Album: Hip Hop Is Dead
Label: Def Jam/Columbia/The Jones Experience
Producer: Salaam Remi, will.i.amCold night. Rainy, too—torrents, flying sideways like a haircut. At least the studio felt warm, not that it mattered. It was 2006 and hip-hop was dead, deader than the phrase "hip-hop is dead" would become. The killer could've been anyone; could've been everyone. Nas was a private dick, it said so on the door. And, yeah, if you asked Kelis, she'd say the same thing. Suspects were everywhere. Nas knew where to find them; he just had to look. Halfway across the country, Soulja Boy couldn't see the writing on the wall—he'd scrawled his name across the front of his glasses.

Taking the name of his album literally, Nas took off his Filas and put on his gumshoes, picking up a magnifying glass and putting some nasal in his voice. For anyone who thinks Nas has a perfect track record—J. Cole, somehow—take a moment to listen to Queens' own dust off his Robert Mitchum impression. Yikes! That's right, Nas - whose only real movie credit is the heavy-handed Belly—lays out a case for "hip-hop's killer" in the style of a 1940's film noir. (Oh, not that you cared, but who or what killed hip-hop? Money. Pretty unsatisfying reveal, huh? Especially coming from a rapper who made a lot of it.)