Drake says his only cares are money and his native Toronto, but judging from the way he showed out in 2011, you have to figure rap dominance was pretty high on his list too. Drizzy definitely got his money and went to great lengths to put the city where he's from on the map. Those efforts helped Drake clinch the #2 slot on MTV News' Hottest MCs in the Game VII list.
"A lot of times artists are faced with a sophomore slump. I think Drake surpassed it and probably had one of the best hip-hop albums of the year," said Steven Roberts, MTV News producer/writer, about the chart-topping Take Care.
Although Drake didn't drop the November 2011 project until the fourth quarter, he maintained a serious presence all year: whether through personally leaked tracks like "Dreams Money Can Buy" and "Trust Issues" or high-powered collaborations like Future's "Tony Montana," Lil Wayne's "She Will" and DJ Khaled's inescapable summer smash "I'm On One," which spent 13 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Rap Songs charts.
"Try to imagine what radio would sound like this past year if you removed Drake from the equation," said Rebecca Thomas, MTV News editor/writer, issuing a challenge.
Rahman Dukes, MTV News' director of hip-hop news, answered the call: "You wouldn't even know that he didn't have an album out [early last year] because he was all over the radio."
Drake's dominance is well-documented, from SoundScan success to extraordinarily extensive radio play. As an artist, the Young Money standout blends R&B melody and alternative sensibilities with an MC's bravado. While still spitting bars with some of the game's most highly regarded lyricists, his emotive writing style made it acceptable for rappers to dish out their feelings (though Common might disagree).
Still, while the Toronto rapper meets all of the criteria to be considered hot, some members of the Hip-Hop Brain Trust wondered whether his penchant for singing was a strike against him in competition with purebred MCs? After all, Take Care was equal parts rap and R&B.
"In this debate, he loses points for that," said Rob Markman, MTV News' senior hip-hop writer, of Drake's crooning.
It's doubtful Drake will change, though, nor do fans want him to — his musical duality has been a major selling point. It not only led to his deal with Lil Wayne's Young Money, it helped launch him to international stardom. Now the whole world knows his name.
Shelia Grullon, music programming coordinator at MTV, put it simply: "I think before he was kinda off of Wayne's heels and now he just held his own."
What do you think of our list? Sound off on MTV News' "Hottest MCs in the Game VII" using the hashtag #HottestMC!