Producer: Diamond D
Album: D.I.T.C.
Label: Tommy Boy

Already considered one of the late-'90s hardest rap crews, D.I.T.C. made history in '97 when they dropped "Day One." Over a simple, straightforward melodic loop, some of New York's toughest lyrical heavyweights took turns filling notepads with syllables and representing for a rougher, early-Giuliani time in New York history. It would be easy to argue that Big L had the song's best verse; his opening is one of the strongest, as he shows a rare glimpse of sincerity ("To be precise, ripping mics is the light of my life"). But it's Lord Finesse who steals the track with his boast about the entire crew's breadth: "Check the referral, man my whole squad's thorough / we worldwide, niggas just nice in one borough."   David Drake

Best Verse: Lord Finesse