Kanye West has proven time and time again that as a soloist, he can single-handedly shift rap's sonic focus, but over the past year Yeezy made sure that there wasn't anybody messin' with his clique. So even during a period when he put out G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer compilation, 'Ye was enough of a force to land him at #7 on the "Hottest MCs in the Game VIII," MTV's hip-hop power ranking.
In 2012, Yeezy hit the stage to embark on the European leg of his Watch the Throne Tour with partner Jay-Z. He also showed off his in-studio expertise with tracks like G.O.O.D's double-platinum, #1 rap hit "Mercy," the venomous "Cold" and the top-five hit "Clique," proving he could deliver on our criteria for sales.
But West was also unstoppable when it came to impact. He extended his hand to upstart Chicago rookie rapper Chief Keef when he remixed his breakout single "I Don't Like." He did the same for 2 Chainz, appearing on the Atlanta rapper's "Birthday Song" and somehow managed to find time to jump on a remix of Rihanna's "Diamonds," "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" references included.
Not everyone on our roundtable agreed about 'Ye's ranking, though. After each member of MTV's Hip-Hop Brain Trust submitted their own individual lists and the votes were tallied, West had originally landed at #6. But after they sat down for a loud and boisterous debate, Yeezy was bumped down to #7 in favor of his protégé Big Sean.
Album: Cruel Summer, with G.O.O.D. Music
Selected Mixtapes: N/A
Singles: "Mercy" (featuring G.O.O.D. Music), "Clique" (featuring Jay-Z and Big Sean)
Street Bangers: "Cold" (featuring DJ Khaled), "New God Flow" (featuring Pusha T and Ghostface Killa)
Key Guest Appearances: 2 Chainz's "Birthday Song," Rihanna's "Diamonds" remix, Fat Joe's "Pride N Joy"
Meteoric Metrics: Kanye took his G.O.O.D. Music clique to the next level by releasing the label's first-ever compilation as well as an accompanying film at the Cannes Film Festival. He also won three Grammys for his joint album, Watch the Throne.
Business Ventures: West created album covers for 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne through his design company DONDA. He also further cemented his fashion line and released the super-exclusive Air Yeezy 2s with Nike.
Tours: Yeezy trekked through Europe with Jay-Z and is currently on the road in Europe, making headlines as usual for some epic, freestyle rants.
Monumental Moment: Not only a rapper, West's also a pop-culture juggernaut. And he made the papers when he announced that he and girlfriend Kim K. are expecting their first child.
Forecast: 'Ye was a rap force to be reckoned with in a year that didn't even see him drop a solo LP. With his sixth album expected to drop later this year, anticipation is already mounting.
Much of the argument centered around which of the G.O.O.D. Music spitters shined brightest on the label's all-star album. "Cruel Summer was a G.O.O.D. Music compilation, but guess what? Kanye was on eight out of 12 songs. Kanye owned that album," barked MTV News Senior Hip-Hop Writer Rob Markman.
Others, like RapFix Blog Editor Nadeska Alexis, disagreed. "Cruel Summer was good, but [Kanye] was not the star of that album," she volleyed back. "He's been making great headlines for RapFix, great numbers, but none of them had to do with the music necessarily, besides those big singles. [And] I don't think he was the star of those singles."
Still, while the Kanye versus Big Sean argument was definitely debatable, Yeezy's buzz and impact were not. In addition to three Grammy wins, Kanye's place in pop culture was undeniable, as when he made headlines by announcing in concert that he and girlfriend Kim Karadashian are expecting their first child. With that and rumors that he's back in the studio, West's 2013 is already shaping up to be pretty remarkable.
"As much as Sean was definitely one of the stars of the Cruel Summer album ... I still feel like you've gotta give Kanye credit for being the person who put that together, who has the vision," closed MTV News Managing Editor Rebecca Thomas.