A couple weeks back, Young Jeezy got the most attention he’d gotten in over a year with the signing of blog favorite Freddie Gibbs to his Corporate Thugz Ent. label. The move was seen as a shrewd one for Jeezy because not only is Gibbs a really great rapper with a bubbling underground fanbase and a nostalgic take on Gangster rap but he gives Jeezy something his label has never had. A rapper capable of carving out his own niche without being snugly tucked under the CEO’s wing. U.S.D.A.’s Cold Summer was a shoddily put together weedcarrier showcase that featured Jeezy’s version of Tony Yayo (And one of the worst rappers to ever grace a Def Jam release), Slick Pulla along with Florida rapper Bloodraw (a.k.a. What Jeezy Would Sound Like If He Was 30lbs Heavier And From Florida…And A Lot Less Talented At Rapping) and Bloodraw’s debut “album”, My Life, The True Testimony seemed like an afterthought, released only to justify the existence of the label itself. Jeezy may be a hustler but outside of his own albums, his resume as a record executive is less then impressive.
Across the street, Rick Ross has been flexing his mogul muscle with a new deal at Warner Bros. for his Maybach Music Group and his first couple of acquisitions, Wale, Meek Mill and Pill, are a formidable group, each bringing their own buzz and fanbase to the table. Just last week, Ross added Ohio MC Stalley to MMG’s expanding roster and along with newly R&B songstress Teedra Moses, Boston singer Masspike Miles, Reggae artist Magazeen (Yeah, I SMH too) and Ross’s personal cannabis attachés, the Carol City Cartel (a.k.a Triple C’s a.k.a. Ross’s knockoff version U.S.D.A., who outside of the high yellow cokehead with that weird ass dread thing going on, are even more generic, in that “These niggas must thank God every day that they somehow managed to finagle their way into a record deal” sorta way) Ross has himself quite a stable. Hate on the man all you want, but he’s managed to secure a lane for himself in a sea of rappers spitting similar fare and kept his foot on the necks of the competition for the better part of his career.
Soon after the Gibbs signing, Jeezy released a new song, “Ballin’ featuring Lil’ Wayne”. The track (originally produced by frequent Rick Ross collaborator, Lex Luger but reworked for the final version by Lil’ Lody…another frequent Rick Ross collaborator. *Kanye Shrug*) is another thinly veiled volley in the war of the words that has been going on between the two MC’s since Jeezy released the OTHER B.M.F. themed track from last summer,” The Real B.M.F.” and Ross responded with “The Summer’s Mine“. If you’re gonna go to war, you gotta have soldiers and the 2nd tier members of Jeezy’s crew (Like Florida’s JW and Mississippi rapper Boo Rossini) just aren’t gonna cut it. It appears as if Ross is fortifying his troops. and if Jeezy plans on getting his spot back (And finally being able to release TM103), I think getting a couple of ringers to backup Gangster Gibbs wouldn’t be such a bad idea. So with that, I present to you my top 5 rappers that Young Jeezy should consider signing to CTE*.
Hometown: Meridian, Mississippi
Notable Projects: 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and 2011’s The Return Of 4Eva
Label Status: Signed to Cinematic/Def Jam in May 2010
Chances Of Actually Signing To CTE: 80%
A soulful artist who’s candid honestly perfectly balances his observations of Southern street life, Big K.R.I.T. is emerging as one of the standouts of this year’s XXL Freshmen class. After delivering one critically acclaimed project with last year’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Krizzle followed it up with another one in The Return Of 4Eva, an even more personal work which showed K.R.I.T.’s lyrical progression as well as his maturation as a producer. K.R.I.T.’s sound perfectly captures the Southern Hip-Hop aesthetic and with him already being signed to Def Jam, having him join Jeez and Gibbs as an artist on CTE as well as an in-house beatmaker is a no brainer. K.R.I.T.’s productions would provide the kind of soulful backdrops that Jeezy seems to thrive on and having him helm a Freddie Gibbs album is surely a classic waiting to be recorded. As talented as Big K.R.I.T. is, his brand of Hip-Hop could be overlooked by someone not quite sure what they’re looking for. Sure, touring and being on tracks with guys like Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa raises an artists profile somewhat and the buzz K.R.I.T.’s been receiving online is overwhelming positive, but being affiliated with an artist like Jeezy would help put K.R.I.T. and his music right where they need to be, in front of the masses. This is a deal that can only benefit both parties and it’d be so simple to make happen, I can’t see why this signing hasn’t been announced already.
