Paired with Madlib's soulful evocation of sunlight piercing through clouds, M.E.D.'s "Mystical Magic" is a distinctive slice of hip-hop. Eric Coleman hide caption

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Eric Coleman

Classic

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La Yegros courtesy of the artist hide caption

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courtesy of the artist

Adiós 2011: 8 Songs To Celebrate The End Of The Year

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The rapper Lil B, who spread the word "swag" throughout hip-hop. Courtesy of the artist. hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist.

Swag: Hip-Hop's Word Of The Year

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Skylar Grey. P.R. Brown/Courtesy of Universal Music Group hide caption

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P.R. Brown/Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Skylar Grey: And The Hits Keep Coming

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Rihanna performing in Zurich last month. This year the pop star tried to move beyond the fallout from her very public encounter with domestic abuse by taking on the role of risk-taking erotic outlaw — she was still faulted as superficial. The Image Gate/Getty Images hide caption

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The Image Gate/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" was huge this year. Howard Huang/Courtesy of Universal Motown hide caption

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Howard Huang/Courtesy of Universal Motown

It Was A Good Year For Women In Music

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Founded by Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, The Roots have now been performing for more than two decades. The hip-hop group's latest album is undun. Chago Akii-bua/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Chago Akii-bua/Courtesy of the artist

The Roots Weave A Tale Of Crime And Karma

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Dessa is a member of the Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective Doomtree. Her newest album is Castor, the Twin. Kelly Loverud/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Kelly Loverud/Courtesy of the artist

Dessa: A Twin City Rapper Explores A Softer Side

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Dessa's "The Beekeeper" takes an evocative approach to a weighty question: What are we really doing here? Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Castor, The Twin

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