Top 100 Rap Songs of 2007

2007, despite its numerous disappointments, spawned many memorable moments. Like the theme music to a good movie, these songs underscored a unique year in hip-hop. Ladies and Gentlemen, grab your iPods! Cue the time machine! It's time to rewind 2007 and explore the year's best 100 rap songs.

[ Disclaimer: The songs were ranked on production quality, lyrical appeal, and overall impact. It's a highly subjective list and I'm not claiming it to be the gospel.]
Every now and then you'll come across a song that everyone can identify with, irrespective of status or background. Anime's "Tell Myself I'm Happy" is one of those songs.

Backed by Swizz Beatz, Cassidy delivers an instruction on how to multitask in the club.

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Ja Rule feat. The Game - Sunset

Ja toasts to the Golden State ("I'm from New York, but I love California-e") alongside one of its favorite sons.
The best rap group with the worst name contribute to one of the year's highlights with this irresistibly catchy tune about eloping to Mexico.
Hip-hop O.G. reaffirms his status as a top shelf artist over N.O. Joe's southern-fried production.
Sure Hell Razah and Tragedy held their own on this, but it was R.A.'s lung-snapping wordplay that made this one a keeper.
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LL Cool J feat. Kool G Rap, Mobb Deep, 50 Cent & Tony Yayo - Queens

It's a Queens thing, as LL and friends shout out their New York neighborhood. L sneaks in a subliminal slap at Def Jam (then headed by Jay-Z and L.A. Reid). But even without the Def Jam snipe, this is still one of uncle L's better songs in years.
No, it's not a response to LL's "Queens," but it's an equally endearing 'hood tribute. Aided by a familiar Biggie line ("Where Brooklyn at?"), Fab and Jay get majestic over a booming bass that sounds like you just crashed a block party, with Uncle Murder riding shotgun.
Technically, Akir's debut CD Legacy was released two years ago via Viper Records. But, Babygrande Records snatched up the project and re-issued it in July 2007 to give those who slept on this great record a chance at redemption. "Treason," a surreal social protest, is the album's magnum opus.
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Beanie Sigel - What They Gonna Say to Me

© Roc-A-Fella

A nasty exercise in braggart rap. Sigel huffs and puffs, but delivers the goods in the end. Too bad, the rest of The Solution didn't live up to par.

Over a trunk-rattling beat, Young Jeezy questions critics who question his talent.
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Donny Goines - Never Let My Talent Die

The strings are ethereal and the drums are breathtaking, but it's upstart Donny Goines' hunger that makes this a thriller.
Pharoahe Monch follows up Organized Konfusion's "Stray Bullet" with the graphical "Gun Draws." Monch tackles gun violence from the perspective of a bullet and the video plays like horror flick.
A synth-bounce track that is sure to bring any downer out of their shell. It's not "What You Know" but it gets the job done.
Lil' Weezy and Little Brother trade rhymes about the consequences of infidelity in one of the most unlikely collaborations of 2007.
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Busta Rhymes feat. Q-Tip & Talib Kweli - Lightworks

Busta, Tip, and Kweli pay homage to a music icon. This is space-rap inspired by Dilla's funky production.
Lyrically, it's everything you expect from a lineup that includes four crack-rap enthusiasts. Sonically, it's a fever dream of burbling keyboards.
Luckyiam, a funny moonlighting solo artist from the Living Legends, lets the listener into his world on this jazzy track.

Detroit's brightest rookie begins the fight to keep his city on the hip-hop map. Even Dilla would approve.

Pimp C tells critics of "country-fried rap tunes" to stop whining and start grinding.
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Public Enemy - Harder Than You Think

You know you're in for a great year when one of the best songs is from a crew that started out 20 years ago. This is P.E.'s comeback party, and everyone's invited.
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EL-P - Everything Must Go

El-P. &copy Def Jux
Rocking the world, one furniture store at a time.
Three decent male rappers and one talented female singer/rapper attempt to fill some big shoes: "We get compared to the Fugees, but all of us can rhyme." Not even close, but they're on the right track for now.

Backed by sunny piano loops, Guru and Common exchange views on soul-searching and moving past the little things that keep us from fulfilling our mission in life.

