by Eddie McDonald (@KingEdward15)
Lil Wayne: How can you not think the Young Money head honcho is not still the best in the game today? I mean just listen to his work, and you will see why he is still the “Best Rapper Alive.” Even when he was sitting behind bars at Rikers Island, he was still able to put out two albums. Now they weren’t the quality of his Carter series, but nonetheless, they were still enough to appeal to his fans. He was on a number of features after his November release until the end of 2011. Even the start of 2012 has Weezy on quite a few features. His long awaited release of Tha Carter IV kept getting pushed back for various reasons, but he dropped a mixtape, “Sorry for the Wait,” in what was a message to the fans that his album was fire and shortly dropping. In every song, he described how and why he was sorry, something his fans appreciated. The big track off that was “Tunechi’s Back.” He was in typical mixtape Wayne mode, going in over a numerous of other artists beats. Then he finally dropped the long awaited Carter IV and right before the release, he closed the Video Music Awards on MTV. The album nearly sold a million copies in the first week of its release. You don’t see anyone doing numbers like that in today’s day and age, where people download a lot of music. Since then, it has gone triple platinum. MTV2 recently had their “Hottest MCs in the Game Today” list, and Wayne was number 5. To me, that is way too far down the list, especially after the numbers he put up. He has opened up his own clothing line, Trukfit, which stands for “The reason you kill for it.” The cleverness of Weezy’s lines are still far above quite a few rappers in the game today. Everyone still wants Weezy on their track, and that says something for anyone who thinks he has fallen off.
Drake: What a year from the Toronto native. Just like his Young Money boss, Drizzy was featured on countless number of artist’s tracks. The whole summer you could hear Drake all over the radio. His highly anticipated sophomore album, “Take Care,” was pure brilliance from the rapper/singer. He sold over 630,000 copies in the first week, which topped his debut album, “Thank Me Later.” He had a nice blend of singing and rapping, to appeal to his on growing fan base. Drake gets deep with his lines, and it shows he puts a lot of time and energy in his music. He was featured on one of the, if not the, best song of 2011, DJ Khaled’s “I’m on One,” which also featured Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. That song was number 1 on the “Billboard Rap Songs” for 13 straight weeks. Drizzy has always said he doesn’t really care what anybody thinks or has to say about him, but that wasn’t the case when him and fellow rapper Common had a little beef. Common would diss Drake on the song “Sweet” in which Drake replied in Rick Ross’s “Stay Scheamin’.” That beef was short lived, however. Drake and Ross have reported that they plan on releasing a joint mixtape entitled “Y.O.L.O,” which they hope to drop by the end of the year. As long as Drizzy stays focused, and keeps producing smash hits, and jumps on a lot of other rapper’s tracks, he will be very successful.
Rick Ross: The Maybach Music Group boss was a rap beast in the year of 2011 and is continuing his success. Before getting into his rapping success, let’s discuss his success as a boss in the form of his MMG group. Last February, he signed MMG to Warner Music Group. Not only did he do that, but he signed two of the hottest up and coming rappers in the game today in Meek Mill and Wale. That right there spells a dominant year, but Rozay was just getting started. Ross teamed up with his MMG faithful, to release the label compilation, “Self Made Vol. 1,” which was straight fire. Ross and Meek Mill teamed up to combine some fire hits in “Ima Boss,” and “Tupac Back.” Rozay was featured on Lil Wayne’s Carter Iv on the hit track “John” which was pretty much a remix of Ross’s 2010 hit, “I’m Not a Star.” Although he did not release his fifth studio album, “God Forgives, I Don’t,” due to having a couple seizures, that didn’t stop him from putting out and album-like mixtape, “Rich Forever.” He teamed up with multiple artists on that mixtape, and he definitely delivered. Aside from all his music success, he also did a good job marketing not only himself, but his MMG group as well. Without Ross some say, Wale and Meek Mill would not be where they are today. Ross could really make a huge impact on the game once his album drops later this year.
