When Rick Ross experiences a personal moment of triumph, a hearty grunt typically marks the occasion. Built up from the bowels of his belly, Rozay's baritone call has become as ubiquitous as his titillating one-liners — not that a simple ad-lib is the only thing that earned Rick Ross the #1 spot on MTV News' Hottest MCs in the Game VII list, his first time up top.
Rozay was on pace to release his fifth studio album until he faced a pair of "minor setbacks," as he so poetically dubs the two seizures he suffered in October.
"God Forgives, I Don't was slated to come out in 2011, and he had the two seizures, and we thought it was going to make him fall back completely — but he came back and hit us with Rich Forever," MTV News senior hip-hop writer Rob Markman pointed out during the Hottest debate.
The truth is, Rozay's 2011 reign didn't hinge on an album release. The Bawse set things up properly in February of last year when he signed his Maybach Music Group record label over to Warner Music Group and scooped up newcomer Meek Mill (this year's #7 Hottest MC), Wale (#10) and later Stalley. Musically, Ricky Ro put his team in position to dominate with the label compilation Self Made, Vol. 1. Rather than taking all the shine, Ross passed the baton to Meek, who delivered "Ima Boss" and "Tupac Back." Wale contributed the rhythmic gem "That Way," and even ousted MMG spitter Pill logged serious miles on the LP.
"You wouldn't even know that he didn't have an album out [early last year], because he was all over the radio," said Rahman Dukes, director of hip-hop news at MTV News.
Whether on his own singles ("You the Boss," "I Love My Bitches") or on tracks that he was featured on, the M-I-Yayo MC turned in multiple unforgettable performances. "Ima Boss" was technically Meek's song, but the casual listener may have missed that fact. Lil Wayne's "John" was basically a remix of the 2010 Ross track "I'm Not a Star," and on the summer anthem "I'm on One," Rozay flexed his muscle alongside Drake and Weezy.
"Rick Ross makes raw records, he makes street records. When he gets on a verse, his beat selection is impeccable," MTV Jams' Tuma Basa said, before pointing to Ross' star-making ability with Meek and Wale. "He's making other people hot, and these are people, without Ross, may not have been on this list. They're on this list thanks to Ross."
It's deeper than rap with the Double-M-Genius. Beyond the studio, the Bawse proved his worth in the boardroom as well. "I don't think any artist did a better job of branding than Rick Ross," said MTV RapFix blog editor Nadeska Alexis. "He was just a marketing genius this year, and you gotta give it to the man."
Ross meets all the criteria to be considered the Hottest MC in the Game. His impact is irrefutable: Even without a solo album, he maintained a healthy and consistent buzz throughout the year, notching a #1 rap album with his Self Made compilation. Lyrically, Rozay has grown from his "Hustlin' " days and become one of the game's most celebrated spitters, and his swag is through the roof. Check his big-boned, shirtless confidence, immaculately groomed beard and top-of-the-line designer-sunglass collection.
If that weren't enough, the rotund Rozay cemented his #1 spot in January when he dropped his free 19-song Rich Forever mixtape. While there is no SoundScan or Billboard chart that can measure its impact, with Rich Forever, Ross proved in this era of overdone crossover singles that rap still rules.
"Rick Ross, I think, provides hope to that MC, to that kid growing up who just wants to rap and make street music and say, 'You know what? In this world where hip-hop has become pop, you can still just rap,' " Markman said.
Insert Rick Ross grunt here!
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