Kanye West Is The #4 Hottest MC In The Game!

'Ye's 808s & Heartbreak surprised some fans, but its raw emotion is as hip-hop as any mixtape.

The 2009 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is now complete! As in 2007
and 2008, the list, determined by the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust, is based on an MC’s achievements right now, rather than an entire career. The criteria is based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow and how those things are implemented musically as the main factors. The Brain Trust also considered buzz, impact, commercial success — sales, airplay, business ventures, Web presence, endorsements and helping to spawn other artists’ careers — and the intangible, impact: Can an artist not only contribute to the rap game but influence cultural shifts? Are they trendsetters? All of these factors — and the results of our audience poll, which closed last week and got a vote at the Round Table during the Brain Trust’s debate — contributed to deciding who is the Hottest MC in the Game. All this week, we’ll be rolling out reactions from artists, DJs, the MCs themselves — and you! Upload your comments, reactions, arguments and/or your own list to YourMTV.com — the best videos could be on TV!

Flame Thrower: Kanye West

2009 Rank: #4

Previous rankings: 2007 (#4); 2008 (#1)

Why He’s Hot:

Kanye West is a force larger than hip-hop. He’s turned himself into a global megastar, producing and collaborating with the biggest names in the game, influencing art and fashion, discovering and growing new talent, and consistently pushing musical boundaries with his own albums such as 808s & Heartbreak.

Of course, ‘Ye’s occasionally brash behavior — particularly his interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at last month’s Video Music Awards — sometimes distracts from the genius in his music, but he’s always been able to endure because of just how much he elevates hip-hop and pop culture.

Just a few months after being named the #1 Hottest MC in the Game by the MTV News Brain Trust last year, Kanye West pulled a 180 on everyone when he debuted his single “Love Lockdown” at the 2008 VMAs. Kanye singing took a lot of people by surprise, but it was tough to front on the vivacious thump of the beat and the zeal in his performances.

With 808s, Yeezy triumphed through heartache and personal tragedy, pouring the emotion into his songs. His breakup with fiancée Alexis Phifer is reflected in “Love Lockdown, ” and the sudden death of his mother, Dr. Donda West, in “Coldest Winter.” The raw emotion was enthralling on the album’s live bonus track (nicknamed “Pinocchio’s Story”), where he poured his emotions out. 808s debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart and went platinum in five weeks. The collection might have been too Auto-Tune heavy for some, but there were still plenty of rhymes.

And more to the point, ‘Ye kept it realer than real on 808s & Heartbreak as he expressed his raw emotion throughout the set — and that’s as hip-hop as any mixtape.

That emotion influenced a changing tide in hip-hop that saw the rise of more acts who tended to look inward for their lyrics — as opposed to more showy, braggodocious rhymes — and breakthrough Hottest MC Drake cites the Chicago rapper as a main inspiration. ‘Ye groomed upstart Kid Cudi, signing him to his G.O.O.D. Music label, and shelled out beats for the project.

It’s more than beats, rhymes and life when it comes to Yeezy, though. His music inspired a performance-art piece, while his videos continue to set standards conceptually and visually, from the animated brilliance of “Heartless” to the eerie feel of “Paranoid.”

He expanded his portfolio to include fashion, with the release of two signature sneakers, one through Nike called Air Yeezys. The kicks had people lining up all over the globe, and almost immediately sold out initial shipments. They also became a must have for fans as well as celebrities such as Jay-Z, T.I., Bun B, Drake, Common and Lil Wayne. The others were a high-end luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

West also showed that now matter how high he gets as a performer, he’s still the illest in the studio when it comes to production. He produced six tracks on Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 and carried on the duo’s hot collaboration streak to praise from critics and fans alike, and he also produced tracks for Lil Wayne, T.I. and Cudi.

