OTU's Top 15 MCs of 2010

As the end of year lists begin to pop up everywhere, it’s only right that we enter the fray. Murray, Indi, Liam and myself have put our heads together to compile a list of the very best acts in hip-hop this year, and come up with shortlist of who we feel stood up and really did something worthwhile this year. With the differing tastes and perspectives of four writers, you’ll definitely find some good talking points amongst the commentary we’ve offered on our selections, for better or worse (hopefully better!).

Click below to see who ranked at #15 all the way up to #4. The top 3 will be released shortly afterwards. Without further ado, let the mayhem begin!


15. Rick Ross

-Liam: It’s been quite the year for the Maybach Music mogul, and it seems Ross has finally broke into the lucrative mainstream scene. Whether it be with his superb album Teflon Don, or the numerous features he’s excelled on, you can’t deny the guy has been fire: not even a Grammy snub can put a downer on 2010 for Ross.

14. Pusha T

-Indi: Having been around 10 years or so in the game as one half of the ‘coke-rap’ group Clipse, Pusha T decided 2010 was the year he tries his hand as a solo artist, and after surprisingly signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Pusha’s career has blossomed tremendously. Given guest spots on many of Kanye’s GOOD Friday releases, Pusha T has not only held his own alongside more esteemed names, but stole the show on songs such as Christian Dior Denim Flow.

13. Ill Bill

-Murray: 13 is certainly not unlucky for Ill Bill, as he creeps in just outside our top 10 after (alongside a terrific DJ Muggs) crafting one of the top albums of 2010 in the shape of the haunting Kill Devil Hills. Spearheaded by the seamlessly integrated board-work by the Cypress Hill affiliate, Bill holds the flag high for politically-conscious hip-hop and his ‘out there’ visuals give food for thought for any listener (see Ill Bill TV).

12. Black Thought

-Ajay: I felt compelled to include The Roots in some form (though he undoubtedly could make a top MCs list in any given year), as their How I Got Over album was certainly a highlight of 2010. Thought was a major player in that success, lacing the album with his intelligent, thoughtful and ever-versatile rhymes, providing a solidity and consistency that anchored the album whilst it went in various (enjoyable) directions from a production perspective. It’s a shame that he’ll forever be overlooked as one of the most consistent performers, but this album showed that being ‘underrated, underappreciated’ hasn’t slowed his drive.

11. Wiz Khalifa

-Indi: With Wiz’s critically acclaimed Deal Or No Deal album coming out the back end of 2009, Wiz has been thrust into the limelight this past year. Capitalising on that buzz with a major record deal, Wiz followed up with the much heralded mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice. Not only did he jump on some great remixes like Look In The Mirror, Bottoms Up and Get Big, Wiz gained even more buzz with his hit single Black And Yellow, a song that many acts have jumped on, and also trended on Twitter worldwide.

10. Raekwon

-Murray: Rae had to go some to top last year, but his fall from grace has been a soft one and he has rode the momentum he gained from 2009’s excellent OB4CLII. At the start of the year Capone-N-Noreaga enlisted Rae to executive produce their anticipated sequel The War Report 2, before Rae and Wu counterparts Ghost and Mef dropped Wu-Massacre to a somewhat mixed reception. However, perhaps the brightest beacon of Rae’s 2010 was the high profile collaboration with Kanye West and Justin Bieber, which really propelled Rae’s name into the mainstream spotlight for the first time since 1995. Raekwon doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon by recently announcing his new 2011 album Shaolin vs Wu-Tang and street-single Butter Knives. I anticipate another top 10 finish for Rae come fall 2011.

9. Drake

-Liam: I think it’s fair to say that 2010 has been the year in which Drake has established himself in the upper echelons of both the hip-hop and R&B game. He released his much anticipated debut album Thank Me Later, after numerous push backs, in June 2010 selling an immense 447,000 copies in the first week alone. The album took a few people by surprise, being much more hip-hop oriented than his previous mixtape, So Far Gone. For me though, Drake excelled in blending both genres together with his unique flow and ear for a distinctive hook that’ll refuse to leave your head all day, and his year was topped off appropriately with 4 Grammy nominations.