Buck Marley dispels any notion of his crew's demise with this exuberant Polow da Don concoction from Buck the World.

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Blitz - Hands of Time

Blitz rewinds his favorite hip-hop moments, blending snippets of timeless tunes like Biggie's "Unbelievable" and Nas' "New York State of Mind."
Midwest hip-hop at its braggiest, grimiest, and nastiest.

After 20 years and 16 albums, you'd think that KRS-One would be out of hip-hop terminologies by now. Instead, the Teacha finds a million more ways to symbolize Hip-Hop on the title track from Hip-Hop Lives .

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Royce da 5'9" - Rewind

Royce imagines what could have become of three flourishing rappers that died before they ever had a chance to live out their dreams.
AZ's breakneck flow meets Styles P's sucker-free swagger.
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Outlawz feat. Young Buck & Dion - Drivin' Down the Freeay

Aided by Hi-Tek's boardsmanship and Dion's inspiring chorus, Young Buck and Outlawz invent a new genre: hardcorerapsoulnica.
© Universal
Master storyteller Slick Rick assists in this witty narrative about the "hip-hop police," a fictional law enforcement unit that arrests artists solely on account of obscene lyrics.
50 Cent brags about being stanky rich on this sky-scrapingly great banger. It's a bright spot on the otherwise mediocre Curtis.
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Skyzoo feat. Torae - Click

You don't have to be a Jay-Z to get a beat from the legendary DJ Premier, just Jay-Z good. And Skyzoo lives up to expectation here.

Other hip-hoppers brag about their wallets and their guns. Hi-Tek brags about his piano, and still sounds amazing.
Hey, care for some gangsta with that plate of conscious? Pure proof that we can all get along.
Kweli has a massive grip on the ingredients necessary for the ultimate girl song: stark honesty, beautiful lyrics, and on the boards.
Red Gone Wild wasn't exactly a classic, but it still had some sweepingly awesome tracks, including this one.
Backed by Exile's jazzy piano riffs, Blu gives his tongue a lyrical workout while his brain works overtime.
Clef delivers a stunning comeback hit in the form of a save-a-stripper campaign.
Self-uplifting rhymes from the dude that looks like your neighborhood pest control agent.
Philadelphia Freeway spews angst at anyone that cares to listen.
Hyper-minimal disco backs up Snoop's auto-tuned vocals. If you listen close you'll probably hear Bootsy Collins wailing in the background.
Hip-hop and pop fusion only works half the time. Thankfully, this was one of those times.
Evidence embraces what many considered a liability -- a cool, calm, and careful delivery. It's pure proof that rap doesn't have to be drop-dead fast to be enjoyable.
The beat is intoxicating. The chorus is infectious. But the lyrics are so heavy that you're not sure if dancing should be the appropriate response here.
The chipmunk-voiced DJ assembles a lineup of hit-makers for one of the year's best posse cuts.
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Eightball & MJG feat. Project Pat - Relax & Take Notes

© Bad Boy
Ball & G invoke the ghost of Biggie on this rewind-worthy stomp jam from their 10th album, Ridin' High.
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One Be Lo - Headlines

A critique of modern society delivered through the eyes of a frozen caveman who gets thawed back to life by melting icecaps.
A pernicious piece of genius from one of alt-rap's best.
A friend once asked me for help with her resignation letter. I pointed her to the fleet of polished and professional resignation letter templates on our Job Search site. Next time, I'll just make her listen to "Jerry McGuire," a funny 12-step program on how to quit your job and probably get fired at your next job.
Skillz. © Okayplayer
All guts and glory. Skillz and Freeway rap as if their lives depend on this chest-pumping heat rock.
Sharkey and C-Rayz party like it's 1982 with their hip-hop interpretation of Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue."
Chamillionaire. © Marlon Ross

Few rap songs are simultaneously inspirational and anthemic. Now you can add "Won't Let You Down" to that list. If you're feeling lucky, check out the 18-minute Texas All-Star remix.

