In summer 2007, the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust sat down and had another controversial roundtable debate. Unlike previous discussions, the trustees devised a list of not the greatest ever, but the Hottest MCs in the Game right then. The rankings were based on lyrics, flow, impact on the game, success and swagger. The roundtable recently reconvened and came up with a brand-new list of Hottest MCs. Our experts used the same criteria, but only judged on the past year of hip-hop.
Flame Thrower: Kanye West
Why He’s Hot
With all due respect to the Diddys and Busta Rhymeses of the world, Kanye West has surpassed everyone as the best live performer in hip-hop. Grooming himself on stadium tours with Jay-Z, U2 and the Rolling Stones over the years has done him good. Even if West didn’t release another rap this year, he’d still be the hottest for his Glow in the Dark Tour alone. Without exaggeration, it’s the greatest one-man show put on by a hip-hop artist, possibly ever. Pure expression, no irony, just an irrefutable avowal that he is the game’s most imaginative visionary right now. ’Ye’s sold-out set is an orgy of lights, classic songs and conceptual genius. You’ve never seen anything like it.
And by the way, he can rap and produce as well. From the stage to the studio, no one puts the entire presentation together like Mr. West. Tremendous! Graduation beat Curtis and every other hip-hop album on the Billboard charts. First-week sales of close to a million and double-platinum certification notwithstanding, it stood out from everything else artistically too. On the last list, we spoke of the dominance of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Stronger.” Those two records put Kanye in 2007’s top five. This year’s ranking was spurred on by “Flashing Lights,” a first-listen dance-floor classic in which Kanye narrates his troubled relationship and his hate affair with the paparazzi.
Late last year, while ’Ye was enjoying the commencement of a next level of fame and success, he lost his best friend. He lost one of his life’s greatest inspirations, his mother, Donda West . Kanye showed the world his inner strength. He took several weeks to grieve, only to come back with a critically acclaimed international tour and the video for “Flashing Lights.”
Of late, he’s been unveiling a whole new set of rhymes, with guest appearances alongside vocalists like Estelle and hip-hop’s elite, such as Lupe Fiasco, Pusha T, Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy.
“I got the money and the fame, man, that don’t mean sh–,” he raps on the Snowman’s “Put On.” “I got the Jesus on the chain, man, that don’t mean sh–/ ’Cause when the Jeeesus pieces can’t bring me peace, yo/ Sure, I need just at least one of Russell’s nieces.”
Kanye has been telling us he’s #1 for years, and now that he has been given the accolade of Hottest MC in the Game, intelligent bets are that he’ll continue creating so he won’t have to relinquish the title.
“I’mma rap like I got some type of respect for myself/ I don’t do it for my health, man/ I do it for the belt, man,” he says in Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” remix.
Co-Signer: Snoop Dogg
“I think what makes you hot is your ability to hold a crowd, demand respect, be respected amongst your peers whenever you’re in an environment where it is predominantly MCs. … Kanye West belongs on the list, because his record was phenomenal. I love the way he came on his record. It’s was dope. It was clever. It was genius. He kind of moved ahead of his boss if you ask me.”
“You don’t see just how fly my style is/ I don’t see why I need a stylist/ When I shop so much, I can speak Italian/ I don’t know, I just want it better for my kids/ And I ain’t sayin’ we was from the projects/ But every time I wanted layaway or a deposit/ My dad would say, when you see clothes close your eyelids/ We was sorta like Will Smith and his son/ In the movie, I ain’t talkin ’bout the rich ones/ ’Cause every summer, he’d get some brand-new hair-brained scheme to get rich from/ And I don’t know what he did for dough/ But he’d send me back to school with a new wardrobe.” — From “Champion”
“Flashing Lights,” “Homecoming”
“Barry Bonds” (featuring Lil Wayne), “Flashing Lights” unofficial remix (featuring R. Kelly)
Key Guest Appearances
Madonna’s “Beat Goes On” remix (featuring Pharrell Williams), DJ Felli Fel’s “Finer Things” (featuring Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo and Fabolous), Estelle’s “American Boy,” Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails,” Young Jeezy’s “Put On,” Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” remix, N.E.R.D.’s “Everybody Nose” remix (featuring Pusha T and Lupe Fiasco)
G.O.O.D. Music label, KanyeUniverseCity.com (which includes his frequently updated blog and an online travel agency), his Pastel clothing line
The Glow in the Dark Tour with openers N.E.R.D., Rihanna and Lupe Fiasco
Now that you’ve checked out our “Hottest MCs in the Game” show, we want to know what MCs you’re feeling! Keep the debate rolling by submitting your own top-10 list below or heading to YouRHere.MTV.com to upload your video reaction. And the hotness continues: You can check in on last year’s top 10 and see this year’s complete list on our “Hottest MCs” page.