A few months before the release of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West took to Hot 97's Angie Martinez-hosted radio show to promote his G.O.O.D. Friday series, but also to make a seemingly odd proclamation. "The scariest artist in the game right now ... the scariest artist is definitely Nicki Minaj," West said. "I think she has the most potential out of everyone to be the #2 rapper of all time."
While we won't even wade into a "hottest MCs of all time" debate, MTV News' Hip-Hop Brain Trust eventually voted Nicki into the plum #4 spot on the Hottest MCs in the Game VII list.
In the summer of 2010, Minaj was the acid-tongued "two" to Drake's "one" in Lil Wayne's Young Money one-two punch. With her debut album still on the way, she was murdering features left and right.
"When she hit the scene, she was just like the pretty girl alongside Wayne," said Rahman Dukes, MTV News' director of hip-hop news. "Drake was really the next one that everyone was looking out for."
But by the time she dropped her Pink Friday debut last November, the world was on notice. Now, Nicki's success spans the pop and hip-hop worlds, and her fanbase is just as eclectic, with young girls and "Kens" all riding for the Young Money Barbie. Minaj's song "Super Bass" was just a bonus track on the album, but it won over fans including squeaky-clean Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, both of whom jumped on the record, rapping along line for line to the infectious track. "Bass" may have even helped Nicki score a spot opening for Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale Tour.
As far as our Hottest MCs criteria, Nicki meets them all. Her impact is undeniable and, lyrically, she holds her own when she's playing with the boys: She stole the show on Big Sean's "Dance (A$$)" remix and declared herself the Female Weezy on Birdman's "Y.U. Mad." Need more proof? Minaj shut down New York Fashion Week in September 2011. And she has conquered hip-hop's digital landscape.
"Recently, she broke the record for the most followed hip-hop artist on Twitter; her social media following is incredible," said Nadeska Alexis, MTV's RapFix blog editor. "She dropped the song 'Stupid Hoe' — people didn't necessarily love the song [but] a week later it's at 15 million views on YouTube."
While her songs may not always appeal to "the streets," millions of her fans have bought into Nicki's sound. And her performance at the 2012 Grammys, while controversial, was a huge honor and a testament to the lane she's carved for herself.
After the roundtable votes were tallied, Nicki was initially slotted at #5 with Young Money boss Wayne clocking in at #4, but several members of the Brain Trust felt strongly enough about Nicki's accomplishments that her position warranted a second look. Hottest MCs moderator Sway Calloway called for a vote and in the end, six of the nine experts elected to move Nicki up to the #4 spot, sending Weezy down to #5.
"Nicki Minaj doesn't have to be Meek Mill, but at the same time she's not Britney Spears," said Steven Roberts, a segment producer/writer at MTV News. "I think Nicki Minaj is something special where she can be in the middle and she can be pop and hip-hop because I think hip-hop at this point is pop."
What do you think of our list? Sound off on MTV News' "Hottest MCs in the Game VII" using the hashtag #HottestMC!