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: J. Cole
Rising in the Ranks: Jermaine Cole was focused, then lost it, and now his vision is as lucid as ever. The 25-year-old rapper was no ordinary jock in high school, back in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Just like fans applaud him when he performs concerts, J. was highly acclaimed by his high school teachers for his academia. Pretty soon, the students began to love him as well. He cut his teeth in freestyle ciphers at football games. Rather than accepting a scholarship locally, he wanted to kill two birds with one stone: go to the media mecca of New York City to pursue music while gaining higher education at the esteemed St. John's University.
But the allure of the bright lights and all the other trappings of the big city put J. in a chokehold. His first two years in school, he partied and chased girls, but he finally snapped out of his haze his junior year, graduating magna cum laude. Cole gained the following he has now by showing off his ever-evolving lyricism with the mixtapes The Come Up and The Warm Up.
In between those projects, Cole signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation. Like Kanye West, Cole was first introduced to Jay as a producer, but Hov quickly discovered J.'s blue-chip verbal acumen. Cole got the ultimate co-sign, appearing on Jigga's "A Star Is Born" from Blueprint 3 last year.
Now with "Who Dat" rising as the first look from his still-untitled debut LP, the fans are looking at Cole as one to crack the mainstream hard any minute.
Early Insight: "Anything I do, whether it's a freestyle I drop or [a song], man, I feel like I got a lot to prove — not just to people, but to myself," Cole said. "I've been wanting this a long time. I didn't want to just get a deal. I didn't want to just put out an album. I want to be here for a long time. I've got big goals and big dreams, even beyond where I'm at right now."
Blistering Ballistics: "The mind state of a winner/ When you thinkin' bout summertime/ I'm thinkin' 'bout the winter/ When you thinkin' 'bout breakfast/ I'm heatin' up my dinner/ I was plottin' this moment back when y'all was ridin' spinners/ Now I'm a menace/ God as my witness, with this pen I'm insane, yup/ Hungry like the n---a who ain't got the taste of fame yet/ Cloud told me, 'Ain't you Roc? Well, where the f--- yo chain at?' " — from Cole's "Who Dat"
Forecast: Cole hasn't hit the home run smash out of the park yet, but he's laying the all-too-essential groundwork to establish himself as not just at the top of his weight class as far as lyricism goes, but his live shows have displayed his potential to be one of the great performers in the coming years. Win, lose or draw with his album, Cole is banking on himself. He says there will be no features on his debut, because he has too much to say.
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!