My #FearOfMu21c challenge selection posts continue with 2002! This was a feverish high point of my engagement with current music, the first year in which I had internet speeds fast enough to make large-scale MP3 acquisition a reality AND had an office job in London one block away from Select-A-Disc, Reckless Records, and other meccas. So it’s weird in a way that I’ve ended up with half the candidates I had in 2000. The first three were all in my #Uncool50 list last year, which pretty much guarantees them passage from longlist to shortlist.

SUGABABES – “Freak Like Me”: The apotheosis of the bootleg ‘era’. a cover of Girls On Top’s “We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends” mash-up. Also a UK No.1 and Popular 10 out of 10. Also the last great pop record of my 20s? Maybe. Feels like a watershed personally and musically. YES.

STUSH – “Dollar Sign”: AKA Sticky ft Stush, which was how my MP3 was credited. Sticky had done Ms Dynamite’s breakthrough “Booo”, but I liked this even more, a UK garage beat with London dancehall vocals by Stush, who flickers from voice to voice, containing multitudes in the way Nicki Minaj will later. YES.

MISSY ELLIOT ft LUDACRIS – “Gossip Folks”: A controversial pick last year – “Work It” made the greater impact (and was one of the great records to experience collectively online – what was she singing exactly?) but I still think this might be Missy’s boast – her calling back to the funk era, Timbaland’s proto-crunk beat, and some of her most wonderfully southern rapping. YES.

THE WILDBUNCH/ELECTRIC SIX – “Danger! High Voltage”: I think this was a re-recording, or at least a remix, rather than a straight re-release. I also think the E6 version is probably better – a little bit faster and tighter. I’ll need to cross-compare. Like “Hard To Explain” and “Party Hard”, a version of indie rock that was cool because it was also ridiculous, a trait that soon got lost. YES.

MASSIVE ATTACK ft MOS DEF – “I Against I”: Stranded on the Blade II soundtrack if I remember – all the oppressive cyber-skanking of the Mezzanine era Massive Attack, with a hard as hell Mos Def performance too, maybe my favourite thing I’ve heard him do. Can’t see myself finding room for it, but it’s very strong. NO.

CLIPSE – “Grindin'”: Not the last time we’ll see the “Grindin'” beat (or a close relative). Not the last time we’ll hear Pusha T either, from the off one of the most downright evil sounding guys to ever pick up a mic. This has aged monstrously well and was notoriously brutal even at the time – the most hardcore Neptunes production. I think I’m going to go with different options but might swap this landmark back in if want to get tactical. NO.

THE STREETS – “Let’s Push Things Forward”: This has not aged monstrously well, but Mike Skinner’s geek/goofball word association and cut-up phrasal soup was at least one-third defiantly cringe even in 2002, and frankly that’s part of why I loved it. This has a glorious hook and riff, reminding me of the Sabres Of Paradise. Would be a huge reach to say it’s still one of my absolute faves though, so NO.

SEAN PAUL – “Like Glue”: Around this time, if you typed “riddim” and the year into Soulseek, Kazaa or whatever, you’d be rewarded pretty quickly by a dozen of the weirdest and most exciting sounds you’d ever heard. The breakout 2002 riddim is the Diwali Riddim, which Sean Paul rode to the top on “Get Busy”… but it’s not the best Diwali song OR the best Sean Paul song. This perpetual motion machine, on the “Buy Out” riddim, is. NO.

SCOOTER – “Ramp! (The Logical Song)”: Hardcore will never die, and certainly has never died. Germany’s eternal keepers of the rave flame hit biggest here with this pilled-up version of Supertramp, which introduced my social circle to the legendary Sheffield Dave (not from Sheffield, not called Dave). Chipmunk vocals and all, this is a brilliant record. Can I justify its inclusion? Probably not but I can’t bear to do away with it yet. YES.

CLIPSE – “Young Boy”: Hard to lose this one as it’s just so viciously good, a gutbucket Neptunes productio and Clipse’s extremely nasty take on the sentimental growing-up rap trope. But if you learn one thing from Clipse records it’s that there’s no room for sentiment. NO.

TOGETHER – “So Much Love To Give”: A record seen by some as a piss-take, or at least the moment where French filter house Went Too Far, eleven minutes of ecstatic repetition of a single phrase like a mantra (or a car alarm) while the background minutely shifts and buckles behind it. “HOUSE MUSIC IS REPETITIVE ON PURPOSE” tetchily explains the top YouTube comment. YES (HA HA HA YES)

That’s all – next up 2003: grime properly arrives! (As does the Bey-funk era).