On Tha Carter IV, Lil Wayne raps about his “Nightmares of the Bottom.” While the sentiment revealed a humbler side of Tunechi, the Martian reached astronomical heights in 2011 and lands in the top half of MTV News’ Hottest MCs in the Game VII list.
But Weezy’s winning year was even more impressive when you consider that the Cash Money soldier spent most of 2010 behind bars. With little time to prepare, Wayne hit 2011 hard beginning with the smash rap single (and Carter IV lead track) “6 Foot 7 Foot.” As with many albums, C4 saw a ton of delays, but Weezy made up for things with his Sorry 4 the Wait mixtape.
When the fourth installment of the Carter series finally arrived on August 28 (after a show-closing VMA performance), Wayne moved 964,000 copies in a single week, just barely missing the platinum-in-a-week mark he hit with 2008’s Carter III.
“Wayne had a strong year; almost a million in a week doesn’t lie,” said Yomi Desalu, MTV’s senior director of music and talent. “He’s definitely remained relevant for the whole year and once he came out, he hit the ground running.”
“I think that’s an understatement, that he remained relevant. I think that he maintained his dominance,” said Rob Markman, MTV News’ senior hip-hop writer. When we talk about Wayne, nobody [has] sold a million in a week — since Lil Wayne. Quite frankly, I think #4 is too low.”
It was another banner year for Wayne. His first-week sales were higher than that of any other rap artist and his I Am Still Music Tour, Video Music Award performance and “MTV Unplugged” special proved that the YMCMB CEO was as impactful as ever. Granted, Weezy’s 2011 style and swag were an acquired taste (see his VMA animal-print jeggings and the day-Glo-green moon boots he sported in Drake’s “Motto” video), but his lyrical prowess on songs like “It’s Good” could not be denied.
Some members of the Hip-Hop Brain Trust insisted that the Wayne train had lost a bit of steam though. “You talk about Sorry 4 the Wait, people were disappointed that it wasn’t No Ceilings. People were disappointed that Tha Carter IV was not Tha Carter III,” said MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa.
A few even contended that Weezy was riding off of the success of his Young Money artists Nicki Minaj and Drake. Did the students surpass the teacher? One roundtable panelist argued that Nicki the Ninja, who debuted on the “Hottest MCs” list at #6 in 2010, had bested her sensei.
“I definitely think over the past year Nicki’s singles have actually resonated with her fans. I don’t think any of Wayne’s songs [have] — if you want to say ‘John’ that’s a Rick Ross record; if you want to say ‘She Will,’ it was a Drake record,” said Steven Roberts, a producer/writer at MTV News.
The Wayne/Nicki argument became so strong in fact that moderator and show host Sway Calloway decided to take a vote. In a most surprising turn, six of the nine experts elected to move Nicki Minaj up to the #4 spot and Lil Wayne down to #5.
Still, no matter how you slice the pie, it’s all Young Moola, baby!
What do you think of our list? Sound off on MTV News’ “Hottest MCs in the Game VII” using the hashtag #HottestMC!