Flame Thrower: Jay-Z
2009 Rank: #1
Previous rankings: 2007 (#7); 2008 (#2)
Why He’s Hot: He’s had the most acclaimed career in rap history. But even with all that lore, all that respect, all that prestige and all that money, Jay-Z continues to add luster to his legacy with time-transcending music, multiple successful business ventures and his dominant influence over the game.
Jay-Z is 2009′s Hottest MC in the Game. Hov isn’t just an elite MC that pushes the culture, the Brooklyn native is the standard-bearer, the leader, a source of inspiration and aspirations — Hov’s the guy we all look to see how far hip-hop can go. And what a ride Shawn Carter has taken us on this year, from Presidential inaugural balls back his Brooklyn ‘hood (where he was accompanied by Oprah Winfrey) ,and he even found time to take us to the world’s most famous arena — Madison Square Garden — for a charity concert featuring historic gathering of musical guests. He also surpassed Elvis Presley to become the solo act with the most #1 albums in Billboard history with 11.
Being authentic with your raps and having credibility is as precious as legal tender in hip-hop. Jay is money in the bank. Lyrically he says what no other truth-speaking MC can; his experiences are that great and unique. No wonder his swagga is never at less than level 10.
“Meanwhile, I had Oprah chillin’ in the projects,” he raps on “On to the Next One,” from his highly touted latest LP, Blueprint 3.“Had her out in Bed-Stuy, chillin’ on the steps/ Drinkin’ quarter waters, gotta be the best/ MJ [Michael Jackson] at Summer Jam, Obama on the text/ Y’all should be afraid of what I’m gon’ do next.”
On “Already Home,” he separates himself from the pack again. “I’m in the Hall [of fame] already, on the wall already/ I’m a work of art, I’m a Warhol already/ On another level, on another plane already/ H-O-V, I got my own lane already/ I done cooked up the rock already/ So why the f— can’t ya’ll get hot already/ Put your name in the pot already, n—as compare me to Biggie and Pac already.”
Blueprint 3 is another Hov tour de force — and it destroys the myth that there’s an age limit on being a dope MC. At 39 years old, Jay is arguably still better than anybody on the mic today, rhyming with precision and grace. He throws buzzsaws right from the gate on the intro “What We Talking About,” where he raps about what he deems to be nonsense, like dwelling on rap beef.
“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”was this year’s ultimate statement record, with General Jay once again rallying the troops in rap to be more forward-thinking, not follow trends and be more original. Producer No I.D.’s bassline and now-signature guitar licks were almost as brutal as the Jiggaman’s honesty. And the rhymes were so hardcore yet provocative that the record, which came out in June, caused immediate controversy that is still being debated months later. “D.O.A.” fostered conversation with the entire hip-hop community, and if you notice, the usage of Auto-Tune by singers and rappers has slowed down.
B3 could have been another Blueprint part one, but Jay prides himself on evolving both sonically and lyrically. The album is a reflection of Jay’s world right now: “Off That,” with its Euro/ techno feel, vanquishes current trends and looks toward the future, while “Empire State of Mind” — performed at the 2009 Video Music Awards — is a Bentley cruise down memory lane, where he and Alicia Keys sing a love song to their hometown.
The promo campaign surrounding Blueprint 3 has been unprecedented, even for Jay-Z. He’s done interviews with just about every media outlet — from Funkmaster Flex to Oprah Winfrey (and really, who else could get Oprah to walk through the projects in Brooklyn with a bright smile?) from “Le Grand Journal” in France to “TVTotal” in Germany. In between, he’s toured and made high-profile TV appearances on the 2009 Video Music Awards and his historic 9/11 charity concert at Madison Square Garden, which featured Beyoncé, Diddy, Rihanna, Kanye West and others, and raised money for the families of police and firefighters killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
It all worked. Jay’s LP — which was released three days early due to being leaked — debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling close to a half million copies in its first week, and held down the top spot in its second week, moving another 200,000 copies. Meanwhile both “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind” are both top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles.