Kanye West: When two of the biggest rappers in history decide to make a joint album, you know that album will receive a lot of buzz. Kanye and Jay-Z decided to do just that, when they announced on New Year’s Eve 2010 that they would put out the album “Watch the Throne.” This album did not disappoint in the slightest. With smash hits such as “H.A.M.” and “N***as in Paris” the duo made waves through the rap game. Combining two big names in anything will provide a lot of hype and this was no different. After releasing his own solo album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” earlier in 2010, his music creativity continued. A lot of people were still talking about this Ye even further into the rap game. One of the better things that happened for Ye and Hov was that their album was not leaked in advance, which is common with albums these days. Not only did Yeezy have success in the rap game, but he also debuted his own clothing line, DW by Kanye West. This just shows how creative the “Through the Wire” rapper can be. He can go outside of rap and still be talked about. Back to the rap game, he signed his G.O.O.D. Music Group with Def Jam records, on a distribution deal. Kanye will continue to make waves through the rap game this year.
Nicki Minaj: The queen of Young Money had a breakout year in 2011 and is continuing to get better early on in 2012. She went in on a number of feature tracks including Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$) remix, and fellow Young Money artist Drake’s “Make Me Proud.” These were big hits just as features. Her singles as well as her debut album “Pink Friday” were clever and unique. “Super Bass,” a song that was just an extra on Pink Friday, was a huge success amongst her fans. Some people are saying with that song, she got the opportunity to go on tour and open for pop icon, Britney Spears. Not only did she go on tour with Spears, but also her YMCMB boss, Lil Wayne, on his I Am Still Music Tour. Her lyrics compare to, and are even better, than a lot of male rappers in the game today. Her flow, lyrics, and overall confidence make her a huge success. When she got on Cash Money founder Birdman’s track, “Y.U. Mad” she declared herself the “female Weezy,” in reference to Lil Wayne. She, in my mind, and the mind of many others, feel the same way. I don’t see another female in the game today that even comes close to Nicki. Lil Kim, who was a pretty good female MC back in the 90’s doesn’t feel the same way. The two would exchange words back and forth on different tracks, and even on radio interviews. Nicki didn’t back down for one second, and is holding her own nicely. The year 2012, Minaj can launch herself even further into the rap game, as she is set to release her sophomore album “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” She even has a track on the album, entitled “Roman Reloaded” where she and Weezy team up to make a banger. The Young Money Barbie continued to take shots at Lil Kim, where I feel she will eventually end up ending the beef.
Jay-Z: Hov has always been one to be on his own when it comes to putting albums out, but that was not the case in 2011. He teamed up with Kanye West to collaborate on their joint album, “Watch the Throne.” This was pure brilliance from both MC’s. People will see this list and think Jay should be higher based on his work throughout his history in the game. But this list isn’t about history, it’s about right now. Don’t get me wrong, Jay is still one of my all time favorites, but he hasn’t put out a lot of music over the last year, aside from WTT. Now what him and Ye did on WTT is unheard of. There were at least three smash hits, with all the other tracks on the album being fire as well. Tracks such as “H.A.M” got the attention of many, including YMCMB, after Jay spit the line “I’m like really half a billi n-gga, Really you got baby money, Keep it real with n-ggas, N-ggas aint got my lady money.” This was a direct shot at Birdman after he claimed that Lil Wayne made the most money in the rap game. I feel Jay didn’t put out enough music over the course of the past year, but I still think he is in the top 10 today. WTT was extremely good. He focused a lot on his business and then him and his wife had their first child, Blue Ivy Carter. He did however, put out a song entitled “Glory” which was a tribute to his daughter. To me, that and what Watch the Throne did, puts him at number 6 on my list.
Wale: The MMG star did a lot of great things when it comes to rap this past year. He dropped his sophomore album “Ambition” and that was a great way to show how gifted he is behind a mic. Being in MMG helped the Washington D.C. rapper tremendously, and he proved why he belongs in a group headed by Rick Ross. After his debut album didn’t do as well as he thought, he came back and delivered one of the best albums of the year. Even before the album dropped, Wale dropped two mixtapes, “More About Nothing” and “The Eleven One Eleven Theory.” Both showed how much he has grown as an artist. He entitled the latter of the two what he did because he dropped Ambition on November 1, 2011. Wale was featured on MMG’s Self Made Vol. 1 album, and had a banger on it entitled “600 Benz.” The lyrics he spits shows that he is clever with words and how he tells a story with those words is unreal. Anticipation goes a long way in how rappers market themselves and their albums, and Wale’s album was no different. Everyone wanted to see how he would be after his mixtape released in the summer of 2011. In order to stand out in the rap game, you have to be diverse and that is exactly what Wale did on Ambition. Wale was even featured on his boss’s Rich Forever mixtape. He is still young in the game, but they way he improved from his first album to the second is a great sign for future success.