8. Big Sean

-Ajay: What a year for Sean. Prior to 2010, he took a backseat to various other artists on G.O.O.D., with the view that he was probably too raw and unfinished to be unleashed on hip-hop. During that time however, he slowly cultivated a fanbase that saw the kind of potential that Kanye did on signing him: 2010 has seen the fulfilling of said potential, and hence an explosion in his popularity. He’s received major co-signs, been featured on some huge tracks, and most importantly he’s stepped up his rap game to levels that very few ‘newcomers’ are anywhere near. His solo material, particularly Finally Famous Vol. 3, has shown unerring consistency, whilst he’s stolen the show on multiple GOOD Friday tracks amongst some very illustrious company. There’s only one direction for this kid, and it’s to the very top.

7. Joell Ortiz

-Indi: Over the last few years a frustrated Joell and the other 3 members of Slaughterhouse joined together and proved the theory that ‘strength in numbers’ certainly works in this industry, increasing the stock of each member in the industry tenfold. 2010 has been a year in which each member has focused on their solo projects, with Joell arguably being the most successful of the four. Such has been the quantity and quality of Joell’s work this year, Kanye West & Pusha T name-checked him on a radio interview as a “must click on the internet”. Features on Walking On Air, Yesterday and Ask Me About Brooklyn showed why Joell Ortiz is a part of they very lyrical Slaughterhouse, and solo projects Me, Myself & I, as well as his Farewell Summer EP, spawned such tracks as We Don’t Believe You and Battle Cry, which in particular was my favourite street anthem of 2010.

6. Lloyd Banks

-Liam: This year has been huge for Banks, having seemingly rejuvenated himself. He’s hit us with one of the biggest tracks of the year, Beamer, Benz or Bentley, from his recently released album Hunger For More 2, which also featured the superb anthem Start It Up. You also can’t forget Banks’ Blue Friday collection, which I’d say was probably better overall than his album. It’s great to see Banks finally getting the recognition he deserves too, coming out from the shadow of 50 and G-Unit and working with artists you wouldn’t usually associate him with, which has seemingly helped in this resurgence. Long may it continue.

5. J. Cole

-Ajay: If Big Sean had a great 2010, J. Cole had an incredible one. Whether its signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, catching some big feature spots (and stealing the show, more often than not) or releasing a mixtape that literally shut down parts of the internet, J. Cole has undoubtedly found success with everything he’s been involved in. Most importantly, Cole seems to have satisfied the hip-hop community as a whole: from the underground heads to the mainstream fans, Cole is combining (potential) commercial success with critical acclaim (an extremely difficult task to accomplish) and hence he finds himself at the start of a path that only great artists have tread. 2011 will see the release of his debut album, and I fully expect to be seeing Cole in this list next year.

4. Crooked I

-Murray: Kanye is often accredited with constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to hip-hop, but the real crown as the most innovative artist in the game in 2010 goes to Crooked I. After a severe period of stagnation over on Suge Knight’s Death Row, Crooked hit the Internet with his Hip-Hop weekly series which ran across 2007-08. The popular series again returned this year and alas we only got 15 episodes, but the hype it brought to an artists’ release soon saw industry big-hitters adopting the successful marketing strategy. You know who you all are and you all know who you got it from.

Although one of the most feared punchline rappers in the game, Crooked proves that he’s not afraid to tackle any instrumental going in over tracks such as Fireflies, Been So Long and Listen With Your Heart, and whilst often criticised for his lack of introspective lyrics (possibly in comparison with in-house emo Joe Budden) Crooked dropped powerful personal accounts on both Gangsta’s Cry and the more recent Villian. All this without forgetting his superb Planet C.O.B. EP and the announcement of Million Dollar Story with an early 2011 release date. Crooked I finds himself at number 4 as not only an undeniable lyrisist, but an emcee offering the industry much more than just his mic skills.

Keep your eyes peeled for our announcement of who we picked as the top 3 MCs of 2010: it’s coming sooner than you think!

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