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Time Magazine Picks America's Best Artists & Entertainers

Time magazine's July 9 issue features the first in a series that profiles Americans at the top of their game, leading off with Artists & Entertainers, with several profiles penned by industry peers such as Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Dick Cavett, David Mamet and James Earl Jones. Among the "Best" are:

Best Singer – Cassandra Wilson
Why – "Soulful, sensual and lyrical, she's carrying on the tradition of great jazz vocalists."

Best Rock Band – Sleater-Kinney
Why – "In an era of prefabricated pop, this group plays music that's totally unpredictable and defiantly uncompromising."

Best Rappers – The Roots
Why – "Old-school players who actually play instruments, they're leading the way for a more musical style of hip-hop."

Best Lounge Act – Rene Risque & the Art Lovers
Why – "Rene Risque is a free-range id, belting Latin love songs and Air Supply-style light-rock weepies, all with one thing in mind: seduction."

Best Comedian – Chris Rock
Why – "Even when cracking jokes that make us cringe, he shows us that laughter can be the best revenge."

Best Songwriter – Lucinda Williams
Why – "Wasting few words and sparing no pain, she has composed an extraordinary songbook about the rituals of loving, losing and keeping the faith."

Best DJ – DJ Craze
Why – "With sharp ears, fleet fingers and constant invention, he is turning the sampling of old records into a new art form."

Best Talk Show Host – Jon Stewart
Why – "With smart talk, shrewd insights and sly wit, he is making the evening news a daily habit again."

Best Radio Host – Ira Glass
Why – "He has returned radio with old-fashioned storytelling."

Best Young Classical Musician – Hilary Hahn
Why – "Masterly onstage and a webmaster on the Net, she's a virtuoso with a 21st century sensibility."

Best Playwright – August Wilson
Why – "His poetic plays about African-American life offer plainspoken truths that transcend race."

Best Movie Star Julia Roberts
Why – "Great looks, box-office clout, Oscar-certified talent and a tempestuous love life make her the reigning Queen of Hollywood."

Best Actor – Sean Penn
Why – "Conflicted about his craft, eclectic in his roles and brilliant in his performances, he is a worthy heir to Brando and Dean."

Best Unemployable Actor – Crispin Glover
Why – "Periodically, a film role comes along that requires psychopathic energy and spooky nervous tics played for laughs. Very periodically. Glover owns those roles."

Best Broadway Director – Susan Stroman
Why – "From the high lifts in "Contact" to the pratfalls in "The Producers," she puts joy back in musicals."

Best Clown – Bello
Why – "His dazzling stunts, goofy gags and big-top hairdo have made the circus a great show again."

Best Puppeteer – Basil Twist
Why – In his "Symphonie Fantastique," he dunked pieces of cloth in a giant aquarium and made them dance to Berlioz. Were it not for mimes, he would get beat up daily."