Some artists are so hot, they can make up for almost a full year out of the spotlight in just a few short months. Well, at least Kanye West can.
Even though he was featured on popular songs like "Forever," with Drake, Eminem and Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z's "Run This Town," 'Ye essentially went into hiding after his infamous run-in with Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, traveling to Europe to intern at Fendi and, later, Hawaii to begin recording his forthcoming LP, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, due November 22. While he resurfaced with the anthemic single "Power" in late May and its accompanying "Portrait of Power" art installation in early August, it was really the oddest of things — his joining of Twitter — that signified Kanye was ready to get back in the mix. To that end, perhaps his Twitter apology to Taylor Swift in early September was the moment when he officially shrugged off the cobwebs and said, "OK, let's do this."
Since then, it's been 'Ye Day every day, to the point where the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust has voted him the #3 Hottest MC in the Game, up one position from last year's list and down from his #1 bow in 2008.
A lot of Kanye's recent buzz has been built off his G.O.O.D. Friday series of song leaks.
"He's basically putting out a mixtape on the radio," MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee said during the Hottest MCs roundtable discussion. "These songs are throwaways for his album. He's taking this beat from here, this feature on here, let me get this person on here, and putting them out to the public. And the public is consistently responding to these records."
It's one thing to put out new music and another altogether to put it out with such consistent star power and quality. He was the first person to get RZA and Jay-Z on a song together ("So Appalled"), he got singer Ryan Leslie to spit some verses ("Christian Dior Denim Flow"), and he even mashed up Justin Bieber with Wu-Tang's Raekwon the Chef ("Runaway Love" remix). Then there's the song "Runaway," with Pusha T, which he debuted at the VMAs. And even after dissing "Saturday Night Live" on "Power," he was so heavy in the game that they had to invite him on the show to perform anyway.
"I think it's the rebranding of Kanye West," MTV News associate producer Steven Roberts said. "The fact that he's come back out, these big grandiose performances, closing out the VMAs, him on 'Saturday Night Live,' the songs every Friday. It's not just the hip-hop community that's looking out to him; it's the entire music community looking out to Kanye West."
What's more, Kanye has done everything with a very polished artistic sensibility. No other rapper could pull off having director Marco Brambilla create their very own moving art installation in place of the traditional music video. In fact, probably no other rapper would even think of it.
"One of the things we've consistently said about him on this list with regard to his impact is his ability to push the culture forward in different ways," Lee said. "That 'Power' video, there's not a lot of artists that can do that, a 90-second moving painting where he doesn't even perform."
Additionally, Kanye's been trotting the globe premiering "Runaway," a 35-minute short film, starring himself and model Selita Ebanks, that serves as a companion piece to his new LP. It's received strong reviews and added to what is perhaps 'Ye's biggest buzz ever heading into the release of an LP.
West was rewarded for his work with Jay-Z at the 2010 Grammys, taking home awards for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for "Run This Town," and now he's prepping a proper EP with his big brother called Watch the Throne, tentatively due in stores right before Thanksgiving.
Kanye is so hot right now, XXL handed him the entire magazine for the month of October, even letting him write his own cover story. How's that for power?
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! For the complete 2010 Hottest MCs list go here.