2. Jay-Z

Jay-Z talked about his “Takeover” way back in 2001 on the very first Blueprint album. Eight years later, Young Hov is still taking charge, running the Billboard charts with a #1 song and album, running circles around other hip-hop lyricists with his wordplay and running whatever town his tour hits that night.

From Oprah Winfrey (she had Jay as a guest on her show, even heading to the projects to interview him) to Ellen DeGeneres to Rihanna to the kids in the ‘hood — everyone sang Jay-Z’s praises for Blueprint 3, Jay’s 11th #1 album. He had a string of hit songs, including “Run This Town,” “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” and “Empire State of Mind” — his first #1 single. BP3 (released in September) was deemed an instant classic for its harmonic soundscapes and varying subject matter, which Jay articulated with his patented swagger and nimble flow.

2009 Highlights: Hov was hot in 2009 — the Hottest MC in the Game, in fact. He started the first half of the year growing out his “Blueprint ‘fro” as a symbol of how long the recording process for his album was taking. With no record label to negotiate a deadline for the opus, Hov took his time making music with Kanye West and Timbaland. In February, he told MTV News that he liked having a concrete timetable of when to record and release an album. He jokingly made comparisons between himself and Axl Rose, who kept Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy off shelves for more than a decade.

Of course, the Jiggaman doesn’t always need an album to stay on people’s minds. Jay focused on music to start off the year, dropping original songs like “History” and “Brooklyn Go Hard,” which appeared on the “Notorious” soundtrack, and jumping on remixes such as DJ Khaled’s “Go Hard” and Young Jeezy’s “My President”.

Still, Hov couldn’t avoid some controversy in 2009. Jim Jones turned himself in to police in early January after getting involved in a physical altercation with one of Jay-Z’s associates at the New York Louis Vuitton store. Meanwhile, during Grammy weekend about a month later, Jay’s good friend and collaborator Rihanna was assaulted by Chris Brown. Jay spoke out publicly in support of his friend.

Grammy night turned out to be huge for Jay. He stole the show with a performance of “Swagga Like Us” with T.I., Kanye West, Lil Wayne and M.I.A. The song won for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Jay also supported President Barack Obama, performing a concert in Washington, D.C., the night before Obama’s inauguration. Hov performed at the inaugural Neighborhood Ball as well.

Tearing up the stage was a Hova hallmark in 2009. He did special one-off shows with artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Eminem and Coldplay and toured over the summer with openers Ciara, Lupe Fiasco, and Fabolous. In the fall, he hit the road with N.E.R.D., Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole and Wale. Jay used the grand stage of New York’s Summer Jam for the first performance of “D.O.A.” On the track, which premiered on New York radio two days prior to the show, ignited some controversy, Jay voiced his disdain for hip-hop artists (not named Lil Wayne, Kanye West or T-Pain) saturating the market with their computer-enhanced vocals. The day before that, Jay announced a September 11 due date for Blueprint 3 (the LP would actually have to be released three days earlier to combat an early leak) and that he was partnering with Atlantic Records and the Warner Music Group for the venture.

Speaking of group ventures, Hov had the concert of the year, bringing Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, John Mayer, Diddy, Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West and Beyoncé out for his “Answer the Call” concert at Madison Square Garden. The show benefited the families of firemen and police officers who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Days later, Jay and Alicia Keys had their first performance of the chart-topping “Empire State of Mind” at the Video Music Awards. Their set was elegant and ‘hood at the same time, and it was such a powerful moment, even Lil Mama couldn’t ruin it when she jumped onstage uninvited to pose with the two superstars.

Someone else who couldn’t ruin Jay-Z’s stride was Beanie Sigel. The former staple of the Roc-A-Fella family said Hov threw some sneak disses at him on Blueprint 3 and lashed out in interviews and dis records like “How I Could Just Kill Jigga Man.” 50 Cent jumped into the fray, calling out Jay. 50 foe the Game called out Hov earlier in the year as well. Jay ignored everyone for the most part, choosing not to respond in song.

Hov and Alicia Keys performed “Empire State of Mind” again during the World Series, and Jay closed out the New York Yankees’ World Series victory parade with the song. Jay and Keys would also perform the track at the American Music Awards.

Jay and his wife, Beyoncé, closed out the year on a very high note, partying and celebrating life at Hov’s 40th birthday celebration in the Dominican Republic.