Drake Soars Into The Hottest MCs In The Game At #3

So Far Gone brings young MC unprecedented support from hip-hop community.

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: Drake
2009 Rank: #3

Previous rankings: 2007 (not ranked); 2008 (not ranked)

Why He’s Hot:
Drake proclaims himself to be “the one, twice over/ The new 11.” He’s definitely one of kind. We haven’t seen a single mixtape as universally triumphant as his So Far Gone.

We’ve seen guys turn the street-music hustle into instant ‘hood-icon status and get record deals before, like Young Jeezy (who actually got two deals, one with the group Boyz N Da Hood as well as a solo deal), the Diplomats and of course 50 Cent and G-Unit.

This kid Drake, however, is a different type of beast. Technology allowed his tape to spread wider and faster than CDs, and So Far Gone‘s word-of-mouth buzz made it a must-have download. He toured the country on the strength of the mixtape while songs from SFG flew from underground to radio rotation. His collaboration with Trey Songz, “Successful,” hit the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, while “Best I Ever Had” has the heaviest rotation on urban radio this year, according to Mediabase.

Then, after circulating for seven months for free, So Far Gone was revamped and re-released through a major label — and sold nearly 70,000 units in its first week of release last month.

Drake had dropped mixtapes before So Far Gone — he even stood beside Lil Wayne in the booth for a few tracks on Weezy’s Dedication 3 mixtape. But it wasn’t until So Far Gone that people really took notice. Drake wasn’t a big blip on the map before — heck, he didn’t even make the cut on XXL magazine’s coveted Freshman 10 list last year. To be fair, we didn’t hear how vastly the 22-year-old’s skills had improved until So Far Gone.

His swag was up. The boy-next-door image was gone. Drake was cocky — not obnoxiously so, but I-belong-rapping-alongside-the-best cocky. The So Far Gone stories were new, invigorating, brash and spoken with biting honesty. He rhymed with clarity, focus and a certain drollness, but with solid punchlines to go along with that wit. Then Drake added a whole new dimension to his skills by singing. The guy will never be mistaken for Stevie Wonder, but he has an obvious feel and talent for melody. Right from the start of So Far Gone, “Houstatlantavegas” is enthralling with its harmonious story telling.

The mixtape came out in February and hasn’t stopped spreading since. His talent was so apparent and appealing that Drake had major labels offering millions (during a recession) for his services, but Drizzy did what he felt by staying with his home team of Lil Wayne’s Young Money label. Wayne and Drake are like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen right now, double-teaming songs such as “Every Girl,” “Bedrock,” “Money to Blow” and “My Darlin’ Baby.”

As a soloist, Drake’s verses are becoming must-haves for artists from the underground such as Nipsey Hussle to the highest of hip-hop’s elite, such as Jay-Z and Diddy (Drake already recorded vocals for Puff’s 2010 release, Last Train to Paris), not to mention Kanye West, Wayne and Eminem joining him on his own track, “Forever.” Everyone in between — including Songz, Jamie Foxx, Mary J. Blige and Fabolous — has also made the call for guest rhymes from the Toronto native.

Over the summer, Drake suffered a few missteps. There was backlash from some fans because his Kanye West-directed “Best I Ever Had” video , had nothing to do with the song’s theme. Then his performance with Weezy at the BET Awards was a miss — apart from the profanity in “Every Girl,” Drake was injured and could barely move on the stage. Speaking of which, his biggest misstep was a literal one: He tore his ACL and could not complete his hotly anticipated stint on the “Young Money Presents: The America’s Most Wanted Music Festival.” Still, Drake’s steam isn’t dying down anytime soon, the songs keep coming and get received with open arms.

Co-Signer: Lil Wayne
“That kid is honestly almost to the respect [level] of talking about one of the greatest,” Lil Wayne said. “Like how we talk about Big, he’s almost that and he ain’t dropped. He don’t have an album. Then he’s singing — that takes away from the respect of an artist. So for him to do it and maintain that respect and maintain that popularity, I think that’s enough said. But I heard him a long time ago. When I heard him, I said, ‘He needs to be in my clique to make me stronger. Let’s go!’ ”

Ignitable Incitement:
“I feel like I just spent a lot of years so in tune with music that I really love,” Drake told MTV News. “Whether it be R&B, whether it be jazz, whether it be rap, whatever. I think So Far Gone was me finding myself as a person and then finding a way to balance all these things that I love and figuring out truly what it is that I’m good at. I think once you find a rhythm or a formula as an artist, it starts to connect with people. You know, people are like, ‘OK, he’s doing his thing.’ That’s important to do your thing. You can’t be doing what so-and-so is doing or doing something that doesn’t fit you. … The best part about finding that rhythm was just being honest. Honesty, you know, rapping about my life and things that occur on a daily basis. So when I draw inspiration, I really can draw from my life, not go make something up or hear someone else’s story. I can just live and then write. And so that really makes my musical process very easy and gratifying. It’s been dope.”

Blistering Ballistics:
“Private flights back home/ No stop over, still spitting that sh– that they shot Pac over/ The sh– my mother look shocked over/ Yeah, but with a canvas I’m a group of seven/ A migraine, take two Excedrin/ I’m the one, twice over, I’m the new 11/ And if I die I’mma do it repping … Coolest kid out baby, word to Chuck Inglish/ Count my own money, see the paper cut fingers/ My song is your girlfriend’s waking-up ringer/ Heh, or alarm, or whatever/ She be here at six in the morn if I let her … Make pasta, rent a movie, called hoes over/ Rest in peace to Heath Ledger, but I’m no joker.” (from “Ignant Sh–” freestyle)

Hot Streak

Albums:
So Far Gone EP

Selected Mixtape:
So Far Gone

Singles :
“Best I Ever Had,” “Forever” (featuring Kanye West, Eminem and Lil Wayne), “Successful” (with Trey Songz), “Every Girl” (with Young Money crew)

Street Bangers:
“Unstoppable” (featuring Santigold and Lil Wayne), “Uptown” (with Bun B and Lil Wayne), “Say What’s Real,” “Girl You Know” (with Young Money)

Key Guest Appearances:
Fabolous’ “Throw It in the Bag” remix, Mary J. Blige’s “The One,” Jamie Foxx’s “Digital Girl” remix (with Kanye West), Young Jeezy’s “I’m Goin’ In” (also featuring Kanye West), Jay-Z’s “Off That”

Meteoric Metrics (as of October 2):
MySpace Friends: 451,226
Twitter followers: 309,587

Business Ventures:
N/A

Tours:
So Far Gone tour, partial stint on the “Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Tour”

Monumental Moment:
Release of So Far Gone

Forecast:
Drake has consistently proven himself. He could very well be in the #1 spot on the Billboard albums chart next year with his official debut, Thank Me Later, featuring production from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Meanwhile, look out for more high-profile cameos …

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!