Jay-Z is also the epitome of an entertainment mogul. His Roc Nation company doesn’t just put out records, it also has a music-publishing division and markets and manages artists such as up-and-coming rapper Wale. He owns or co-owns a successful clothing line (Rocawear), a basketball team (the New Jersey Nets), a nightclub (the 40/40 Club), a restaurant and much more. Add to that, he was the #1 Hip-Hop Cash King on Forbes magazine’s annual list, having earned an estimated $35 million — down a reported 57 percent from last year!
Hov is the Hottest MC right now not just because of his talent — he tells everyone the sky is the limit and proves it time and time again.
Co-Signer: Mary J. Blige “My favorite MC right now: Jay-Z. Forever more it will be Jay-Z. Jay-Z’s raised all these kids: the Drakes, the Lil Waynes. I love and respect them because they respect him for giving that gift. Jay-Z is definitely at the top of my list. That’s why we love him, he keeps going and elevating and blessing the new generation. You can’t lose like that.”
Ignitable Incitement: “All my music and emotions is based off real truth,” Jay said recently. “I believe that’s why I’m here and still competing for VMA nominations and Grammys every year. [Eleven] #1 albums in a row — that’s not something you can doctor. I can make the greatest marketing plan in the world … but I can’t make that happen unless that’s some truth under there.”
Blistering Ballistics: “A hundred million to the good and I’m still talkin’ yayo/ At a snail’s pace I won this race that y’all trail/ Uh, uh, Blueprint‘s for sale/ Followin’ my footprints, you can’t fail/ Set sail, I used to duck shots but now I eat quail/ I’ll probably never see jail/ Each tale contains more of the truth/ Of the statue allows me to go into detail/ Uh, close your eyes you can smell/ Hov’s the audio equivalent of Braille/ That’s why they feel me in the favelas in Brazil/ And Waterhouse, ’cause real recognize real.” (from “Real As It Gets”)
Album: The Blueprint 3
Selected Mixtapes: N/A
Singles: “Run This Town” (featuring Kanye West and Rihanna), “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” “Empire State of Mind” (featuring Alicia Keys), “Swagga Like Us” (with T.I., featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne)
Street Bangers: “Brooklyn Go Hard,” “On to the Next One,” “Off That” (featuring Drake), “Hate” (featuring Kanye West)
Key Guest Appearances: Lil Wayne’s “Mr. Carter,” Young Jeezy’s “My President” remix, Fabolous’ “Money Goes, Honey Stay,” DJ Khaled’s “Go Hard” remix (also featuring T-Pain), Coldplay’s “Lost+.”
Meteoric Metrics: 11: the number of Billboard #1 albums Jay-Z has had during his career — more than Elvis Presley, second only to the Beatles
1: Jay’s position on Forbes magazine’s Rap Cash Kings List (with $35 million)
Business Ventures: Roc Nation label/ management/ music publishing (including Young Chris, Wale and J. Cole), Rocawear clothing line, owner of 40/40 Club in New York, co-owner of Spotted Pig restaurant, partial owner of Carol’s Daughter beauty line, partial of owner of New Jersey Nets, endorsement deal with Hewlett Packard.
Tours: Summer dates with Ciara, Lupe Fiasco and Fabolous; 9/11 charity show at Madison Square Garden (with guests Diddy, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, John Mayer and others); six-week tour with N.E.R.D., Wale and J. Cole begins October 9
Monumental Moment: Performing at President Obama’s Inaugural Ball, which once again proved hip-hop has no boundaries
Forecast: While it seems hard to imagine what more Jay could accomplish in his career, he’s already working on his next album, which he said will be his most experimental to date and is “not gonna be a #1 album” (we’ll see about that). Meanwhile, we’re looking for talent under Jay’s wing — such as Wale, J. Cole and Young Chris — to blossom.Read also...