Like most of the media world, we here at MTV News obsess and argue relentlessly over our year-end top 10s. This year, we thought we'd share them! Our staff top 10s will be rolling out all this week, along with several less conventional lists we've come up with, like couples, guilty-pleasure songs, albums, hot messes, arrests and much more. Enjoy, and share your own top 10s in You Tell Us!
Shaheem Reid, hip-hop editor: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums
1. Graduation by Kanye West
Consistent sonic excellence and a vastly improved lyrical artillery made West's third LP my numero uno. He smashed the game hard, and when he puts out a video for "Flashing Lights" in 2008, it'll be lights out for the comp (again).
2. American Gangster by Jay-Z
I'm not going to say too much about Hov that you don't already know. He's the Greatest MC of All Time, and AG is another classic. I know an album is a classic when my favorite track from it changes week to week. At first nobody could have told me that "Ignorant Sh--" wasn't the best joint, but my top pick varies every other time I hear the album: "Party Life," "Sweet," "Success." This is really a milestone for Jigga. L'chaim!
3. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
Tortured excellence. I often hear Lauryn Hill in Amy's soul sound, but she reminds me so much of Mary J. Blige because the pain in her music obviously has no pretension. The album was my pleasant surprise of 2007. She dedicated a whole song to Nas, for goodness' sake.
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4. Finding Forever by Common
I'm proud of Com and what he's become. The crazy thing is that he's always been talented and insightful ("Retrospect for Life" is still as stirring now as it was in the '90s), but those Kanye beats have finally placed Com in the upper echelon.
5. Curtis by 50 Cent
50 got so much flack for this album, but truth be told, if he would have cut a couple of songs off, his record would have been right in pocket. "I'll Still Kill" and "I Get Money" are unstoppable.
6. Timbaland Presents: Shock Value by Timbaland
Bow down to Timbo the King. He had so many hits on this album, how it hasn't gone platinum is one of the biggest question marks of the year. Hopefully he'll drop "Miscommunication" as his next single in 2008.
7. T.I. vs. T.I.P. by T.I.
The dual-personality thing threw some people off, but you have to really sit down and listen to what the King of the South is saying on his album. He does what a lot of MCs can't do right now: challenge the listener.
8. As I Am by Alicia Keys
The record is pretty new to me, but she's one of the most powerful voices out there right now. It's a one-listen showstopper.
9. Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) by Styles P and The Big Doe Rehab by Ghostface Killah
I cheated. I'm sorry. Two albums for one spot. But yo, verbally, Ghost is as agile as I've ever heard him on his new album, and Styles P's effort is his most cohesive and best yet. SP would have had a classic had he left a couple of songs on the cutting-room floor.
10. Street Love by Lloyd
People slept on Irv Gotti's lil' homie, but I burned this album up so much at the top of the year. Lloyd had a great album and is definitely going to have a long career. He should have made videos for "I Don't Mind" and "Certified"!
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Jayson Rodriguez, hip-hop reporter: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums
1. Graduation by Kanye West
His debut was all about proving himself as a lyricist, and his sophomore set upped the ante in terms of hip-hop production. So what did 'Ye do the third time around? He handily filled in all the blanks missing from his much-decorated résumé. Street banger? Check: "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Stadium anthem? Check: "Stronger." He made more than just a "Big Brother" proud.
2. American Gangster by Jay-Z
Say what you will about Kingdom Come, Hov's last proper set, but hand that album to any other Brooklyn, New York, hustler/rapper and accolades would rain down. Jay has set his own bar so high that his competition is his illustrious past. So for "American Gangster" he channeled his younger days and Young Hov reminded us all just how witty, charismatic and skillful he really is. Sweeeeet.
3. As I Am by Alicia Keys
From 'round-the-way girl to stunning young woman to one of the most important voices in music around the world, A. Keys as evolved into a passionate, thought-provoking songstress who is as comfortable rallying against injustice as she is doting over love lost. "Like You'll Never See Me Again" will make a thug turn teary-eyed.
4. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
While most singers talk about it, Ms. Winehouse lives it. More than most rappers, her heart-wrenching songs about the trials of love are only amplified by her headline-grabbing antics with her boyfriend-turned-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Never did art come alive so vividly this year.
5. Finding Forever by Common
More compact, focused and condense than his previous effort with Kanye West, the 2005's heralded Be, Com Sense proved to be just as sharp on FF and brought just the right balance of his lyrical insight from the past coupled with his more recently developed global perspective.
