Lyricist of the Year

J. Cole

J. Cole

J. Cole’s debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story, showed a confident MC already in his prime, equally comfortable spitting socio-political knowledge, seductive dance-floor come-ons or good old-fashioned rap braggadocio.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

Hov yet again made the case that he’s arguably the greatest rapper ever with his dexterous work on Watch the Throne, whether balling so hard on “Paris” or getting photo-shoot fresh on “Otis.”

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s nimble rhymes prompted his new Aftermath boss, Dr, Dre, and Snoop Dogg to crown him the new King of the West, and he more than lived up to the regal hype on “The Recipe” and “Swimming Pools.”

Nas

Nas

Nas is a legend for a reason, and his new album, Life Is Good, switched effortlessly from deeply personal to blistering and battle-ready, transporting listeners back to his mid-’90s prime.

Kanye West

Kanye West

Over the past year, Yeezy more than held his own next to Jay-Z on Watch the Throne, and he also led the way for his GOOD Music crew’s takeover with dope verses on “Mercy” and “Way Too Cold.”

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