50 Best Singles of 2011

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Jay-Z and Kanye West, 'Ni**as in Paris'
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2. Jay-Z and Kanye West, 'Ni**as in Paris'

The year's most intense throwdown – minimalist thunder pegged to a tweedling synth line that seemed to taunt potential haters. The lyrics are full of opulence ("gold bottles" rhymes with "scold models"), but this is no breezy highlife jam: Kanye barks about wilding out in France, while Jay imagines the dark fate that could have awaited him had he not become Jay-Z.

Jay-Z & Kanye West's 'Watch the Throne'
Kanye West & Jay-Z's 'Watch the Throne': A Track-by-Track Breakdown

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