6. Return of the Mac by Prodigy
P's bone-chilling rhymes over producer Alchemist's soul-drenched beats did as much as any album in the past five years to bring vintage New York rap back into consciousness. Big Apple upstarts, take notice.
7. Street Love by Lloyd
Little Lloyd proved his mettle to the Inc. camp with this one, temporarily (or maybe not?) becoming the top dog in Irv Gotti's house. Lush songs like his lead single, "You," with its saccharine-sweet melody hit big, but album cuts like "Hazel" and "Certified" bring depth to Lloyd's song catalog and show his light has only just begun to shine.
8. Just Like You by Keyshia Cole
The big-ticket lead single, "Let It Go" (featuring Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim), didn't exactly pan out as a summertime smash, but the follow-up, "Shoulda Let You Go," has all the traits K. Cole fans love about the ghetto songbird: sassy, vulnerable and full of courage.
9. The Big Doe Rehab by Ghostface Killah
Tony Starks has been carrying the Wu-Tang legacy on his back for so long now, it's downright amazing he hasn't crumbled from the pressure. Instead, even amid some pretty blistering bickering going on between him and the rest of his Shaolin brethren, Ghost pulls out another classic.
10. Double Up by R. Kelly
He started out as an oversexed crooner who seemed to rely on that crutch like a one-legged man. But Kells has managed to reinvent himself more times than Madonna and Mary J. Blige combined. This collection of sensual, sexual, hillerical (if he can name a song "The Zoo," I can use the word "hillerical"), and hip-hop-heavy tracks only showcases his troubled genius more than ever.
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Rahman Dukes, senior producer
1. Graduation by Kanye West
During the taping of the Hottest MCs in the Game in July, I scolded my Hip-Hop Brain Trust peers for not bumping up Kanye higher on the list. And that was only based off "Can't Tell Me Nothing" — not to mention I wasn't even feeling "Stronger" like that. But sure enough, when Graduation leaked, it was a proven fact 'Ye would be beating out the rest of the competition — including his "Big Brother"! — for best hip-hop album of '07.
2. Finding Forever by Common
Hands-down, Common's best album to date. J Dilla's passing and Kanye's beats truly inspired Com on Finding. Common had a helluva year on the movies front too, appearing in both "Smokin' Aces" and "American Gangster." Any hip-hop head will agree the Chi-town lyricist is at the top of his game.
3. From Nothin' to Somethin' by Fabolous
Can I start by saying I was the first MTV employee to bring Fab into our offices? Back then, I told him he was a star. His move to Def Jam proved to be a smart one. Shout out to DJ Clue and Desert Storm. "Make Me Better" was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the year, but the rest of the album packed more heat than them young boys on an episode of "The Wire." "Gangsta Don't Play" (featuring Junior Reid), "Yep, I'm Back" and "Joke's on You" (featuring Pusha-T) ... I can go on. Kudos, Fab!
4. American Gangster by Jay-Z
Let the hate begin. At the first listen, I wasn't impressed with Jay's second "comeback" album. He was definitely spitting Reasonable Doubt-style, but the beats didn't quite match the content. But after taking one good listen to "Say Hello," where he goes: "And if Al Sharpton is speaking for me/ Somebody get him the word and tell him I don't approve/ Tell him I'll remove the curses/ If you tell me our schools gon' be perfect/ When Jena Six don't exist/ Tell him that's when I'll stop saying b---h — B---H!" Now that's what I'm talking about: hip-hop giants tackling more serious issues in their raps instead of telling me why they're flyer than kids. I was so impressed by that line that I sent it to Sharpton's VP of Communications.
5. The Big Doe Rehab by Ghostface Killah
Just when you thought Tony Starks was making a bad move by releasing another album, he showed us once again why he's the Wally Champ. With the major disappointment of Wu-Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams album, Ghost outlines exactly why he's needed in the rap game.
6. Curtis by 50 Cent
Queens all day! The Kanye vs. 50 battle clearly backfired on the controversy king, and his war of words with Cam'ron clouded things a bit leading up to his release. Whoever gave Curtis the green light to call his album Curtis should be served with a pink slip. But don't get it twisted: Fif had joints on Curtis, and the Sabrina's Baby Boy mixtape G-Unit put out filled the void of gutter hip-hop tracks that were missing on his studio release.
7. Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) by Styles P
Anything associated with the LOX is a go as far as I'm concerned. I'm a die-hard New York hip-hop head. Artists like Styles don't come quite often. He shows up for interviews on time, his music actually has substance, and he spits. With the flood of hip-hop albums dropping this quarter, Styles' stands out by far. Rap artists could learn a thing or two from the Yonkers, New York, native (hello Jadakiss.)
