OTU's Top 15 MCs of 2010: The Top Three

Hopefully by now, you’ve managed to have a look at who the OTU team rated as the rest of the top 15 Mcs, with numbers 15 to 4 being revealed last week. If not, catch up here.

Whilst I’m sure many can guess 1, 2 or maybe even all 3 of our remaining picks based on the omissions from the aforementioned list, the order in which they’re placed may be more difficult to pre-empt. Click on to see who the OTU team have voted as the top three MCs of 2010.


3. Kanye West

Liam: Just wow. Yeezy came back in 2010 in the only way his ego would allow him; he’s produced the album of his career, receiving near perfect universal acclaim. Ye also hit us up with the strongest weekly series in G.O.O.D Fridays and any track he’s featured on he’s gone in with an unequivocal passion, raising the bar so high it’s hard to see where he can go from this. One thing is for certain with Kanye, we’ll be in for one hell of a ride watching.

Indi: I think we’ve run out of superlatives to describe Mr. West: from zero to hero, Kanye went from universally hated, hounded by the world’s media (and fans of Taylor Swift), to releasing an album which received almost unprecedented critical acclaim- so much so that I’ve yet to cast my eyes on a bad review of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album! How was Kanye able to rise from the proverbial ashes in such a way? In order to answer that, let’s take a look at what he actually got up to this year.

After taking a break from the world (no exaggeration, Kanye almost seemed to have disappeared off the planet), he returned to the spotlight by visiting social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook at their head offices, performing acapellas of songs mooted for his next project. Given his lengthy absence from music and the media, this became a major talking point, this time for the right reasons. Soon after Kanye opened up a Twitter account and caused much hype amongst fans with bizarre rants, funny quips and simple insight into the workings of his mind. This hype lead to other celebrities (looking at you here 50 Cent) suddenly opening Twitter accounts, in order to catch the same sort of buzz Yeezy had begun to generate. The crucial turning point in Kanye’s year was undoubtedly the decision to give fans one free track every Friday (labelled GOOD Fridays): Originally thought to be just a platform to get rid of throwaway unreleased material, the quality of the tracks he gave us took many by surprise (myself included), and thanks to that unbelievable level of consistency, his album became the subject on everybody’s lips. In addition, Kanye showed off his directing skills with a short film: thought provoking, but ultimately an album sampler, it gave us a taste of what to expect of the album from a production point of view. Anticipation and excitement for his album proved to be fully justified, with Kanye West releasing his best and most complete album since his debut.

2. Royce Da 5’9″

Ajay: Royce has always been a gifted rhymer, that’s not to be debated, but it’s in 2010 that we’ve come to view Royce as a whole new entity: his stock rose considerably in 2009, the resulting success placing him alongside some of the industry’s most celebrated names on various tracks in 2010. Along the years, many rappers have collapsed under the intense spotlight and exposure, but we saw Royce continue to deliver verses with unerring consistency, compelling wordplay and packed with skilful flows. A prime example would be the much anticipated Bad Meets Evil reunion, with Royce has more than holding his own alongside a rejuvenated, revitalised Eminem: having previously obliterated any track he shared with another rapper, Em was matched by Royce’s work on the tracks, and universally lauded for doing so.

Prior to this, we were treated to one of the year’s strongest mixtape with The Bar Exam 3, alongside a slew of other match-winning features. As far as fan interaction goes, Royce certainly has one of the most entertaining Twitter accounts, and has taken to it various times to drop off remixes and freestyles on other tracks, more often than not leaving beats quivering in his wake. It’s hard to think of many better years for Royce as a rapper, and hopefully 2011 continues his success.

Murray: I feel I’m pretty well qualified when it comes to writing about Royce’s year. Not only was he one of the first emcees that caught my eye ten years ago (Game FM Radio, GTA3, Spit Game & I’m The King) I’ve had the honour this year to interview the man himself and pick his brains on his past, present and future.

Microphone moments aside for a second, there is little doubt in my mind that Royce spearheaded the Slaughterhouse move over to Em’s Shady Records, utilising those one-time unbreakable bonds him and Em held. However, aside from perhaps one of Royce’s more better business decisions (Royce heads will know what I mean here), getting his feet comfortable under the table has shone through with Royce spitting his best rhymes in years. For those who caught them before the Internet buried all existence, Royce and Em hit the studio for the long awaited and anticipated Bad Meets Evil reunion in the form of Echo and Living Proof: it says something when you stand toe-to-toe lyrically with Eminem. As usual though, Royce has been doing his thing on the underground circuit, dropping in to touch bases with fellow Detroiters Black Milk and Elzhi for the Motown cut Deadly Medley and the ferocious Remember The Titans on Budden’s Mood Muzik 4. Royce also dropped one of the best mixtapes of the year with the third instalment of his Bar Exam series and as always, kept us all entertained with his Tweets.

