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— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes

2005 was a big year for hip-hop, and as always, music was the driving force. Here's a look at 25 of our favorites from '05. Some were singles, some were album cuts, some were only released via mixtape and plenty of them are still burning into the new year.

DJ EFN
Mixtape Monday Pick: "There It Go (The Whistle Song)" by Juelz Santana
DJ EFN's Analysis: "This song did reintroduce Santana to the masses and showed that he can still stay on the radio charts. I think with all the successful underground consistency Dipset has been enjoying, they're ending the year with a commercial bang."

MM Pick: "Can You Believe It" by Styles P. featuring Akon
MM Analysis: Styles P. rapping on a Lil Jon beat with Akon singing the hook? It sounded like a train wreck waiting to happen before we heard it. But maaaan! When the song finally dropped, who did not love it?

MM Pick: "Hate It or Love It" by the Game featuring 50 Cent
DJ EFN's Analysis: "This song immediately stood out from the other records on the Game's album when I first heard it. Not only was it a good look that my peoples from the crib [Cool & Dre] had produced the joint, but it brought back a good ol' feeling that I felt hip-hop music had been lacking for a while. The music and the lyrics worked perfect to make you feel the struggle and obstacles dudes had to overcome to come up in the game. It's one of those joints that give you goose bumps."

Clinton Sparks
MM Pick: "Wait (The Whisper Song)" by Ying Yang Twins
Clinton Sparks' Analysis: "I thought that record was refreshingly unique. As a fan of creativity, I supported it. It worked in the club and on the radio. ... When I'm doing call-and-response in the club, people go crazy. Any time you do something that creative, people are going to copy it. You started hearing other people whispering on their records."

DJ Vlad
MM Pick: "Back Then" by Mike Jones
DJ Vlad's Analysis: "In my opinion, 'Back Then' grew legs when Jay-Z did a street remix of it. DJs started playing the hell out of it, and before you know it, it was a national hit."

MM Pick: "So Seductive" by Tony Yayo featuring 50 Cent
DJ Vlad's Analysis: "This was my favorite song of the year. This was a monster. The beat, the chorus — when 50 came in, '50 Cent ... back on that gangsta sh--,' damn! This was the summer song of 2005. It brought New York back."

MM Pick: "Laffy Taffy" by D4L
DJ Wreck's Analysis: "To me, 'Laffy Taffy' is one of the dumbest songs of the year, but girls like it 'cause it is another song that tells women to shake their butts."

MM Pick: "Air Forces" by Young Jeezy
DJ Vlad's Analysis: "I haven't seen a street buzz like this since 50 Cent. It was deafening. The entire South was going crazy when this song came out. Then, when Jeezy hit them with the Trap or Die mixtape, it was a wrap."

MM Pick: "I'm a Hustla" by Cassidy
MM Analysis: Cassidy and the song's producer, Swizz Beatz, repped real hard for the East Coast. This record proved that you don't necessarily have to release a sugary-sweet ditty to ride on the pop charts, get kids to sing along and maintain radio airplay. The remix with Mary J. Blige sweetened the deal.

Superstar Jay
MM Pick: "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" remix by Sheek Louch featuring Jadakiss, Beanie Sigel and Fabolous
Superstar Jay's Analysis: "I felt that it was one of the hottest remixes out this year. Everyone went in on that track. This was Beans' coming-home party. I felt Fabolous showed signs of the old Fabolous. Jada and Sheek showed D-Block will always be on. From Korea to NYC, anyone who heard it just loved the line when Beans said, 'I'm throwing the Roc down.' Some lines will be memorable forever."

MM Pick: "Go Crazy" remix by Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z
MM Analysis: The swagger was ridiculous and the punch lines didn't stop. "Pimpin' I'm so fly, take this parachute off I might fall and die" might be Jay's best verse this year.

MM Pick: "Whatchu Want" by Notorious B.I.G. featuring Jay-Z
Clinton Sparks' Analysis: "I think it's hot. I don't think it's one of the better [tracks] on the Biggie record. [From that album] I really liked the Scram Jones record, the Green Lantern record, the Just Blaze record — my record, of course. Look how far the DJs have come, from spinning in the club to producing on a Biggie album. That's big."

MM Pick: "Gold Digger" by Kanye West
MM Analysis: This is just about neck-and-neck with "Stay Fly" for song of the year, but what pushes Ye over the top is his ability to parlay the hit into superstardom. The drums alone were killer. Besides, the "Gold Digger" dance is way easier to do than the "Jesus Walks" step.