8. Free at Last by Freeway
So what he didn't crack 50,000 units in his effort's first week. So what he decided to pull in 50 Cent to co-executive produce the album alongside Jay-Z. So what he didn't have a video to support the album. Freeway may have lacked the promotion for Free at Last, but it doesn't change the fact the Philadelphia rap monster hasn't missed a beat.
9. T.I. vs .T.I.P. by T.I.
T.I.'s latest album didn't sit too well with his cult following, but it raised my antennae for someone not that familiar with his body of work. Even more, so he went gold in a week at a time when music artists are giving away their albums for free. For that alone he deserves a spot on my list.
10. The Real Testament by Plies
Shout out to my dude Saigon on this one. When he tells you to listen to an album, you listen. It took a cold day in Brooklyn and advice from the Abandoned Nation Foundation member for me to realize Plies has a story to tell. If you're a fan of real hip-hop music, go get this album. Anyone who has witnessed one of Plies' live shows will tell ya the lil' homie has a movement behind him also.
Shaheem Reid, hip-hop editor: Top 10 Hip-Hop Singles
1. "I Get Money" by 50 Cent
The best beat of the year, unbridled stunting, endless riches and unplanned parenting to boot: "Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire/ I'll write the check before the baby comes, who the f--- cares."
2. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" by Kanye West
Easily the most relatable song of the year. Everybody needs to get their money right. Even A-Rod wanted more dough in 2007, and he was getting over $25 million a year. Kanye's hardest street anthem to date and, line by line, one of his most lyrical songs ever.
3. "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" by UGK (featuring Outkast)
Andre 3000's verse alone is worth the price of admission, although Pimp C probably rides the track the best (R.I.P. Sweet Jones!). Both legendary hip-hop pairs proved that skills and passion don't necessarily deteriorate over the years.
4. "Make Me Better" by Fabolous (featuring Ne-Yo)
It's fly to love your girl. Scratch that, it's fly to love your girl and not be ashamed to tell her and the world she has you open. At least, that's what Fab and Ne-Yo made everyone believe with their monster duet.
5. "It's Me B---hes" remix by Swizz Beatz (featuring Lil Wayne, Jadakiss and R. Kelly)
Arguably the best rapper (Wayne), producer (Swizz) and singer (Kelly) in 2007 are featured on this track. No way to lose on this one. Of all the millions of Lil Wayne verses this year, this had to be the most fun to listen to. Weezy rapped in different languages, vernaculars and switched flows in less than 30 seconds.
6. "We Takin' Over" by DJ Khaled (featuring T.I., Rick Ross, Akon, Lil Wayne, Baby and Fat Joe)
With a murderers'-row lineup like this, who dared dispute Khaled's claim that "We da besss!"? Each MC tried to outdo the other, but everyone kept the competition friendly. Also, with this song, Khaled kicked off a plethora of songs featuring a combination of all-star guests.
7. "Duffle Bag Boy" by Playaz Circle (featuring Lil Wayne)
So compelling, it almost felt biblical. Tity Boi and Dolla Boy's ode to corner couriers had the most legs on our list, terrorizing the underground for months until it recently erupted everywhere. Birdman Jr.'s hook captivated every club.
8. "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is ...)" by Jay-Z
He's in the howww, howww, howwwse! You know you have a hit on your hands when you have black kids from the 'hood yelling, "L'chaim!" Hov's celebratory second single from American Gangster was delivered with excitingly complicated wordplay and the Jigga's trademark royal swagger. That type of talk is reserved only for the bosses.
9. "My Drink N' My 2 Step" by Cassidy
Besides a dance partner, what else do you really need in a club besides what Cassidy called out in this song title? The Philadelphia MC snuck in a serious story about his downfall and comeback while drinking Patrón and enlisting Swizz Beatz for a simplistic but enlivening chorus.
10. "Wipe Me Down" by Lil Boosie, Webbie and Foxx
"Shoulders, chest, pants, shoes." Who knew you could get so clean being dirty? Down-bottom bravado and bracing bass help the Trill Fam fortify their spots as popular Southern young guns.
Shaheem Reid, hip-hop editor: Hip-Hop Catchphrases
1. "(Insert superhero's name here) that ho/ You'll!"
After Soulja Boy blew up with his "Crank That" lyric "Superman that ho," he spawned a nation of biters who made songs with choruses that replaced the Man of Steel with his day-saving peers such as Batman, Spider-man, Wolverine and the always-slept-on Aquaman.
2. "We da besssss!"
