The debate was passionate, with roundtable members arguing for Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake for the top spot. In the end, Em's comeback, album sales and defining moments — from his Home and Home concerts with Jay-Z to scoring back-to-back #1 singles — led to Eminem being crowned the hottest of the hot this year, joining Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Jay as the only MCs to hold the title.
Of course, that doesn't mean everyone else agreed.
Lil Wayne's ranking was disputed by DJ Skee, who argued the Young Money leader should top the list. Weezy landed at #7, after a year of leaning to rock more than rap and serving a prison sentence. Still, after his recent effort I Am Not A Human Being debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart (Editor's Note: Hottest MCs was taped prior to the album's release), Skee found it hard not to push Wayne up.
"What Wayne did when he went away, he has so much recorded and he stocked up on his videos, he dropped an album while he was in prison," Skee told MTV News. "It seemed like almost every week we got an update on what he was doing in prison, whether he was getting in trouble with a female guard or writing his blog that was dope. He responded to actual fan letters and gave his thoughts. He stayed relevant and killed it. He's still the biggest hip-hop artist out there — him and Jay. Look at his sales numbers and what he's been able to do while he's away. He's at the top of the list."
To some, Jay-Z being in the conversation was confusing. He easily topped the list last year after The Blueprint 3 pushed him past Elvis for the second-most career #1 albums of all time. But on the tail end of that album's run, the Brooklyn icon nearly repeated as the Hottest MC.
As Complex Senior Editor Toshitaka Kondo pointed out, Jay's accomplishments over the past 12 months aren't easy to register.
"I think with Jay-Z, it's really interesting, because with him, it's where he's taking the culture as well," Kondo explained. "A lot of his criteria, it's not as tangible as 'he has an album and he has smashes this year.' But when he's on a track, it creates excitement. But it's also what he's doing in terms of, like, he's the one person who can take rap to where he can go to Omaha, for example, with Warren Buffett and have Forbes predicting that he'll be a billionaire by 2015 and just doing stuff that normal rappers don't do. So even though he's at the end of the album cycle with The Blueprint 3 coming out last year, in terms of what he's doing for the culture, he's doing stuff that's on the level of having a #1 song or a #1 album, if not bigger."
A few talented MCs didn't make the cut this year, including Bun B, Lloyd Banks, and upstart Wiz Khalifa. Wiz was our Hottest Breakthrough MC winner earlier this year, and even without an album release, ubiquitous collaboration presence (like Nicki Minaj this year) or a game-changing mixtape (like Drake last year), the Pittsburgh rapper almost broke though to the top 10.
Producers Chase N. Cashe and Hit-Boy of the Surf Club (Lil Wayne and Eminem's "Drop the World") thought the "Black and Yellow" rapper could have even made the top five.
"For him to do what he did [last year] without making a hit and still be more relevant than a lot of artists, more relevant than most of the game," Chase. N. Chase told MTV News of Khalifa. "As far as him starting from the Internet, his own brand poppin', starting on a major, flopping, and coming back independently on his own to get the Taylor Gang poppin', and to team up with Curren$y and give him relevance. The Kush & Orange Juice mixtape blossoming and taking over Twitter."
Hip-hop blogger Karen Civil was satisfied with the list but also thought the ranking could have been adjusted, particularly when it came to Nicki Minaj, the first female MC to make the cut, landing at #6. The Lil Wayne protégé's impact over the past 12 months isn't limited to just music, according to Civil.
"As far as Nick is concerned, when she dropped a mixtape, now the gays love her, the little girls love her; she's teaching girls bout self-esteem, just loving yourself and embracing it," Civil said. "You don't have to be a size 2, you don't have to be a size 16, you can just be fabulous, however. If you wanna have green hair, pink hair. The men love her, lyrically she's good at what she does, so to me, she has to be in that top five."
The 2010 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is now complete! As in 2008 and 2009, the criteria was based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence. Upload your reaction to our list, 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!