Here’s a little “Hottest MCs” trivia: Despite being one of rap’s most revered artists, Nas has never made a dent on a single “Hottest MCs” list. After 2012’s #1, gold-selling Life is Good, however, it was impossible to deny God’s Son, who came in at #4 on the “Hottest MCs in the Game VIII” debate.
Nas vividly captured the angst of New York City’s youth on his 1994 classic debut Illmatic, but on last year’s Life is Good, he tackled more mature topics like his high-profile divorce to R&B star Kelis and his recent tax trouble — and he did it with banging beats and carefully crafted rhymes.
“Quite often we pay attention to the youth, but what about the people that actually grew up on hip-hop that now feel so disconnected,” MTV News Senior Hip-Hop Writer Rob Markman said in defense of the Queens lyricist. “Nas says, ’You know what, I can still cater to you guys 30 and up, 40 and up and you don’t have to listen to the oldies station no more.’ ”
Album: Life is Good
Selected Mixtapes: N/A
Singles: “Daughters,” “Bye Baby”
Street Bangers: “Nasty,” “The Don”
Key Guest Appearances: Rick Ross’ “Triple Beam Dreams,” Nicki Minaj’s “Champion,” Amy Winehouse’s “Like Smoke”
Meteoric Metrics: Nas struck gold with Life is Good and earned himself a #1 album and four 2013 Grammy nominations.
Business Ventures: Nas continues to reap the benefits of his partnership with Guerilla Union’s annual Rock the Bells music festival and struck a deal with online retail company 12Society.com.
Tours: Nas hit the road with Lauryn Hill last year on their Life is Good/Black Rage run and stole the show when they performed at Hot 97’s 2012 Summer Jam concert.
Monumental Moment: The usually private Queens rapper opened up like never before during an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” which then led the way to the release of Life is Good, one of the year’s most critically acclaimed works.
Forecast: Before Life is Good, the slow and steady Nas hadn’t released a solo LP since 2008, but God’s Son has announced plans to drop his 11th solo LP in 2013 and once again put himself in Hottest contention next year.
Not only did Nas drop potent stick-to-your-rib singles like “Daughters,” “The Don” and “Bye Baby,” he went to great lengths to craft memorable story-driven videos to match. ” ’The Don’ was a great visual, ’Daughters’ was a great visual, ’Nasty’ was great and I think with this record coming off of Distant Relatives, nobody expected this,” pointed out MTV Programming VP Yomi Desalu while referencing the mixed reviews surrounding Nas’ Damien Marley collaboration album in 2010.
Though Esco hoisted a gold plaque and a couple of 2013 Grammy nods off Life Is Good’s strength, he failed to make a significant dent in any of the various Billboard charts. That point was hard for a few roundtable members to ignore. “Nas put out a phenomenal album, but in terms of him being hot, I don’t hear ’Daughters’ on the radio as much. In the last six months, I haven’t heard a Nas track,” contended Brain Trust veteran Steven Roberts. “I think this is ’Hottest MCs’ and not the comeback player of the year award… I don’t think he’s hotter than Drake this year.”
Aside from the album there was also he and Lauryn Hill’s Life is Good/Black Rage tour, as well as Nasir’s deep lyrical contributions to Tyga’s “King & Queens,” Nicki Minaj’s “Champion” and Rick Ross’ “Triple Beam Dreams.” He also captivated hip-hop audiences when the usually private Nas put his life under the microscope for VH1’s “Behind the Music” in April 2012.
Nas also put his charm and star-power to work by playing Nicki’s leading man in her “Right By My Side” video and while he may not be as active as his younger counterparts, God’s Son clearly impacted by taking a measured pace.
Critically acclaimed music, a steady yearly buzz, top-notch lyrics and a classic style all helped Nas to earn his first Hottest MCs appearance. “The fact that he’s still here and still rapping at the level that he is and still relevant at the level that he is, I feel like that alone puts him at #4,” puts him at #4,” Managing Editor Rebecca Thomas stated passionately.