DJ Khaled once again proved that DJs don't have to stay in the background, wearing headphones while scratching records. He turned himself into a bona-fied hip-hop brand name this year. "We" is probably the most apropos thing he could have said, because he brought together so many artists for his singles "We Takin' Over," "Brown Paper Bag" and the remix to "I'm So Hood." He probably got offers to book talent for the Grammy Awards.
Why? Well after the MTV News team shot a special segment called "A Day in the Life of Swizz Beatz," just about half the people in our newsroom started saying it. Plus, Swizz had so many hits this year, you really couldn't escape his slogan.
4. "Throw some D's on that b---h."
All praises go to Rich Boy for not only giving us a fresh song with a hot hook, but for giving us an instant LOL punch line whenever we talked about something that needed to be fixed or pimped out. Sometimes it didn't even have anything to do with a car. You got a bad perm from the hairdresser? "Throw some D's on that b---h." They put mustard on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise? "Throw some D's on That b---h." Equally nonsensical and humorous.
5. "Party like a rock star."
Kanye West, Lil Wayne, the Diplomats — a bunch of hip-hop acts were bringing that rock mentality and swagger to rap this year. And it didn't hurt that the Shop Boyz's hit record "Party Like a Rockstar" exploded, either.
Oh, the hilarity started by Cam'ron. He began dissing 50 Cent by starting an antagonizing name-calling campaign on the Internet. 50, ever the business-minded messiah, figured that there's no harm in people calling him by the name his momma gave him and turned it into the platinum-plus Curtis.
7. "This is why I'm hot."
Unfortunately MIMS' flame fizzled when his "This Is Why I'm Hot" single died down, but boy was he running with it when the record was at its peak. You could see the saying on T-shirts, blogs and coming out of the mouths of your favorite celebrities. Well, maybe you couldn't really see the words coming out of their mouths, but you catch our drift.
8. "A bay bay"
Originally we thought this was some crass-but-catchy pickup line, but after closer scrutiny — well, maybe just after a five-minute interview with Hurricane Chris — we found out it was just his way of paying homage to one of the Louisiana rapper's hometown DJs, Hollywood Bay Bay.
Cheers! Don't think for one second you had to stack your paper illegally to revel in Jay-Z's "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is ...)," which is colored with black bar mitzvahs, apples from a rare orchard, Britney Spears references and generous hustlers. At the height of the celebration, everybody in the club yells out, "L'chaim!"
10. "My Man"
Credit Denzel Washington for this one: He said he came up with his "American Gangster" character Frank Lucas' now-infamous two words. Although his smile can be as bright as all of Times Square, when you hear him say that in the movie — look out.
Shaheem Reid, hip-hop editor: Hip-Hop Dances
1. Every dance Beyoncé did in her "Get Me Bodied" video
We never heard of most of the dances before the video hit, but B was doing 'em and looked great. And shout-out to Solange for getting in there too. We see you!
2. The Superman
Soulja Boy's "Crank That" launched a laundry list of copycats, from the Army Boy to the Batman. But it was his thinly veiled line about the Superman that lit the Internet on fire like Tay Zonday.
3. Whatever Chris Brown was doing at the VMAs
He leaped onto tabletops in a single bound, channeled a young Mike Jack, and damn near burst out of viewers' TV sets with his electrifying moves. And he barely broke a sweat.
4. Toe Wop
Lil Mama brought this dance to life with her video for "Lip Gloss." Another dance fresh from the streets of Harlem, New York, this one is mixed with some hand movements from "Grease."
5. 2 Step
It ain't the same ol' two-step, that's for sure. The frenetic bounce number has more steps than the pyramids, but with DJ Unk's track of the same name, it doesn't look like this one is going away anytime soon.
6. The "I Get Money" Dance
It's official: Tony Yayo has replaced Dame Dash as hip-hop's top club/video shaker. Fif's success never made him feel more alive.
7. Pop, Lock and Drop It
Huey got love nationwide for this booty-bouncing, trunk-rattling (get it?) step.
8. Wipe Me Down
Brush that dirt off your shoulders. And your chest, pants and shoes while you're at it. Flossin' was never so much fun down South.
9. "Aunt Jackie"
Jason Fox and his Harlem crew brought the old-school boogie back for the kiddies with this kick-step.
10. The Wu-Tang
We're still not sure why in the world this crazy dance would be named after our favorite Shaolin soldiers, but trust us — these moves have nothing to do with the group. Take the funky chicken, the Pee Wee Herman, Hillbilly Jim's foot shuffles and you have half the dance down pat.