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All week was leading up to today (Sunday) in trying to figure out who owned the Final Four slots on MTV’s Hottest MC’s in the Game list. Instead of giving each one their own post, I’ll combine the Final 4 and hell, the list even shocked me. Why? Click the jump & find out. Well, Yeezy’s #4, so we’ve got three names left.

#4 – Kanye West

Why He’s Hot: Kanye West is a force larger than hip-hop. He’s turned himself into a global megastar, producing and collaborating with the biggest names in the game, influencing art and fashion, discovering and growing new talent, and consistently pushing musical boundaries with his own albums such as 808s & Heartbreak.

Of course, ‘Ye’s occasionally brash behavior — particularly his interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at last month’s Video Music Awards — sometimes distracts from the genius in his music, but he’s always been able to endure because of just how much he elevates hip-hop and pop culture.

Co-Signer: Drake. “Kanye West, much like myself — I feel like he really knows emotion. Emotion is something you feel. It’s very hard to depict or verbalize emotion. Artists, when a painting can make you feel something, it’s a phenomenal piece of art. When a song can make you feel something, that’s a phenomenal creation. Kanye’s verses really resonate with me.”

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#3 – Drake

Why He’s Hot: Drake proclaims himself to be “the one, twice over/ The new 11.” He’s definitely one of kind. We haven’t seen a single mixtape as universally triumphant as his So Far Gone.

We’ve seen guys turn the street-music hustle into instant ‘hood-icon status and get record deals before, like Young Jeezy (who actually got two deals, one with the group Boyz N Da Hood as well as a solo deal), the Diplomats and of course 50 Cent and G-Unit.

This kid Drake, however, is a different type of beast. Technology allowed his tape to spread wider and faster than CDs, and So Far Gone’s word-of-mouth buzz made it a must-have download. He toured the country on the strength of the mixtape while songs from SFG flew from underground to radio rotation. His collaboration with Trey Songz, “Successful,” hit the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, while “Best I Ever Had” has the heaviest rotation on urban radio this year, according to Mediabase.

Then, after circulating for seven months for free, So Far Gone was revamped and re-released through a major label — and sold nearly 70,000 units in its first week of release last month.

Co-Signer: Lil’ Wayne. “That kid is honestly almost to the respect [level] of talking about one of the greatest,” Lil Wayne said. “Like how we talk about Big, he’s almost that and he ain’t dropped. He don’t have an album. Then he’s singing — that takes away from the respect of an artist. So for him to do it and maintain that respect and maintain that popularity, I think that’s enough said. But I heard him a long time ago. When I heard him, I said, ‘He needs to be in my clique to make me stronger. Let’s go!’ ”

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#2 – Lil’ Wayne

Why He’s Hot: 2007’s Hottest MC in the Game, Lil Wayne, has been in the top three of the Hottest MCs list three years running on account of his consistently powerful skills on the mic and perennially enormous impact.

Even without an album release in 2009, Weezy’s rep and influence continued to grow, owing to his status as rap’s most active and lucrative touring act, the rise of his Young Money crew of newcomers, and his armor-piercing punchlines on guest appearances.

Just one example of his lyrical marksmanship can be found in Jadakiss’ “Death Wish”: “I’m from the mecca of the reckless/ With a record-breaking debt list/ The wreckers and neglectors think the election won’t affect us,” Wayne raps about his hometown of New Orleans. “I’m knockin’ n—as down this year, I’m on my timber sh–/ Big lion growl at you n—as/ On that Simba sh–.”

Over the past year, the big lion tore up the road for nearly 80 dates on his “I Am Music” and “Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival” tours, which banked slightly over $42 million — a record for a hip-hop act, according to Pollstar. Wayne’s show was must-see as he exploded onstage with spectacles such as a live band whose members were suspended in the air, sexy dancers, his guitar (heh heh!) and his most important weapon, his charisma. With his swinging dreads, tattooed body and insurgent attitude, Weezy’s stage command was practically a religious experience for fans as he infused rock, pop and all his hip-hop blockbusters into his live set.

Co-Signer: Diddy. “I nod my head to Wayne, I tip my hat to him. I told him at the BET Awards. I said, ‘You doing the new generation of Bad Boy. You’re doing what we did back in ’94, that’s really creating a movement. I tip my hat to him, but now I gotta watch him because he’s competition. But he’s doing his thing. He’s gone from artist to label mogul, so you have to give him his respect.”

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#1 – Jay-Z

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.

MTV News’ Greatest MC of All Time 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.”

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.”

So Jay’s #1, but where the fuck was Eminem?

10. Raekwon
09. 50 Cent
08. Fabolous
07. Young Jeezy
06. Gucci Mane
05. Rick Ross
04. Kanye West
03. Drake
02. Lil’ Wayne
01. Jay-Z

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