He’s also made many high-profile guest appearances over the past few months. You hear how he’s swinging for the fence lyrically alongside silver sluggers like Eminem, Lil Wayne and Drake. He stole the show alongside Jay-Z on “Run This Town,” and the dangerous duo the Clipse on “Kinda Like a Big Deal.” Ye’s string of guest appearances have been diverse though: He also laced records for golden-voiced singers such as Keri Hilson, Beyoncé and Jamie Foxx. West also managed to keep victories for his home team with well-received cameos on records by his G.O.O.D. Music family, including Kid Cudi, Common and Consequence — not to mention the event record of the last year, “Swagga Like Us,” the posse cut with T.I., Jay-Z and Weezy. He had the hottest verse on the song as well.

When you look at Kanye’s position on the Hottest MCs list, he has all the traits that you want for the criteria — but the most important thing is that he’s deadly in the booth.

Co-Signer: Drake
“Kanye West, much like myself — I feel like he really knows emotion. Emotion is something you feel. It’s very hard to depict or verbalize emotion. Artists, when a painting can make you feel something, it’s a phenomenal piece of art. When a song can make you feel something, that’s a phenomenal creation. Kanye’s verses really resonate with me.”

Ignitable Incitement:
“I was hooping the other day and was like, ‘Why do all rappers come at me? ‘Cause we were playing 21,’” Kanye said, comparing rap to ‘hood hoops. “And I was like, ‘Oh, rappers come at me ’cause I got 19.’ When you got 19 and you playing 21, everybody rushes for you and you gotta come with extra types of lay-ups and stuff. Basically, I’m playing the game with 19.”

Blistering Ballistics:
“Welcome to the wonderful world of gold-plated Earl/ ‘Cause everything I throw up, blow up/ Talking to the girl, she said, ‘Know what? Grow up, you nasty’/ I don’t understand why they trippin’, if you ask me/ Flow is just the nicest, I admit the propane I just spit [will] probably/ Just raise the gas prices/ Everybody in the club/ Try and get as fresh as me/ ‘What you on dog?/ Trying to stay recession free?’/ And spit refreshingly, when I rock the stadi-eem” (from “Ego” remix)

Hot Streak:

Album:
808s & Heartbreaks

Selected Mixtapes:
N/A

Singles:
“Love Lockdown,” “Heartless,” “Amazing” (featuring Young Jeezy), “Paranoid” (featuring Mr. Hudson), “Robocop”

Street Bangers:
N/A

Key Guest Appearances:
Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” (also featuring Rihanna), Young Jeezy’s “Put On,” Clipse’s “Kinda Like a Big Deal,” Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” (also featuring Ne-Yo), Rick Ross’ “Maybach Music 2″ (also featuring T-Pain and Lil Wayne), T.I.’s “Swagga Like Us” (also featuring Lil Wayne and Jay-Z), Jay-Z’s “Haters,” Beyoncé’s “Ego” remix, Kid Cudi’s “Make Her Say” (also featuring Common), Drake’s “Forever” (also featuring Eminem and Lil Wayne), John Legend’s “It’s Over,” Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” remix

Meteoric Metrics:
808s & Heartbreak‘s first-week albums sales: more than 450,000;
#1 debut on Billboard albums chart
Kanye West University Web site’s page views: Approximately 500,00 monthly, according to comScore

Cost of Louis Vuitton Dons: $695.00 (low end) Cost of Air Yeezys: $215.00

Business Ventures:
G.O.O.D. Music label (featuring Kid Cudi, Common, Consequence, and Really Doe), Nike sneakers line (“Air Yeezys”), Louis Vuitton sneaker line (“Louis Vuitton Dons”)

Tours: Festival dates last summer, including Chicago, France and Switzerland.

Monumental Moment:
808s & Heartbreak and a flawless string of guest appearances reinforced West’s status as one of the most tremendously lyrically gifted mic Gods today.

Forecast: Kanye West has been catching heat recently for comments some thought were rude, and we’ve seen that from him before (a few times). Granted, ‘Ye has probably felt the biggest backlash of his career in the wake of the VMAs, but he’s always been able to transform that adversity into art and win back fans. West is as resilient as he is talented, and we fully expect for his next LP to be the premier album of his life. Yeezy is a strong contender to be the first-ever repeat Hottest MC in 2010.

What do you think of Lil Wayne’s placement on the Hottest MCs in the Game list? Upload your comments, reactions, arguments and/or your own list to Your.MTV.com — the best videos could be on TV!