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Mixtape Monday: Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Gucci Mane And More Make Our Best Of 2007

— Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes

This year will go down in history as the year the mixtape game changed forever.

As melodramatic as that sounds, the two-double-oh-seven began with a bang louder than any bomb Funkmaster Flex could drop: On January 16, the underground industry's biggest star, DJ Drama, was arrested along with his partner, Don Cannon, after the Feds raided their Atlanta office in conjunction with the Recording Industry Association of America. The pair were brought up on felony racketeering charges after police seized more than 50,000 CDs containing unauthorized recordings. The entire hip-hop community — fans, artists and executives alike — was rattled by the news, and the mixtape market was momentarily brought to a standstill. It's hard to believe that almost a year later, Drama hasn't even been indicted on the charges.

But the past 365 days weren't all dark for the rap world. In the aftermath of Drama's bust, DJs and artists embraced technology more than ever by transmitting their music directly to their fans via MySpace and their personal Web sites. As a result, record labels, bootleggers and distributors were left out of the equation, and the relationship between artists and fans was never purer. The proof was in the unfiltered, unadulterated and unpredictable hip-hop that was produced. No MC benefited more from this new, streamlined process than Lil Wayne. Crowned the Hottest MC in the Game by the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust back in July, Weezy delivered to the Net a flood even Moses would have had a hard time navigating. Every week (at times, it seemed, every day) the Cash Money star had a new, buzzworthy mixtape being pumped out of computer speakers.

That Wayne was from New Orleans only cemented (once again) the South's takeover of hip-hop. The usual New York mainstays have been missing from our Mixtape Monday list more than ever. Rappers like Gucci Mane and Rick Ross are now the big dogs in the circuit. The Big Apple still made noise courtesy of Fabolous and 50 Cent. But with independent albums selling as many units as major-label projects, while once-Internet-only videos are making it into MTV rotation, the mixtape world is as fluid as ever. Who could have predicted at this time last year that Soulja Boy would be nominated for a Grammy Award?

Here, however, your trusted Mixtape Monday crew (Shaheem Reid, Jayson Rodriguez and Rahman Dukes) delivers the recognition that really matters. From the top new jacks to the biggest tracks to the top online videos of 2007, chances are we told you about 'em first. These are our picks for the best of the year.

  Sabrina's Baby Boy
Mixtapes of the Year
  • Lil Wayne - Da Drought 3
  • DJ Whoo Kid and 50 Cent - G-Unit Radio, Part 25: Sabrina's Baby Boy
  • Saigon - Just Blaze Presents: The Moral of the Story
  • Kanye West - Can't Tell Me Nothing
  • Mister Cee - The Best of Biggie: 10th Anniversary Mixtape

  Lil Wayne
Mixtape Artists of the Year
  • Lil Wayne
  • Gucci Mane
  • Rick Ross
  • Styles P
  • Saigon

  J. Period
DJs of the Year
  • Superstar Jay
  • J. Period
  • Mick Boogie
  • The Empire
  • DJ Chuck T

  DJ Khaled - We The Best
Independent Albums of the Year
  • DJ Khaled - We the Best
  • KRS-One and Marley Marl - Hip Hop Lives
  • Styles P - Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)
  • DJ Envy and Red Café - The Co-Op
  • Prodigy - Return of the Mac

  All Access
DVD Series of the Year
  • "Cocaine City"
  • "All Access"
  • "Real Talk TV"
  • "Come Up"
  • "Smack"

  "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
  • 50 Cent - "I Get Money"
  • Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
  • Kanye West (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Barry Bonds"
  • Swizz Beatz (featuring Lil Wayne and R. Kelly) - "It's Me Bitches" remix
  • Foxx (featuring Lil Boosie and Webbie) - "Wipe Me Down"
  • Playaz Circle (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Duffle Bag Boy"
  • Gucci Mane (featuring Ludacris and Lil' Kim) - "Freaky Gurl" remix
  • Cassidy (featuring Swizz Beatz) - "My Drink N' My 2 Step"
  • Fat Joe (featuring R. Kelly, Lil Wayne, Birdman, T.I., Rick Ross and Ace Mack) - "Make It Rain" remix
  • U.S.D.A. - "Corporate Thuggin"
  • Freeway (featuring Jay-Z) - "Big Spender"
  • T.I. - "Big Things Poppin' "
  • DJ Khaled (featuring T-Pain, Trick Daddy, Rick Ross and Plies) - "I'm So Hood"
  • Jay-Z (featuring Nas) - "Success"
  • Ghostface Killah (featuring Beanie Sigel and Styles P) - "Toney Sigel a.k.a. the Barrel Brothers"

  "Make Me Better"
  • Fabolous (featuring Ne-Yo) - "Make Me Better"
  • DJ Khaled (featuring Akon, Fat Joe, Rick Ross, T.I., Lil Wayne and Birdman) - "We Takin' Over"
  • Yung Berg (featuring Junior) - "Sexy Lady"
  • Rich Boy (featuring Polow Da Don) - "Throw Some D's"
  • Young Jeezy (featuring R. Kelly) - "Go Getta"
  • Kanye West (featuring T-Pain) - "The Good Life"
  • Kanye West - "Stronger"
  • MIMS - "This Is Why I'm Hot"
  • UGK (featuring Outkast) - "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)"
  • Timbaland (featuring Keri Hilson, D.O.E. and Sebastian) - "The Way I Are"
  • Shop Boyz - "Party Like a Rockstar"
  • Hurricane Chris - "A Bay Bay"
  • U.S.D.A. - "White Girl"
  • Jay-Z - "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is ...)"
  • Plies (featuring T-Pain) - "Shawty"

Mainstream Albums of the Year
  • Kanye West - Graduation
  • Jay-Z - American Gangster
  • Common - Finding Forever
  • T.I. - T.I. vs. T.I.P.
  • 50 Cent - Curtis

  Uncle Raheim
Internet Videos of the Year
  • Prodigy - "Mac 10 Handle"
  • Consequence - "Uncle Raheim"
  • Cam'ron - "Curtis"
  • Kanye's Old-Ass Cousin - "Throw Some D's" remix
  • 50 Cent - "Funeral Music"

  Lil Mama
Fire Starters of the Year
  • Lil Mama
  • Joell Ortiz
  • Plies
  • Rik Cordero
  • The-Dream

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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