96. The Streets, 'Original Pirate Material'
"Streets riding high, with the beats in the sky," boasted Birmingham, England's Mike Skinner in his thick "brummie" accent – and for once, here was a U.K. rapper with the goods to back up the braggadocio. On his transfixing debut album, Skinner set himself apart by not trying to be American, instead rapping about clubbing, carousing, fistfights in fish-and-chips shops and other rituals of twenty-something working-class English life. To American ears, the U.K. garage-style beats were bracingly coarse and exotic. But it was Skinner's cinematic storytelling that grabbed you by the ears and held on tight.