Why wouldn't the overly dedicated Kendrick Lamar be concerned with his position in the rap game?
With his guest verse on A$AP Rocky's "1 Train," K-Dot made it clear that playing second fiddle was of no interest to him. "If I'm not the hottest, than hell must've froze over," he spit in a poignant and measured tone.
Well, someone tell Kendrick that the underworld is still intact because the Compton, California, native has just been crowned the Hottest MC in the Game by MTV's Hip-Hop Brain Trust.
"I think when it's all said and done, Kendrick Lamar is going to be an important voice of his generation," said MTV News Senior Hip Hop Writer Rob Markman.
K-Dot earned the #1 spot in a unanimous decision, while 2 Chainz landed in the #2 slot. While both MCs made indelible marks in the last year, it was Kendrick's artistry and commercial appeal that helped him earn the title. Lyrically, Lamar is an expert spitter who weaves complex rhyme patterns around soul-drenched beats, with as unique a style as rap has seen in years. And while verbal depth isn't usually a marker for rap success, the Compton rapper moved major units when he dropped his debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Selected Mixtapes: N/A
Singles: "The Recipe," (featuring Dr. Dre) "Swimming Pools," "Poetic Justice" (featuring Drake)
Street Bangers: "Backseat Freestyle," "Cartoon & Cereal," "Westside, Right on Time" (featuring Young Jeezy)
Key Guest Appearances: A$AP Rocky's "F---in' Problems"; Birdman's "B-Boyz"; Schoolboy Q's "Blessed"; A$AP Rocky's "1 Train" (with Drake, 2 Chainz)
Meteoric Metrics: Lamar proved to be a force at Soundscan: "Swimming Pools" is already platinum while GKMC is on its way to a million sold.
Business Ventures: With his solo success, K-Dot has opened a lane for his group Black Hippy, helping to drive up the demand for Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock.
Tours: K-Dot headlined BET's Music Matters Tour and went on a European run. He also rocked Coachella and closed out Power 106's Cali Christmas concert.
Monumental Moment: Kendrick made waves in March 2012 when it was finally announced that, through TDE, he had signed with Interscope and Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment.
Forecast: With a solid foundation already established, fans can expect K-Dot to push hip-hop's creative envelope with the help of Dr. Dre, Black Hippy and his TDE family.
Released in October on Interscope by Top Dawg Entertainment and Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, the LP earned Kendrick a gold plaque before 2012 was over and is making its way toward platinum status with more than 700,000 units sold to date. The Drake-assisted "Poetic Justice" just crept into the Billboard's top 10 on the Rap charts, while his platinum-selling commentary on alcoholism, "Swimming Pools (Drank)," hit #1 on the Rap Songs chart. "Every time you listen to the album you get something new. I was worried that he was such a great lyricist that that wouldn't translate to sales and then he blew it out of the water," said RapFix Blog Editor Nadeska Alexis.
Off the strength of his music, Kendrick was able to cross over, making a key appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in January that included a collaboration with comedian Andy Samberg and Maroon 5's Adam Levine on the iTunes chart-topper "YOLO."
When it came to collabs, however, there was no question 2 Chainz had the rap game on lock, but what Kendrick lacked in quantity he made up for in quality. He turned up on the final verse of A$AP Rocky's Billboard beast "F---in' Problems" and Schoolboy Q's deep and penetrating "Blessed." Then there was Lamar's headlining run on the BET Music Matters Tour, his European run and a Coachella set that saw him perform alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and the infamous Tupac hologram.
But even with all of the metrics, it's Kendrick's impact on the game that he'll be most remembered for when the hip-hop community looks back on the year. Artistically, good kid was the album with which all albums were measured by in 2012. Not only did it resonate with fans, it was also a commercial success in an era where albums don't thrive like they used to.
"I think he gives inspiration to the kid whose pen game is serious and maybe he's not so concerned with what I wear, or the slang or my ad-libs; he's just going into lyrics," Markman said. "I think Kendrick is kinda shifting the momentum of hip-hop a little bit."