The 2010 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is now under way! As in 2008 and 2009 the criteria is based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence.
All this week, we’ll be rolling out the rankings and reactions from artists, DJs, the MCs themselves — and you! Upload your comments, reactions, arguments and/or your own list to Your.MTV.com or send tweets to with the hashtag #hottestmcs — the best responses could be on TV or our hip-hop blog, RapFix! And tune in to MTV2 this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. to watch the final reveal.
Flame Thrower: Ludacris
2010 Rank: #10
Collection: Battle of the Sexes
Previous Rankings: N/A
Ludacris has been in the game for more than a decade and, in that time, has amassed enough career highlights to fill more than a few Web pages. But 2010 actually marks the Atlanta rapper’s first time making MTV News’ Hottest MCs list.
Perhaps inspired in part by being routinely left off the list, in 2008, Luda crafted what was then his most conceptually high-minded LP, Theater of the Mind. He even defiantly rapped about being overlooked to Mixtape Daily: “I’m top five, dead or alive/ And MTV, y’all must be out yo’ muthaf—in’ mind.” Still, it wasn’t enough to get him on the 2009 list.
In March, Ludacris released his seventh album, Battle of the Sexes, and without seeming to try much at all, he made the case for why he should be a candidate for the 2010 Hottest MC in the Game.
Sexes tackles male/female dynamics and brings onboard some high-profile femcees, including Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim. The certified-gold record debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart and spawned three bona fide hits — “How Low,” “My Chick Bad” and “Sex Room” — that each broke the top 5 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart.
Where Luda really shined this year, though, was in his collaborations. He was featured on Justin Bieber’s smash “Baby,” which gave the teenybopper some street cred while also giving Luda a huge look at Top 40 radio. The video for “Baby” is the most viewed in the history of YouTube . If that wasn’t enough, ’Cris jumped on the U.S. version of Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart,” and turned what was already a smash in the U.K. into one of the biggest songs of the summer in the States. But Luda kept it hip-hop, too, jumping on DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” which had everybody’s hands going up, to the tune of more than a million singles sold.
Surprisingly, all of that success couldn’t get Ludacris into the top 10 without some contention. During the 2010 roundtable discussion, moderated by MTV News’ Sway, members of the Brain Trust pointed out that G-Unit MC Lloyd Banks also had a banner year and was a contender for the 10th spot. Banks saw renewed buzz stemming in large part from the success of his single “Beamer, Benz or Bentley,” an urban radio staple.
MTV News Senior Producer Rahman Dukes argued, “Banks has had one of the most successful years without putting an album out. He really set the pace where, at one point during this year, he was the hottest artist out of New York City, hands down.”
“Nothing against Banks, but on a proportional scale, Luda’s doing that to an even bigger scale,” countered Steven Roberts, an associate producer at MTV News. “[Banks] may have had the #1 record out of New York — Luda had the #1 album in the country.”
Yomi Desalu, the director of music programming at mtvU, said that having a successful album doesn’t necessarily mean an MC deserves a nod. Desalu echoed Dukes’ sentiment, citing Banks’ heavy presence on the mixtape circuit as a key factor for his consideration.
“It’s not just about the album because anyone can go out there and get special features or high-quality producers to produce an album,” he said. “When you’re talking about what the fans are feeling in the streets — five mixtapes, that’s hungry — that’s the hunger for more,” Desalu said, slyly dropping the title of Banks’ debut follow-up.
But Roberts was firmly in Luda’s corner. “T.I., Gucci, Young Jeezy, they had all ran this Atlanta scene. It was hard for Luda to come back out just to put his name back out there.”
Sean Lee, MTV News’ supervising producer, concurred. “For him to have three big records off that album, that’s an accomplishment as well,” he said of ’Cris.
Also to be considered are the numerous business ventures Ludacris has launched beyond music, including Conjure, a cognac; Soul by Ludacris headphones; and a restaurant in ATL called Straits Atlanta. Oh yeah, there’s Hollywood, too, where he continues to make strides.
“I think people see him not being on the music scene as much, but he’s still active in a certain capacity,” said MTV News senior writer Jayson Rodriguez. “I think that still speaks to the artist he is and the caliber of talent that he is too.”
The 2010 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is now complete! As in 2008 and 2009, the criteria is based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence. Upload your comments, reactions, arguments and/or your own list to Your.MTV.com or send tweets with the hashtag #hottestmcs — the best responses could be on TV or our hip-hop blog, RapFix!