I'm My Favorite Game

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

Best 2002-style garage rock: 50 Cent and Mobb Deep's "Have a Party."

Rob Sheffield
Brooklyn, New York

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

Rap music has slipped through New York's snow-numb fingers. Apart from 50 Cent, and he doesn't count for reasons of mercenary approach to pop, no rap record of national significance came from the five boroughs this year. Juelz and Jim Jones might complain, but Dip Set is about as relevant on Houston's north side as Neil Diamond. AZ is old. Papoose? Maino? They might as well be from Dutchess County. We've been reduced to the category us hard-liners used to viciously malign—regional rap. Everywhere else, they're pointing and making fun.

Jon Caramanica

E-40 raps too fast, Keak da Sneak is too gravelly, and Federation were unable to dumb things down to a Lil Jon level, so hy phy remains the Bay's best secret.

Pete Babb
Oakland, California

The year in trap rap: A bunch of grown adults are genuinely impressed by drug dealer talk. Post-collegiate bloggers argue over what's the funniest way to say "I sell drugs."

Chris Weingarten

Young Jeezy's mixtapes were better than his album. This should not be up for debate.

Kris Ex
Brooklyn, New York

Was I dreaming or did Young Jeezy really reach back to Reconstruction slang and rhyme "fag hag" with "scalawag"?

Eric Weisbard
Seattle, Washington

I could see Foxy Brown struggling to keep her spirits up and winning the battle only some of the time. The human drama of her ordeal couldn't be hidden. Where rock, jazz, and soul make room for emotionally damaged people, hip-hop prefers its stars to be infallible pillars of strength and cool. But the suddenly deaf 26-year-old Inga Marchand from Brooklyn, who I could interview only by passing written notes, proved that no matter how hard we pretend to be, we're all fragile. Neither bulletproof vest nor bulletproof attitude can stop God's bullets.

Brooklyn, New York

I believe hip-hop will continue to inspire imaginations around the globe and fuel the desire to create better worlds. I don't maintain as much faith that the music will do that imagining for us.

Oliver Wang
San Francisco, California

Not since the English Beat's "Stand Down Margaret" has such an explicitly political tirade moved as fearlessly and effortlessly as "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People." There are always fearless ones; it's the effortless part that's tricky.

Scott Woods
Toronto, Ontario

Don't expect to see 4th25's Live From Iraq touted by Fox News. Don't expect it to be championed by Air America, either. The U.S. soldiers who recorded this rap album in Baghdad unleash their bile equally against insurgents, politicians, generals, gangsta posers, and indifferent Americans. They make no bones about the fact they'd rather take the chance of shooting an innocent civilian than get killed by a suicide bomber.

Ron Warnick
Tulsa, Oklahoma

The most shocking thing about Kanye's "George Bush doesn't care about black people" is that it was actual political commentary spoken by a prominent hip-hop performer. The silence from the rest of the community typified hip-hop's current strategy: act all tough, but for the love of god, don't dare piss off anybody.

Tim Grierson
Los Angeles, California

Hip-hop's moral apathy has been a long-term affair; it just took the events of 2005 to put it all into stark relief. Was this inevitable once hip-hop muscled its way into the mainstream? How does one chant down Babylon when you've helped renovate it?

Oliver Wang
San Francisco, California

The ceremonial African war-dance art form called krumpin or clownin, the freestyle rendered unto possession and ghetto guerrilla combat represented so tragically in David LaChapelle's Rize, proves the part of hip-hop that's about catching the spirit is still being nurtured somewhere in South Central. It won't save hip-hop; it won't even save those kids. But it reminds us all of whence we came.

Greg Tate

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