For the fourth year in a row, the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust has created it’s list of Top 10 Hottest MCs In The Game. And for the fourth year in a row, people feel some type of way about it.
The controversy comes from the fact that “hot” is really a very relative term. Even though MTV’s list is based on specific criteria – “a combination of rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence – for the fourth year in a row, their definition of “Hot” seems a little… questionable at times.
Check out the 2010 Hottest MCs in the Game, from 10-1, with a glimpse into the Hip-Hop Brain Trust’s reasoning.
Who else do you feel should have made the list? Who should have been left off?
First appearance on the list
Where Luda really shined this year, though, was in his collaborations. He was featured on Justin Bieber’s smash “Baby,” which gave the teenybopper some street cred while also giving Luda a huge look at Top 40 radio. The video for “Baby” is the most viewed in the history of YouTube. If that wasn’t enough, ‘Cris jumped on the U.S. version of Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart,” and turned what was already a smash in the U.K. into one of the biggest songs of the summer in the States. But Luda kept it hip-hop, too, jumping on DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” which had everybody’s hands going up, to the tune of more than a million singles sold.
First appearance on the list
B.o.B had a handful of minor looks over the years, yet never one that catapulted him to stardom. There was his 2007 trance-rap single “Haterz Everywhere” and, a year later, the song “I’ll Be in the Sky.” There were countless mixtapes and a co-sign from T.I., who signed B.o.B to his label, Grand Hustle, in 2008. The next year, he was selected as one of XXL’s Freshmen 10, alongside fellow up-and-comers Kid Cudi and Wale. These small victories earned him a small-but-loyal fanbase.
But it wasn’t until this past February, when he dropped the LRG-sponsored mixtape May 25th, that things started to really take off. The tape featured the Bruno Mars-assisted single “Nothin’ on You,” which was instantly embraced by radio. The song hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and sold more than 2 million copies.
#7: Waka Flocka Flame
First appearance on the list
Critics have derided him, claiming he’s more flash and rowdiness (witness his shouted ad lib “Waka! Flocka! Waka! Flocka!”) than lyrical substance.
“He’s not the most lyrical dude,” MTV News senior writer Jayson Rodriguez admitted, defending Waka’s place on the list. “But these joints, they’re ubiquitous. You can’t go places without hearing ‘O Let’s Do It.’ You hear it everywhere.”
In the end, the Brain Trust kept Waka at #8, because he’s on the rise at the moment, his songs are continuing to get hotter, and the spotlight is definitely on him.
#7: Lil Wayne
Last year: #2
Lil Wayne had a helluva 2010, and just think: He wasn’t even around for most of it. The New Orleans MC has been on Rikers Island since March, serving time on a weapons charge that dates back to 2007. But before he went in, the Cash Money rapper adopted a work ethic reminiscent of Tupac Shakur.
A mainstay on the Hottest MCs list, his time away precipitated a fall of five slots from last year’s #2 ranking, but MTV News’ Hip-Hop Brain Trust still voted Lil Wayne the #7 Hottest MC of 2010.
Perhaps Wayne’s biggest accomplishment of the past year was finally seeing his protégés, Nicki Minaj and Drake, become bona fide stars.
#6: Nicki Minaj
First appearance on the list; first female artist on the list
Her influence — whether it’s through her music and the many lyrical characters she embodies, her fashion sense or speaking out about important issues like child abuse and discrimination — is now strong enough that the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust voted her the #6 Hottest MC in the Game. And, like the true pioneer she is, she’s the first woman to make the list.
Nicki’s appeal wasn’t just limited to hip-hop. Christina Aguilera called on her for “Woohoo,” Sean Kingston recruited her for the reggae-tinged “Letting Go,” Usher tapped her for “Lil Freak,” and labelmate Jay Sean did the same for his pop hit “2012.” And to further cement her status as the top feature artist of 2010, Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” is currently #2 on Billboard’s R&B Songs chart. On top of all that, her debut album, Pink Friday, doesn’t even drop until next month.
