Raekwon Is The #10 Hottest MC In The Game!

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II puts veteran MC back in the game.

The 2009 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is on! As in 2007

and 2008,

the list, determined by the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust, is based on an MC's achievements right now, rather than an entire career. The criteria is based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow and how those things are implemented musically as the main factors. The Brain Trust also considers buzz, impact, commercial success — sales, airplay, business ventures, Web presence, endorsements and helping to spawn other artists' careers — and the intangible, impact: Can an artist not only contribute to the rap game but influence cultural shifts? Are they trendsetters? All of these factors — and the results of our audience poll, which closed last week and gets a vote at the Roundtable during the Brain Trust's debate — contribute to deciding who is the Hottest MC in the Game. We'll be announcing an MC's rank every day this week, with the full list revealed on Sunday at 10 p.m. during "P. Diddy's Starmaker"!

Flame Thrower: Raekwon the Chef

2009 Rank: 10

Previous Rankings: 2007 (unranked); 2008 (unranked)

Why He's Hot:

They've got him behind the pot again! Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon the Chef came back to cook up one of the most potent offerings of 2009 with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, which is the hottest album in the streets right now. And no, the Brain Trust isn't just overcome with nostalgia — the conceptual Cuban Linx II picks up where its timeless predecessor left off a decade and a half ago. Rae articulates his calm anger and heavy-handed, at times unmerciful underworld regulation with a compellingly clear yet callous delivery. Production-wise, he went for the best: RZA, Dr. Dre, the late J Dilla.

The Chef has been able to do what few in his age bracket have accomplished: maintain respect and excitement with their more mature core audience, yet stay current and appeal to newer, younger fans. Chef came off a very low-profile hiatus late last year and reintroduced himself through one of his biggest venues to generate interests, the Internet. He's tweeted close to 3,000 times on his @raekwonicewater page and he's been a mainstay on YouTube and hip-hop blogs this year. Rae's moment of Net infamy came late in the summer, when he and his crew had a physical altercation with Joe Budden while Budden was live-streaming from his dressing room.

Rae has not released the videotaped footage of the incident he has in his possession, but instead has let his music grab the headlines. And with all the critical acclaim he's gotten, the Chef's notoriety won't be stopping any time soon: Cuban Linx more than 60,000 albums in its first week of release, another testament to his popularity.

Check out our 2009 "Hottest MCs In The Game."

»10. Raekwon

»9. 50 Cent

»8. Fabolous

»7. Young Jeezy

»6. Gucci Mane

»5. Rick Ross

»4.Kanye West

»3. Drake

»2. Lil Wayne

»1. Jay-Z

Co-Signer: Rick Ross

"The Chef is tireless," Ross said. "He cooked up arguably one of the top 10 albums of all time, not to mention, he was the anchorman to make one of the biggest movements to ever hit the game of hip-hop: the Wu-Tang Clan. I heard [Cuban Linx II], I went through it. He's still got lyrics. That lets you know it's all natural. I happen to be on one of Rae's last albums — just to hear him keep going and see how the streets have embraced him lets you know he's one of the last of the pure lyricists left. When you see him in the streets, you feel New York, he's got that sh-- on his breath. Being a down South dude, when I see a n---a like Rae, them pure artists, them pure legends, they command that other level of respect."

Ignitable Incitement:

"It just feels good to know that Wu-Tang is back in the race again," Rae told MTV News a few weeks back. "If it took me to be that dude to be like, 'Yo, Rae, go do that real quick,' that's what it was. I'mma always rep my team, solo or with the [Wu-Tang] army, whatever. I represent that W. It feels good to know that people know that cats still got it. I told y'all that awhile ago: Yo, it's nothing to real G's [for me to come back]. To real G's, it's nothing!

"I wasn't trying to top [the original] Cuban Linx," he added. "I was in a different frame of mind [on the first album]. I was in the street, I was peddling, I was running around with guns in my pocket, running from police. That was me living the life, hands-on. This one is me being an author, going back down memory lane. I don't do the things I used to do no more, but one thing I can say is anything I learned then, I still apply to this day. Your history is very important. You wanna know where you came from so you can know where you gotta go."

Blistering Ballistics:

"Broad-day jungle, living with the rodents/ The goons'll run through, blow a bag and hunt you/ Always flaky, callused hands/ My mans, come through the avenue, Swiss cheese patrons/ Blood that flood the hall, every head'll drop/ Jump in the Maybach, switch the station/ These rap n---as is wash, hang 'em on the pole, no head ... Famous for my kitchen knives, rings and the fifths are stainless/ Gun down your trooper, grenade your coupe up/ Plain and simple n---as is poo-butt/ F--- with my crew: what?" (from "Canal Street")

Hot Streak


Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

Selected Mixtapes:

Blood on the Chef's Apron


"Catalina" (featuring Lyfe Jennings), "House of Flying Daggers" (featuring Ghostface, Method Man and Inspectah Deck), "Nu Wu" (featuring Method Man and Ghostface)

Street Bangers:

"10 Bricks"

Key Guest Appearances:

Jadakiss' "Cartel Gathering" (also featuring Ghostface)

Meteoric Metrics (as of September 25, 2009):

MySpace Friends: 129,104

Twitter Followers: 59,667

Facebook Friends: 3,652

14: Number of years between Only Built 4 Cuban Linx part I and part II — and II still sold more than 60,000 units in its first week of release.


Rock the Bells six-week summer tour with Nas, Damian Marley, Common, Big Boi, Slaughterhouse, the Roots and more; currently on tour in Europe

Monumental Moment:

Release of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II


Rae is in a great space right now. With the momentum he's created with Cuban Linx II, he's helping to revive the entire Wu-Tang Clan movement. Method Man has an album out with Redman, Ghostface Killah's record is out, and the three have decided to make a trio LP sometime in the near future. The Cuban Linx II run won't end any time soon, with the video for "Catalina" just coming out and singles like "Kiss the Ring" to follow.

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