Producer: Swizz Beats
Label: Tommy Boy
In the late 1990s, New York producers sounded increasingly out-of-touch next to the bounce sounds coming out of the South. But when Swizz Beats turned left and brought out his Triton keyboards to represent the Big Apple, he changed the game. Sounding grimy and low-budget, yet contemporary and (crucially) club-friendly, Swizz helped keep New York rap relevant, and "Banned from TV" was his triumphant clarion call.
N.O.R.E. rounded out the lineup on his own track, and got off a few nice lines ("Used to be section 8, now my section is good"), as did a still-emergent Cam'ron, who had yet to completely develop his own distinct style. But Big Pun undoubtedly stole the show, bragging about everything from his dinner ("shark salad with carrots, pork chops and applesauce") to how he'd shoot an Uzi at your hearse, leaving you "double-dead." —David Drake
Best Verse: Big Pun