Ghost brings the ruckus. Beans brings the burner. It's a match made in trigger-happy paradise.
Brother Ali rails against the status quo. Sorta like Ron Paul without the political baggage.
"Sirens" is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it rebukes hip-hop haters for ignoring society's larger issues ("Like most black folks living below the poverty line"). On the other hand, it repudiates a complacent hip-hop environment ("I had to tell my son, 'Cut that bulls**t off. Them ain't videos, that's psychological warfare'").

Over a tiptoeing Madlib beat, Kweli comes to the realization that he can't be everything to everyone at the same time.

A grandiose record that's both accessible and thought-provoking.

See, life for Devin isn't all weed, wine and women -- actually, it is. "Lil Girl Gone" connects three stories about a girl gone wild despite her proper upbringing.
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Beanie Sigel - Return of the Bad Guy

© Def Jam
Beanie Sigel specializes in songs that are grim enough to make even the toughest villains whimper, and this is a perfect example of that. This was the original title of his fourth album, which was later renamed The Solution.

Armed with Kanye's staccato drum blasts, Quence assures his family that he won't forget 'em once he makes it big time.

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Sean Price - P-Body

Sean Price. © Duck Down
Sean Price is already famous for being the brokest rapper you know. P's knack for alliteration ("Pound for pound perfection, and punch potholes in pretenders") adds yet another feather to his NY fitted hat.
There was so much hoopla about the process behind "The Heart Gently Weeps" that many forgot just how brilliant the song is. Backed by a warm acoustic guitar, "The Heart Gently Weeps" is meditative storytelling at its finest.

This was billed as a bonus track on American Gangster because Jay-Z wasn't sure if it belonged on that album. He's right: The musical charm that is "Blue Magic" is in a world of its own. From the Pharrell's barebones production to Jay's sophisticated rhyme scheme ("Blame Oliver north and Iran-Contra/I ran contraband that they sponsored").

Avant-garde storytelling from one of 2007's most promising newcomers.
Blue Scholars echo the sentiment of 70% of Americans and ask for an end to the Iraq war.

There's a certain magic to this song that I don't want to ruin by trying to dissect the ingredients. Thankfully, it's just one of many gems to come from this hip-hop supergroup that consists of Kanye, Pharrell, and Lupe Fiasco.

Seventeen years after it was first laced on wax, Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terror Dome" gets a facelift from Pharoahe Monch.

With the emergence of so many new artists, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. But NYOil has no intentions of taking the easy way out. "Shout it in the Streets" is a vicious follow-up to the memorable 2006 hit "Y'all Should All Get Lynched."
The Jazzmeister cooks up a soulful concoction, while the Smoothsmith lays his rhymes in the cut.

Let's do the math: Fabolous in Ladies Man mode + Ne-Yo on the chorus = slam dunk.

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Joel Ortiz - Hip-Hop

© Koch
Let's get this straight: No other newcomer delivered an endless supply of gritty rap anthems like Brooklyn's own Joel Ortiz. Of all the 5,279 songs titled "Hip-Hop," this one's a breath of fresh air.

Your inner cynic may frown at Prodigy for sticking to familiar territory on "Mac 10 Handle." That's until you hear Alchemist's arrestingly upbeat production and P's cinematic rhymes kick in and reaffirm that he's capable of pumping life into a banal concept.

Beat by Kanye West; Scratches by DJ Premier. Exactly what an MC's dream session sounds like.

[Video] After two decades in the game, Masta Ace still doesn't know how to waste a verse.

This piece of genius -- with a chorus so repetitive it will lodge itself in your memory for months -- is as gorgeous as anything 'Ye has recorded in years.

Ali showcases his spirit, soul, and versatility over Ant's slap-happy drums.

Trae and his D-Block cohorts sound right at home rhyming about the misfortunes of life that make it hard to crack a smile.
Forget sending a demo tape, Termanology exhibits his skills on "So Amazing" with DJ Premier on the boards. In an ideal world, this song would trigger an intense bidding war among all the majors.
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Skyzoo feat Torae - Get It Done

The great thing about this song -- besides the obvious fact that Preemo is still the producer to beat -- is that the theme changes depending on who's clutching the mic. Skyzoo indulges in a lyrical exercise that references 2 decades worth of Preemology ("I'm in a 'New York State of Mind' when I 'Kick in the Door' with 'A Million and One Questions' when I'm bringing it on"), while Torae compares the collaboration to past classics ("It's reminiscent of Nas & Jay or Billy & Womack").

