Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar has had the biggest year of his career, making him a candidate for the Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2011. He may have received a co-sign from Dr. Dre, but Kendrick didn't use the Doc's glowing endorsement as a crutch. Instead, he hit the studio and in July released Section.80, a tightly woven independent album on which he examined his place in the world.
Songs like the J. Cole-produced "HiiiPower," the soulful "Kush & Corinthians" and the socially enlightening "Ronald Reagan Era" proved that not only is Kendrick one of the most exciting newcomers, he also has substance to rival most veterans. Not just message-heavy, Section.80 also displayed Lamar's ability to spit raw rhymes on "Rigamortus" and "The Spiteful Chant."
Kendrick — who made his name releasing free music online — for the first time set a price point with Section.80 and sold it on iTunes. It was another mark of his growth.
"It was something that I had to understand, that my company had to make me understand. I'm putting out this free music, constantly putting it out," Lamar told MTV News back in July of his old way of thinking. "My whole thing is bringing music back to where people actually buy it, but at the same time, you know what? I don't think I'm ready yet to start selling my project, because I feel the world don't know me yet."
This year, thanks to his hustle, drive and, of course, overall talent, Kendrick is in contention. Aside from his solo material, the nimble-tongued MC has been working with Dre on Detox and landed key appearances on Game's The R.E.D. Album, TechN9ne's All 6's and 7's and his own solo track "Buried Alive" on Drake's Take Care. In fact, Drizzy has taken such a liking to Kendrick that he has booked the budding MC to open for him during his Club Paradise Tour in 2012.
Hottest Breakthrough MCs was established in 2010 by MTV News as a fan-driven initiative that spotlights, celebrates and cultivates new talent. MTV News chose a pool of young rappers and urged fans to vote for their favorite. When it was all said and done, Wiz Khalifa emerged as the Hottest Breakthrough of last year. The competition was tough, but the Taylor Gang General beat out runner-up Nicki Minaj, ATL group Travis Porter, Diggy Simmons and J. Cole. This year, you can vote for Kendrick (or your favorite up-and-comer) over at RapFix.MTV.com, and be sure to check back for daily updates and poll results.
Each day, we'll spotlight a new Hottest Breakthrough MC before we conclude December 13 when the polls close at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC will be revealed during December 14's "RapFix Live," during which the winner will appear as our in-studio guest. There will also be a special announcement about MTV News' upcoming Hottest MCs in the Game list and debate.
To be considered a Hottest Breakthrough MC, an artist cannot have released a major-label full-length album. Finalists from 2010's Hottest Breakthrough MCs poll will not be eligible for 2011 consideration, so unfortunately, Diggy Simmons and Travis Porter won't be part of this conversation.
Who do you think should be 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC? Share your picks in the comments and vote here