#5: Rick Ross
Last Year: #5
Not only did his fourth LP, Teflon Don, debut at #2 on the Billboard albums chart in July with 176,300 sold its first week, but Ross had the undeniable street anthem “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” which sold more than 100,000 copies despite being available on the free Albert Anastasia EP. What’s more, he was still fighting off criticism from being outed as a corrections officer and beefing with 50 Cent. But good music can’t be stopped, and Ross supplied plenty of it this year, so the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust voted him 2010’s #5 Hottest MC in the Game, the same ranking he received last year.
Last year: #3
Drake was a staple on radio all year, whether it was “Bedrock” with Young Money, “Money to Blow” with Baby and Lil Wayne, “Forever” with Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem, or any one of the songs from So Far Gone that stayed in rotation.
But Drake also made his presence felt perhaps in the most important arena of the modern music business: performing. Aside from staging the October’s Very Own festival in Toronto this past August (where Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Eminem and Jay-Z made appearances), but he also hit the road for his Light Dreams & Nightmares Tour. And what’s more, he was the guy Eminem and Jay-Z brought out at their Home and Home concert series this past September. Yeah, the big dogs really get down with Drake like that.
#3: Kanye West
Last year: #4
A lot of Kanye’s recent buzz has been built off his G.O.O.D. Friday series of song leaks.
“He’s basically putting out a mixtape on the radio,” MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee said during the Hottest MCs roundtable discussion. “These songs are throwaways for his album. He’s taking this beat from here, this feature on here, let me get this person on here, and putting them out to the public. And the public is consistently responding to these records.”
What’s more, Kanye has done everything with a very polished artistic sensibility. No other rapper could pull off having director Marco Brambilla create their very own moving art installation in place of the traditional music video. In fact, probably no other rapper would even think of it.
Last year: #1
The type of seniority Jay has in the game is evidenced best when he appears on others’ songs, and 2010 found him doing a lot of that. There was his scene-stealing verse on Rick Ross’ “Free Mason,” on which he addressed the conspiracy theorists that took him to task for his “On to the Next One” video. Then there were a handful of Kanye West records, like “Monster,” “So Appalled” and the “Power” remix. And there was the Drake cut “Light Up.” He was even called on to make a song for charity in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, linking with Rihanna and U2’s Bono and The Edge for “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour).”
And then there’s the things Jay does outside of hip-hop (he’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man). Despite not being able to woo LeBron James to New Jersey, he’s still a minority owner in the Nets. Along with Will Smith and his wife Jada, Jay produced the Tony-winning Broadway play “Fela.” Plus, he’s the head of Roc Nation, which manages acts as wide-ranging as Mark Ronson, the Ting Tings and recent signee Willow Smith. He also still has a pair of 40/40 sports clubs in New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey. All these ventures allowed Jay to top Forbes’ Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, with $63 million earned in 2010 alone.
Last year: did not place
“Something about Em this time around, you don’t feel like he’s following some type of formula,” MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa said. “He didn’t come out with that corny Slim Shady record. This time, he came like, ‘I came to play.’ And the records have this motivational anthemic type [of feel] we haven’t seen in him. He’s stepping into a new space.”
While there’s little doubt Em will take home a stack of trophies at the 2011 Grammys, he actually nabbed two this year for Best Rap Album (Relapse) and Best Performance by a Duo or Group (“Crack a Bottle” with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent). He also brought home VMAs for the Best Male Video and Best Hip-Hop Video for “Not Afraid,” while winning three Teen Choice Awards (Choice Rap Album for Relapse, Choice Rap Artist and Choice Rap/Hip-Hop Track for “Love the Way You Lie”).
He also had a handful of performances on the BET Awards, the VMAs and the Grammy Awards. And who could forget his cameo on the season finale of HBO’s “Entourage”? Em was everywhere in 2010.