2007 was the year of Chicago. Not only did the Windy City contribute 3 albums to 07's best top 10 joints, it also introduced us to this cool duo. "Black Mags" is a sonical collision of different styles and genres, from hyphy to boom bap.

What does it say of the music industry when the best song on your album ends up as a hidden track? Rich Boy's clever indictment of societal imbalance will make even the grimiest gangbanger put down his gun and pick up a book. Proof that smart is the new gangsta.

Maybe it's Hi-Tek's soul-drenched production. Maybe it's Kweli's masterfully interjected pauses when he says "We ain't got no time to kill...each other." Whatever it is, this one's sure to withstand the test of...
Scarface once swore of rap music, but all that did was make us miss him badly. As this hard-hitting banger affirms, 'Face learned one hard lesson during his break: Never say never.
Exuberant hip-pop funk from the Timbaland of this generation.
All three Clansmen on this song brought their A-game along for the ride. Combine their vigorous lyrical exercise with a RZA beat so great even Memphis Bleek could've made it a hit, and you've got the best song on 8 Diagrams.

"Surviving the Times" is a relentlessly introspective and sincere summary of Nas' rap career. It chronicles his early days as an unsigned MC who "didn't even know what a record advance meant" to his emergence as a living legend.

They lost their record deal, regained it after several years, then lost a group member. So, Bone Thugs did what any wise crew would do: they turned their struggle into rhymes and asked Akon to sing his heart out. Talk about music therapy.

Common rhymes about survival, enlightenment, a Grammy snub, and finding the new Preemo, in one breath.

No, he didn't apologize to Tribe Called Quest fans for briefly flubbing his "Electric Relaxation" performance at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, but this throwback masterpiece will surely appease all fans of the Jungle Brothers era.

One glance at the lineup conjures images of typical Wu-Tang heist. Instead, we get a spellbinding story about Ghost's run-ins with the law. This one takes an unpredictable twist, as Ghost decides to seek refuge in Yolanda's house. Amidst the chaos, he runs into one of the rooms only to find Method Man with his draws half-drawn (literally). Three minutes will have passed by the time you realize that this is a song, not a hood flick.
Kanye abandons his signature sped-up samples for a foray into Euro synth-pop. In his quest for perfection, 'Ye scraped the original version of the song and brought in master producer Timbaland to tweak the drums.
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Rakim, Nas, Kanye, & KRS-One - Classic (Better Than I've Ever Been)

Three legendary MCs and one MC known for his legendary high-handedness celebrate Nike's Air Force 1 sneaker.
By all standards, Andre 3000 had a terrific run in 2007. No other MC was as consistently exciting as Ice Cold. Everything he touched was magic. That probably explains his presence on three of the top 10 songs on this list. "Da Art of Storytelling" was undoubtedly the outstanding track on DJ Drama's forgettable debut, Gangsta Grillz, thanks to two great verses from Dre and Big Boi.
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Rhymefest - Angry Black Man on an Elevator

© J Records
Classic Rhymefest humor ("I'm Saddam, except I got weapons") sprinkled with Classic Rhymefest musings ("They sold MySpace for $500 million/They sold YouTube for $1.6 billion/And you're in the project fighting over a building"). Theme music for any revolution.
Ever dreamed of becoming a music superstar? Well, you won't, after hearing Devin Copeland and friends highlight the travails of a demanding music industry. The delight of the song, of course, comes from Andre's candid storytelling.

Hip-hop emeritus brings his requisite gravitas to this unapologetic toast to the good life. Not to be outdone by Jay's celebratory rhymes, Diddy and his Hitmen toss some triumphant horns into the mix.

Two revered groups merge forces for the first time and yield a pulverizing hip-hop moment. From the goofy concept to the way the beat is tailor-made to suit each artist, "Int'l Players Anthem" is flawless. It doesn't matter if you're a backpacker, a purist, or a southern rap aficionado, this is one anthem you won't forget anytime soon.

Top 100 Rap Songs of 2007