I'm My Favorite Game

Proof that no matter how hard we pretend to be, we're all fragile

Jessica Hopper
Chicago, Illinois

Who cares if the lyrics advocate pussy beating—the track is bangin'. Who cares if the track is bangin'—it advocates pussy beating.

Common, #15 album, #20 single
photo: Pamela Littky
Common, #15 album, #20 single

Kevin John
Austin, Texas

"Growin' up I was confused, my momma kissin' a girl." Wait, what? So 50's best lines this year weren't about his dick, or Nas, but about walking in on his mom kissing another woman?

Jessica Suarez
Brooklyn, New York

Kanye was there for me when 50 Cent wasn't, and for that, "Gold Digger" has replaced "In Da Club" as my ironic dance song of choice.

Trish Bendix
Chicago, Illinois

The big attraction of Ludacris's "Pimpin' All Over the World" for me is a pit stop in Toronto, alerting the rest of the world to something I've been telling everyone for years: the pimpin' here is top-notch, absolutely first-rate.

Phil Dellio
Toronto, Ontario

"My Humps" made it about something everybody feels safe thinking about: white women's tits.

Bret McCabe
Baltimore, Maryland

You know a song is nasty when it has sex terminology you don't understand. How exactly do you "throw it like a boomerang"? I think I need to learn to throw it like a Frisbee first and then maybe I can step my game up to Foxy Brown's level.

Jalylah Burrell

Mariah Carey's transformation into the best hip-hop artist with eight-octave vocal range is complete.

Dimitry Elias Léger
Yvoire, France

Minimal beats were everything this year—word to top iTunes download "Laffy Taffy"— but Young Jeezy specialized in minimal raps. That is, he said a lot with very little. He stole a track with a mere exhortation of "yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh." He bypassed Jay's paradigm of pared-down elegance as if there was no reason to try in the first place.

Jon Caramanica

Inanga chuchotee is a Burundi genre where a musician whispers over the unstable timbres and noisy frequencies of an indigenous zither. It fucks with concepts of figure and ground, melody and harmony, human and machine. "Wait (The Whisper Song)" is just as mindfucking, apotheosizing the twisted perceptual games of so much hip-hop. The white noise of the whisper elicits a filtering process that foregrounds the lyrics, but at the slightest remove the lyrics fade back into the music.

Kevin John
Austin, Texas

With mannered vocals and chivalrous lyrics floating over Scott Storch's dewy production, Mario's "Let Me Love You" was the blueprint for sentimental, earnest r&b in 2005. It would have made my list had radio, video, and karaoke bars everywhere not squeezed the pulp out of it, turning it into the most relentlessly overplayed ballad since "I Just Called to Say I Love You."

Jason King

Four or so basic chords anchor "Ordinary People," but its true genius lies in the lyric, the melody, and the "take it slow" motif reprised in the piano accompaniment. In poorly constructed songs, the bridge is where most people tune out. But in great songs, it's where something unexplainable happens. John Legend uses the bridge to "go to a place only lovers go," and he does it with an ordinary 4-5-1 chord progression, a stair-step, pitter-patter melody, and a long list of maybes.

Makkada Selah

"Hate It or Love It" 's horn-drenched, sepia- tone double-team is so slick and glossy that neither the music nor the lyrics stick to the ribs no matter how many sips you take, forcing continual imbibing yet leaving you thirsty for more. Try to hum the hook, to spit the rhymes; you can't, even though you gave this song 1,000 spins this year. Capitalist brilliance.

Ray Cummings
York, Pennsylvania

The Game has the best name of any new rapper since Black Thought. "Game" is one of those great, rich, layered pieces of Black English with several meanings, like "hustle" or "soul." Used in a phrase like "don't hate the player, hate the game," it takes on a meaning somewhat similar to what "the matrix" meant in the classic film—the world that surrounds us, impacts us, and controls us. In calling himself the Game, Jayceon Taylor has said, "I'm bigger than everyone else. I'm not a player, I'm larger than a player."

Brooklyn, New York

A famous conversation with the rapper the Game: Me: What's your favorite game?

The Game: I'm my favorite game.

Another famous conversation with the rapper the Game: Me: Do you have a game face?

The Game: Yes it is just my regular face.

Nick Sylvester

Welcome to Jamrock lays down the "digital Marley" aesthetic: squeaky clean, seamlessly layered live instrumentation and rhythmically diverse, canyon-expansive arrangements that amalgamate reggae, dancehall, dub, r&b, hip-hop, and lite rock along with Damian's fearless flow. This acoustic refinement makes his highly political tirades go down cool and calm.

Makkada Selah

Reggaetón, please break up.

Jon Dolan
Brooklyn, New York

I want to say that all reggaetón sounds the same, because it's entirely true, but I fear reggaetón fans saying the same about rock music, which is also sorta true.

Nick Sylvester

Black Rock Coalition, 20 years in the game. Recognize, bee-yotch!

Darrell McNeill
Brooklyn, New York

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