Tyga: The Young Money MC delivered with his second solo album, “Careless World- Rise of the Last King.” After putting out a number of mixtapes and club bangers, he spit some realness on his album. Known a lot of his lyrics pertaining to money, women, and drug use, he blended that and a variety of heartfelt lyrics on Careless World. This was another album that was highly anticipated, mostly by fans that are fans of his mixtapes. Speaking of mixtapes, he put out three different mixtapes to remain relevant in 2011, before his album dropped in February 2012. Usually Tyga spits bangers over various club sounding beats, but that wasn’t the case with the whole album. This album was delayed several times due to an uncleared sample of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that is played on the album. He had to wait to release it in stores, which hurt his first week sales, but did put it on iTunes for his fans anyways. He has a nice blend of solo songs and collaborations with his featured guests. This album shows Tyga’s growth as an artist and that is something that people want to see in someone who they hear on the radio all the time. The beats he chose for this album mesh well with the “Rack City” MC. T-Raw teams up with fellow YMCMB artists Nicki Minaj and boss, Lil Wayne, for a song each. Anytime you can feature Lil Wayne on your album, you know that album will be pretty good. Another feature he has is with Wale and Nas on the song “Kings and Queens.” He also has a nice mix of radio songs and club bangers. Tyga’s stock is definitely rising in the rap game.
Meek Mill: Meek Mill is an interesting case. Every other rapper on this list has put out at least one solo album. Meek has not, yet. His mixtapes and collaborations with other artists have him on the rise in the rap game. Being signed to Rick Ross’s MMG doesn’t hurt his case either. He was featured on the MMG album Self Made Vol. 1 and definitely delivered. Tracks like “Ima Boss” which he teamed up with Rozay, became an instant classic. Another popular track was “Tupac Back” which also featured Ross. These were two of the biggest songs of the year, and were definitely played in clubs and parties all over the place. Meek was on the XXL 2011 Freshman cover, and then soon after that, he started to explode into the rap game. Meek represents real street music, as he grew up in the streets of Philadelphia. With “Ima Boss” it wasn’t only for Meek, as a number of different artists jumped on and had their own freestyle to the hit song. He even called upon other rap greats for the remix of the song, which included Lil Wayne, Rozay, T.I., Birdman, Swizz Beatz, and DJ Khaled. Those weren’t the only two big songs Meek dropped. He also had a song entitled “House Party” that featured Young Chris. Not only did he have a successful year without an album, but he also signed a deal with Ecko Unlimited to drop his Dreamchasers clothing line. His first studio album is slated to release later in 2012. When that drops, lookout and enjoy the ride of the young Philly rapper.
Young Jeezy: The Thug Motivation rapper was at it again with his third installment of the Thug Motivation series. This album was delayed several times, due to multiple different things. But when TM103 dropped, it was pure fire, and that is what is expected of the Atlanta rapper. Regardless of the delay, Jeezy was sure this would make an impact, and that it did. He wasn’t just sitting around waiting for the release, he was making music. The music he was making was for two DJ Drama led mixtapes. He dropped two mixtapes and an album in 2011, and the anticipation of TM103 was extremely high. The mixtapes were called “The Real is Back,” and “The Real is Back 2.” In total, he put out 31 songs on the two mixtapes combined. He even dropped a 7 song mixtape where he went in on different hit songs with a verse or two of his own. Then it was finally time for TM103 and it was well worth the wait. This album was number one on the charts when it debuted and rightfully so. This was his first album since 2008, which is a pretty significant time to not release an album in the rap game. Like other artists on this list he does a good job of mixing solo songs and collaborations. One of the best songs on the album is where he teams up with rap legends, Jay-Z and Andre 3000, for the song “I do.” This is definitely an album to cop if you haven’t already.
Follow Eddie on twitter @KingEdward15