It is here: As promised, the top-five vote-getters in our poll for "Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010" will be revealed this week. These are the artists you guys voted for over the past month, and we can't express enough how overwhelmed we were by your participation in this project. More than 200,000 votes came in, and they were tallied as of midnight Friday. Keep in mind, the unveiling of the names this week are the top five, but in no particular order. The winner of the "Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010," as voted on by the MTV News audience, will be revealed Sunday (July 25) at noon on the "Sucker Free Summit."
Chosen One: Nicki Minaj
Rising in the Ranks: Nicki Minaj went from working at Red Lobster to being the red-hot current face of female hip-hop in less time than it takes to complete college. She's as much an iconic figure for her standout fashion and beauty as she is for tearing up the mic alongside your favorite MCs. Her rabid following has bought into Minaj's entire package. The hype is backed by true talent, and she's unique and feisty. And while every photo you see in the press personifies her glamorous life as a Young Money superstar, Minaj is no different from every other MC who has ascended the heights of their genre. The native of New York's Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood started at the bottom and had to grind her way to the top.
First discovered by Lil Wayne on the street-DVD series On the Come Up, Nicki couldn't get any love from DJs in her hometown, so she moved to Atlanta. It was there she recorded some verses for Weezy's Gangsta Grillz: Dedication 3 mixtape — singing and rapping on songs such as "Still I Rise" with the rest of Wayne's then-mostly unknown crop of new talent, including Drake. Nicki also aligned herself with Gucci Mane, adding heavily to her street credibility and profile.
While her sexy image was our first impression of Nicki (who can forget that bathing-suit photo in which she paid homage to Lil' Kim?), Minaj really found her own lane during the spring of last year with the Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, which she put together with Atlanta's DJ Holiday. Nick showed us she has boundless personality on the mic, bringing forth her Barbie persona and all the charismatic outfits, rhyme flows and vocal inflections that go along with it. Records from the tape — "Kill the DJ," "I Get Crazy" with Lil Wayne and "Itty Bitty Piggy" — bubbled on the streets for months, allowing Nicki to hit the club circuit with her own shows.
In the summer of last year, Nick was spotlighted on the Young Money Presents: The America's Most Wanted Music Festival, and by the fall, seemingly all the guys in music wanted to get with her. Minaj's career went to the next level when she started turning in show-stealing cameos, which have carried well into this year. Diddy, Robin Thicke, Ludacris, Sean Garrett, Usher, Jadakiss, Trey Songz, Gucci Mane, Sean Kingston and, of course, her Young Money family all know that she's developed into one of the most versatile performers in hip-hop — and she still hasn't released her debut album, which is due late this year.
Early Insight: "With [my debut] album, I think it's more important that people get accustomed to seeing a female rapper again," Nicki said. "People don't even know what a female rapper does. We're so not used to seeing it. We don't get nominated. I need to work [the people] up to accepting a female rapper again and accepting my style and all of that — then the album will come."
Blistering Ballistics: " Now all these bitches wanna try and be my bestie/ But I take a left and leave 'em hangin' like a teste/ Trash talk to 'em, then I put 'em in a Hefty/ Runnin' down the court/ I'm dunkin' on 'em, Lisa Leslie/ It's goin' down, basement/ 'Friday the 13th,' guess who's playin' Jason?/ Tuck yourself in, you better hold on to ya teddy/ It's 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' and guess who's playin' Freddy?" — from Ludacris' "My Chick Bad"
Forecast: Nicki, who is also a member of the Diddy-led all-star Dream Team, didn't get an overwhelming response for her debut official single, "Massive Attack," but the misstep did nothing to hurt her popularity. Her follow-up, "Your Love," is already a #1 hit (with no video yet!). It was a leaked track that the fans loved so much, program directors on radio were forced to add it. Minaj is working on her yet-untitled first album with Young Money and Swizz Beatz. If she continues to attack her own tracks with the fervor she does on her guest appearances, the LP should be a hands-down winner.
MTV News will be rolling out the top-five candidates for "Hottest Breakthrough MCs of 2010" all week — with the winner being revealed on MTV2's "Sucker Free Summit" on Sunday at noon!