Mick Boogie
MM Pick: "Road to Zion" by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley featuring Nas
Mick Boogie's Analysis: "An interesting and bold choice for a second single. I love when people put content over club formatting when choosing a single. Damian Marley really follows in his father's footsteps with this song, trying to appeal to the conscious crowd rather than the lowest common denominator. The beat was some straight '90s underground heat. ... And you already know what Nas added to the song: instant vintage."

MM Pick: "We Major" by Kanye West featuring Nas and Really Doe
MM Analysis: It's a tossup between this and "Crack Music" for our favorite Late Registration album cut. "We Major" won out because of its supporting cast. Really Doe has a voice that commands attention, Nas' line about being Jesse Jackson is so sick that people are probably just now realizing what he meant, and that background singing is divine.

MM Pick: "Soul Survivor" by Young Jeezy featuring Akon
MM Analysis: They actually had us at the very opening of the record. "Akon and Young Jeeeeee-zaaayyyy!" Kon was definitely the hook singer of the year.

MM Pick: "Checkmate" by Jadakiss
MM Analysis: Jada really won the lyrical battle against 50 Cent with just one verse. The subsequent 178 dis verses were icing on the cake.

MM Pick: "Outta Control" by 50 Cent featuring Mobb Deep
MM Analysis: It was the Mobb's G-Unit coming-out party, but that Dr. Dre beat stole the show.

NJ Devil
MM Pick: "So Much More" by Fat Joe
NJ Devil's Analysis: "It was a crazy street joint. It was crazy in the street, crazy in the club, but on the mainstream level it didn't get as much burn as it should have. I think it was from lack of promotion."

MM Pick: "Sharades" by Papoose
MM Analysis: Easily one of the most thought-out and thought-provoking songs of the year.

MM Pick: "Stay Fly" by Three 6 Mafia featuring Young Buck, 8Ball and MJG
MM Analysis: "Stay Fly" was at the top of everyone's list this year because it seemed like all the stars aligned for this record. It had Tennessee unity, a soulful party beat and probably the easiest chorus of the year to remember.

MM Pick:"I Think They Like Me" remix by Dem Franchize Boyz featuring Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat and Bow Wow
MM Analysis: Another chorus you don't have to think too deep to remember. And didn't Bow surprise us by having the best verse? "Under 21 with a black card."

MM Pick: "Window Shopper" by 50 Cent
MM Analysis: He's arguably the best songwriter in the game, but 50 Cent was just flaunting his skills and his cash on this one. The record is so catchy, you'll find your mom singing this one in the grocery store.

MM Pick: "300 Bars" by the Game
NJ Devil's Analysis: "It was not really planned [for Game to rap that long]. It was crazy because we just started out with the old KRS-One track 'Love's Gonna Get'cha.' Then [Game] was writing, and as he was saying little things in his rhyme, that made me and [DJ] Skee want to switch the beat to make it [incorporate] all elements of hip-hop. It could go anywhere, and it kept getting bigger and bigger. That's a mixtape classic. If it was possible, we would have shot a video for that, but it was too long."

MM Pick: "I'm Black" by Styles P. featuring Floetry
MM Analysis: With the right promotion, this might have been a big single for Styles. Instead it was relegated to the mixtapes. Styles shares a powerful message that's not as prevalent today as it should be.

Other Favs

  • "Welcome to Jamrock" by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley

  • "Touch It" by Busta Rhymes

  • "The Corner" by Common

  • "U Already Know" remix by 112 featuring Foxy Brown

  • "Gimme Dat" by Webbie featuring Bun B

  • "Get Throwed" by Bun B featuring Pimp C, Jay-Z and Young Jeezy

  • "Girls, Cars, Cash" by Cam'ron

  • "Shake It Off" remix by Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z and Young Jeezy

  • "Victim" by Fat Joe

  • "Conceited" by Remy Ma

  • "Purple Rain" by Beanie Sigel featuring Bun B

  • "Come Fly With Me" by Foxy Brown featuring Sizzla

  • "Lighters Up" by Lil' Kim

  • "Sittin' Sideways" by Paul Wall

  • "It Wasn't You" by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill

  • "Dreams" by the Game

  • "Emotional" by 50 Cent

  • "Diamonds on My Neck" by Smitty

  • "They Say" remix by Common featuring Kanye West and Consequence

  • "Change" by Beanie Sigel featuring Melissa Jay and Rell

  • "Pushin' " by Bun B featuring Young Jeezy and Scarface

  • "MJB Da MVP" by Mary J. Blige

  • "It's Simple Ain't It" by Lloyd Banks featuring 50 Cent

  • "Gs Up" by Jim Jones featuring Max B

  • "Check Cleared" by Mase

  • "Mic Check" by Juelz Santana


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Photo: MTV News

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