1. Eminem

Indi: Last year Eminem made one hell of a comeback, and despite not particularly enjoying his album Relapse (thanks to a certain cringing accent), it was undeniable that he had rediscovered his ability on the mic and passion for hip-hop, with a show stealing verse on Drake’s Forever, being a prominent example. With Relapse 2 having been mooted for this year, I was expecting Eminem to ditch the Swedish/Alabama hybrid of an accent, and give us a lyrical album, with an ability to construct songs that would remind us of why he was the biggest selling artist of the last decade.

He did not disappoint. Firstly, he ditched the album title, feeling that his new work had completely deviated from that concept and instead gave us Recovery, and WHAT a recovery he gave us. Having reached out to some of the hottest producers in the industry (Just Blaze, Boi-1da and Alex Da Kid), Em brought us album that felt like none other he’s made. Having been used to hearing him on self-produced songs, or produced by Dr. Dre, this album sounded so fresh. Eminem returned to his old self from a lyrical point of view, but gave us a completely new sound to one that we were used to from him.

With tracks like Love The Way You Lie, No Love and Not Afraid, Eminem managed to mix commercial hits without ‘selling out’ and they were tracks even the ‘hip hop heads’ could enjoy. Coupled with excellent storytelling tracks such as Talkin’ To Myself, Going Through Changes and the very emotional tribute to Proof, You’re Never Over, Eminem really outdid himself with 25 To Life. On first listen it felt like just another ode to his ex wife Kim, albeit a very good one over an incredible beat: however with one line at the end, Eminem changed the entire arc of the song which I, for one, did not see coming. It simply left myself (as well as many others) astounded and was a very apt nod to Common’s I Used to Love H.E.R.

Relapse may have been Eminem’s comeback to the music world, but Recovery really announced his return to the top of everyone’s list.

Murray: Em has had an incredible year. Although 2009 was officially Em’s comback year after a 5-year hiatus, it was really 2010 where he found his feet firmly back under the table. After the disappointment that was Relapse and Relapse: Refill, many were left questioning whether Slim Shady had lost it. But step up 2010 and a Marshall Mathers keen to prove a point with his chart-busting Recovery. No longer were fans cringing at annoying accents or questionable subject material, but now we find ourselves clamouring after the man with a million flows. Hardcore Em stans may argue his subject matter is more tame and diluted now than in comparison with the MMLP years where the angry blonde was unphased by chart success. What I do happen to think is that Em’s flow is at the best it’s ever been, recent tracks show his irresistible triple-speed delivery with an added hunger and passion that he’s missed over his last two LP’s. Unlike Em of past years, Mathers hasn’t just been working on his solo/in-house projects. Before Recovery dropped we saw him helping fellow-hyped artist B.o.B. on his Airplanes Pt 2 and Lil’ Wayne’s Drop The World. More recently Em has appeared on tracks with T.I., Nicki Minaj, Lloyd Banks and the long-awaited Bad Meets Evil reunion with Royce has produced two tracks whilst not forgetting the Slaughterhouse posse-cut Session One.
MTV got this one right and Em deserves his spot as number one emcee of 2010. Although haters will continue to hate and underground heads will endeavour to name 100 emcees better, Em isn’t just a commercial powerhouse, but an undeniable superb lyricist, industry pioneer and in every sense of the word, a living legend.

Liam: Guess who’s back? Recovery pretty much encapsulates 2010 for Eminem. He’s come back with the fire in his bars that’s been missing over his past few albums. The beats may have not been the best, but lyrically nobody can touch him when he’s on form like this. Every track he’s jumped on he’s killed, and as a stan it’s been an absolute joy to watch.

Ajay: If there’s ever anyone who has married mainstream success with approval from the entire hip-hop community, it’s surely Eminem. Yet, there still seems to be criticism, which shocks me a little. So, let’s break it down

-The album, Recovery. Up against any mainstream hip-hop (or ‘hip-hop’, in some cases…) release, there is only one other album that will be truly listed as a highlight of 2010 (thanks Kanye!). Displaying consistency in its quality, there’s no doubt that this was considerably better than Em’s previous two albums. Yet, unfair comparisons to past material and the dilution of mainstream ears to a more ‘R&B-friendly’ sound meant that tracks such as Almost Famous and 25 to Life were overlooked as the hip-hop highlights they were: had the album been made by a ‘newer’ artist, it would surely be heralded a masterpiece. Thankfully, commercial success was still forthcoming, even if there were minor pockets of ungratefulness.

-The rapper. There’s no question Eminem has mellowed, and he’s not the loudmouth rebel that was hungry for attention back in 1999/2000. Yet, this seems to have affected the perception on his rapping skills/song quality, despite the obvious improvement in both: he may not be getting into trouble or stirring up controversy, but he’s making incredibly well-rounded songs, and with the diversity he’s developed in his flows there’s no denying that maturity has given rise to a new, more mature Eminem that can still connect with any audience. Lyrically, his unrelenting consistency keeps Eminem in a league of his own, and when coupled with his ability throughout the years to tell a story with vivid, powerful wordplay, you’ve got the rebirth of a rapper who has cemented his place with the all-time greats in 2010.

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