#5 Hottest MC in the Game: Rick Ross aka Ricky Rozay
In hip-hop, the streets do the talking. And in 2010, the streets anointed Rick Ross their savior.
Not only did his fourth LP, Teflon Don, debut at #2 on the Billboard albums chart in July with 176,300 sold its first week, but Ross had the undeniable street anthem “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” which sold more than 100,000 copies despite being available on the free Albert Anastasia EP. What’s more, he was still fighting off criticism from being outed as a corrections officer and beefing with 50 Cent. But good music can’t be stopped, and Ross supplied plenty of it this year, so the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust voted him 2010’s #5 Hottest MC in the Game, the same ranking he received last year.
In a musical climate that doesn’t often find artists producing full-length albums that match their hype, Ross delivered a stellar LP from beginning to end.
“Teflon Don, that’s the album of the year right now, I don’t care what it sold,” MTV News’ Shaheem Reid said during the Hottest MCs roundtable. “From ‘I’m Not a Star’ down to [‘All the Money in the World’], ‘Tears of Joy,’ it just really grips your soul when you hear him having the foresight to bring Cee-Lo back. Cee-Lo was singing his heart out. I feel like I’m in church.”
“A lot of artists make trendier records, and those trends come and go,” MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee said. “But as far as records and art that’s gonna stand the test of time, that’s what Ross is doing.”
“B.M.F.” was big at urban radio, hitting #6 on the Billboard Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was almost impossible to not hear it bumping from a car stereo everywhere you turned.
“It has legs like a track star,” MTV News senior writer Jayson Rodriguez said. “All summer, it’s been rocking. Whether in the ‘hood, you hear it banging, [or] opening the BET Hip-Hop Awards. “So it got the ‘hood with that record, but [also] big-production performances.”
“It’s a hard record,” MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa said. “There’s no formulaic syrupy hook on it. It’s not some big-branded producer putting his name all over the beginning of the song.”
Indeed, the production on “B.M.F.” was so heralded that the beatmaker behind it, Lex Luger, became the flavor du jour, even getting recruited by Kanye West (“See Me Now”).
Leading up to the release of Teflon Don, the anticipation was clearly there. You could just tell Ross was about to come with something amazing. He recruited F. Gary Gray (“Law Abiding Citizen”), who had directed fewer than 10 music videos in the past decade, to helm visuals for “Super High.” He had the Albert Anastasia EP, there were songs leaking from the album with Kanye West (“Live Fast, Die Young”) and there was his celebrated joining of Twitter (@rickyrozay).
His presence was felt elsewhere as well. Kanye called him to Hawaii to work on his upcoming My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy LP (he appears on “Monster”), while Diddy started managing him. The two recently formed a group together called the Bugatti Boyz. Ross appeared in a skit on the VMAs this past September, performed at “VH1 Hip-Hop Honors” as well as the BET Hip-Hop Awards (where he won Track of the Year and Club Banger of the Year for “B.M.F.”). He even starred in his very own Nike commercial, proving that the rotund rapper is definitely throwing his weight around outside of just music.
#4 Hottest MC in the Game: Drizzy Drake
In 2009, Drake dropped the instant-classic mixtape So Far Gone (which sold upward of 70,000 units its first week when it was released as an EP last September) and appeared on songs with Jay-Z, Fabolous and Mary J. Blige, among others. He was the industry’s new “it” guy, nominated for two Grammys after only a mixtape. His clout was reflected on last year’s Hottest MCs in the Game list, with the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust ranking him #3. What more did Aubrey Graham really have to do?
Well, for one, he needed to drop an actual album to prove he was more than just a fly-by-night sensation. He also needed to hit the road and show he was a dynamic performing artist who could fill an arena. And, finally, he needed to make up for some past flubs like the poorly received “Best I Ever Had” video. He did all that and more this year, which led the Brain Trust to vote him the #4 Hottest MC in the Game of 2010.
Drake was a staple on radio all year, whether it was “Bedrock” with Young Money, “Money to Blow” with Baby and Lil Wayne, “Forever” with Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem, or any one of the songs from So Far Gone that stayed in rotation.
“He’s been on the radio all year,” RapFix editor Hillary Crosley said during the Hottest MCs roundtable. “Like, I can’t get away from him. It’s impossible.”
“Different artists, they may have a hot regional presence or be hot on the East Coast or Down South around Atlanta or whatever,” added MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee, “but this dude — everywhere, man.”
Sure, there are artists who might be big on the radio, but few do it as whimsically as Drake does. To wit, his Thank Me Later singles were all creative stretches. “Find Your Love” was an R&B single that found Mr. Graham not rapping, but crooning over a rich piano line and lo-fi electro blips. “Over” saw him spitting feverishly against staccato drums and questioning his newfound fame. And “Fancy” was a gentlemanly nod of female appreciation — not something rappers are typically wont to do. Reception to these songs was overwhelmingly positive, leading Thank Me Later to move 447,000 units its first week, and it’s closing in on platinum status.
But Drake also made his presence felt perhaps in the most important arena of the modern music business: performing. Aside from staging the October’s Very Own festival in Toronto this past August (where Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Eminem and Jay-Z made appearances), but he also hit the road for his Light Dreams & Nightmares Tour. And what’s more, he was the guy Eminem and Jay-Z brought out at their Home and Home concert series this past September. Yeah, the big dogs really get down with Drake like that.
“You got the biggest-selling artist of the past 10 years, Eminem, who brings out Drake to hype up the crowd at the Home and Home Tour,” Sway said, acknowledging just how powerful of a statement that move was.
That said, the roundtable wasn’t in agreement that Drake really had the performance component of his career down just yet. In fact, during the taping, Drake was actually voted #3 on the Hottest MCs list but was then demoted by Kanye West, who the Brain Trust felt brought more to the table as an artist.
“You know what Kanye does that Drake doesn’t? He reminds you of what a full package is,” MTV Jams’ Sheila Grullon said.
MTV News senior producer Rahman Dukes replied: “What’s missing from the Drake package?”
“He’s missing charisma,” MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa said. “He’s missing drama.”
MTV News senior writer Jayson Rodriguez put the battle between the two in context of what type of attention each artist gets. “Kanye is attracting the world’s attention,” he said. “Whereas Drake isn’t there yet. He’s building that up.”
In a vote, Kanye beat out Drake for the #3 slot. But still, give credit where it’s due: Drake won an ASCAP Award for Rap Song of the Year (“Forever”), a BMI Award for Most Performed Urban Song of the Year (“Best I Ever Had”), Best Male Hip-Hop Artist at the BET Awards and New Artist of the Year at the Juno Awards. He also graced the covers of XXL, Vibe, Complex and Billboard and even had his very own MTV documentary, “Better Than Good Enough.” He’s come a long way since “Degrassi.”