP.

Dallas' Erykah Badu has been with us since 1997. Way before Jill Scott and Jaguar Wright, Erykah was the female voice of The Roots and her multi-platinum debut, Baduizm, garnered four Grammys. Her live followup yielded the ultimate sista mantra, "Tyrone," and captured the essence of Badu's dynamic, yet conflicted, live shows. Mama's Gun, her third LP, revealed an eclectic, emotional artist with purposeful songwriting skills.


Erykah Badu
On her latest CD, an eight-song EP called Worldwide Underground, Badu abandons superstar producers to hit the road and follow her voice, creating a solid cinematic companion to Cody ChesnuTT's The Headphone Masterpiece. Worldwide Underground was conceived during Badu's "Frustrated Artist Tour," which she's described as a direct attempt to reconnect with her muse. She felt frustrated because she couldn't come up with anything to write. So she hit the clubs in an attempt to return to "the essence of the underground." Guests like Zap Mama, Lenny Kravitz, dead prez, and Roy Hargrove impress on their respective cuts, and it's good to hear Bahamadia and Queen Latifah on the mic again.

Above all else, Badu personifies the womanhood in hip-hop. Her latest creation shames the Beyoncés of the world, deftly embodies the funk and soul traditions, and reminds us to never sleep on Texas talent. •

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