Rev That Azz Up

Nervous Rhythms, Chopped-Up Language, Thumping Slapstick Pop

Like Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z finds it difficult to brag because bragging demands overstatement. His dynasty talk is all too real—his streak of hits is going on years, and Beanie Sigel and Memph Bleek may give him the best team in hiphop today. The complexity of his rhyme schemes is unequaled in the modern game—the way he plays with words, bending and chopping them up, the way he breaks the language and kills you with internal rhymes.

Brooklyn, New York

Word to Method Man. Hey, we love ya, but it's time to go to Maui and take some time away. Is there any guest on the mic you've turned down? Next year do we get the Pete Seeger duet, "This Land Is Your Motherfuckin' Land"?

Manny Fresh: #19 and #25 singles
Manny Fresh: #19 and #25 singles

Ken Capobianco
Brighton, Massachusetts

If one in 10 people is gay, and there are at least 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan, does that mean that one of the Wu rappers is queer? Who is it? Raekwon the Chef? Ol' Dirty? The RZA?

Jay Ruttenberg
Highland Park, Illinois

Dead: Biggie

Bitchslap me Jesus through the goalposts of life: Puffy

Just a gigolo: Kid Rock

Rob Sheffield
Charlottesville, Virginia

Suge Knight, anyone?

Jon Caramanica

Once artists like Stevie Wonder and EWF wrote magical songs, jammed live, and toured. Now Mint Condition is the only r&b band on a major label, three guys write damn near all the songs, and nobody tours—not that anyone under 25 gives a damn.

Franklin Paul
Kew Gardens, New York

Destiny's Child and She'kspere have taken jungle's fierce nervous-wreck rhythms and made actual pop out of them, whilst not sounding remotely like jungle.

Scott Woods
Toronto, Canada

By redefining cool away from mere beauty and becoming the first "girl group" not to let cutting-edge r&b production overwhelm their message, TLC made the year's most subversive record.

Britt Robson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Got no money, got no car, got no woman—there I are. Hate to come off as a huffy, downwardly mobile, voluntarily bike-riding, involuntarily celibate man-as-victim, but "No Scrubs" is classist just as sure as Jay-Z is sexist.

Keith Harris
Minneapolis, Minnesota

True Divaness arrived in the form of Angie Stone, who's always been around, but never quite appreciated, like most good women. Black Diamond was the last great makeout record of the millennium. But the righteous sister award is shared with Meshell Ndegéocello's Bitter. I could come home totally content from an evening's merriment at 2 a.m., put it on, and by 2:20 be in a fit of anguish—chain-smoking, drinking rotgut left over from the Christmas party, running up my long-distance bill.

Lissa Townshend Rodgers

Macy Gray is the exact opposite of what a black female singer is expected to sound like, almost abrasively so, and I like that. She's also not whining about scrubs or bills.

Greg Casseus

Cesaria Evora's voice is a plaintive wonder that carried me across oceans and into a better understanding of the world and myself. Her Town Hall concert this fall made me flash on the freeze-dried performances that are passed off these days as soul. This was the real thing—simple, direct, as warm as a lover's eyes.

Nelson George
Brooklyn, New York

Kem Poston


Mos Def Black on Both Sides (rawkus) 20

Femi Kuti Shoki Shoki (barclay) 14

The Roots Things Fall Apart (mca) 13

Styles of Beyond 2000 Fold (ideal) 12

Mobb Deep Murda Muzik (loud) 11

Tony Allen Black Voices (comet) 10

Prince Paul A Prince Among Thieves (tommy boy) 5

Kelis Kaleidoscope (virgin) 5

Breakbeat Era Ultra-Obscene (xl) 5

Ol' Dirty Bastard N***a Please (elektra) 5

If Fiona Apple was a black girl, she'd be considered the second coming of a choirload of soul giants.

Dimitry Elias Léger
Brooklyn, New York

With the exception of Mary, the best soul singer out there is Fiona, whose support in that so-called urban community is the great secret of the industry. I am offering my not-so-cheap-anymore time to Epic Records. It's the Fiona Apple Street Team. Our goal: Get that skinny white bitch on Hot 97.

Amy Linden
Brooklyn, New York

I hate to give such props to a white boy, but the second-best MC in hiphop is Eminem. He spits gory and funny little narratives with details and adjectives and long strings of badass, demented thoughts like no one since Big.

Brooklyn, New York

If hip hop is indeed the new rock 'n' roll (and has Time ever been wrong before?), then Eminem and Elvis differ in more than their taste in pharmaceuticals. Eminem's pale face remains an oddity in an umptillion-dollar industry. History never repeats itself exactly, and the differences are as instructive as the similarities—a fact that those who toss around the word "minstrelsy" should remember.

Keith Harris
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Raquel Cepeda


Roots "You Got Me" (mca)

Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley "Turn the Lights Down Low" (columbia)

D'Angelo "Untitled" (virgin)

Dr. Dre "Still D.R.E." (aftermath/interscope)

Lauryn Hill "Everything Is Everything" (ruffhouse/columbia)

Common "1-9-9-9" (rawkus)

Angie Stone "No More Rain (In This Cloud)" (arista)

Jay-Z "Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)" (def jam)

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