Hometown: South Central, California
Notable Projects: The Bullets Ain’t Got No Name mixtape series and The Marathon mixtape
Label Status: Formerly signed to Epic Records, currently independent under the All Money In/Cinematic banner
Chances Of Actually Signing To CTE: 65% Chances Of Signing To CTE If Big K.R.I.T. Signs First: 75%
Similar to Young Jeezy, Nipsey Hussle’s independent grind is what led to his deal with Epic Records, who were slated to release his debut album, South Central State Of Mind (Complex got to hear an unfinished version of the album a while back) sometime in 2010. An agile lyricist with a razor tongue to match the weathered rasp of his voice, Nipsey Hussle saw his stock reaching an all time high last year with a couple of high profile appearances and co-signs but when his first official single, “Feeling Myself Feat. Lloyd” underperformed, things stalled and internal shifts brought a change in the staff at Epic which caused Nipsey to seek a release from the label soon after. Nipsey has seen his buzz wane in the months since he graced XXL’s 2010 Freshman cover (which is probably due to conflicts with his label and having to extricate himself from that situation) but if his last tape, The Marathon and songs like “Bigger Then Life” are any indication, he’s been spending his off time in the lab becoming a better artist. By signing Nipsey, Jeezy could finally make a mark on the West Coast scene (Something he’s been trying to do over the years, grooming rookies like 211 and Roccett with very little success, even on an underground level) and Nipsey would give him another artist in the stable with the potential to be a breakout star. Nipsey is signed to Jonny Shipes production company, Cinematic Music Group, along with other artists like Smoke DZA and Big K.R.I.T. With Shipes already in good with Sha Money XL (Former G-Unit Records President and currently Senior Vice President A&R of Island Def Jam Music Group), I could see Def Jam as a potential destination for Nipsey when he decides to play the major label game again and assuming Jeezy, K.R.I.T., Shipes and Sha Money have read this post, taken my excellent advice and made K.R.I.T. a Corporate Thug, I don’t see why Neighborhood Nip wouldn’t be right behind him.
Hometown: Queens, New York
Notable Projects: I Don’t Care (The Mixtape), the indie release, AutoGrafh and the upcoming The Best Of Grafh: Classic Sh*t mixtape
Label Status: Currently independent, acting President of Blackhand Entertainment
Chances Of Actually Signing With CTE: 25%
A veteran on New York’s underground scene, Grafh has been dismantling beats and scaring away lesser MC’s since 2000 and has seen his career go from mixtape darling to signed artist (Grafh had a stint on Epic/Sony) back to the underground grind. A holdout from New York’s lyrical era, when it comes to straight spitting on a technical level, Grafh doesn’t have many peers but it’s the gift and the curse because his lyrically dense verses can go over some listeners heads…those who aren’t really listening, that is. Grafh has the respect of NY’s underground scene and has worked with a laundry list of rappers, including Busta Rhymes, Bun-B, E-40, Jim Jones, etc., and recently he’s been releasing a steady stream of new music seemingly gearing up for one last run at the industry. The “Showin’ Off Again (Roman’s Revenge Freestyle)” posted in the video above is just an example of what Grafh has been doing under the radar for the better part of the last deacde and in a world where Waka Flocka can make a nice living spouting nonsense, an MC as talented as Grafh should be able to eat too. A rapper’s rapper, meaning he can carry a narrative and create a mood as well as just go ape shit bananas and black out over an instrumental, it’s Grafh’s versatility that’s his greatest strength and I can easily see him comfortably standing alongside an equally talented MC like Gibbs. Jeezy needs to round out his label with rappers as well as gangsters and if nothing else, Grafh has proven he’s a rapper that can hold his own with anyone around, all he needs is the right team behind him and the proper look.
Hometown: Harlem, New York
Notable Projects: Digital Hustle and In My Own World mixtapes and appearances on Cam’ron’s Public Enemy #1 mixtape
Label Status: Currently signed to his own Deep In the Game Ent. imprint
Chances Of Actually Signing To CTE: 25%
Purple City affiliate A-Mafia first popped up alongside Cam’ron on Cam’s 2CD mixtape, Public Enemy #1 with a couple of stand out performances but right as he was starting to pick up a buzz he disappeared just as quick after catching a drug charge. During his time locked up, the status quo within the Diplomats changed and it appeared as if every man was for himself. Not one to wait for anyone else, upon his release last year, Mafia has been staying out of trouble and getting his grind on, bringing his block hustle to the internet, putting out mixtape after mixtape, video after video and has quietly managed to etch out his own niche independent from what Cam, Jimmy and Juelz have going on, something other 2nd string Diplomats like Hell Rell and J.R. Writer haven’t been as successful doing (I swear I saw 40 Cal. boosting Easter candy from the Duane Reade on 125th and 8th last week…but I could be wrong). With a brash confidence to go along with a straightforward style that mixes deadpan humor and a no nonsense East Coast flow, Mafia spits that street shit from real life experience. While he’s not the most lyrical, Mafia gives off an aura of authenticity and his cred in the streets is certified, important when choosing potential crew members (AlfaMega anyone?). Jeezy’s in the market for goons and A-Mafia with his Harlem ties could be a potentially strong link in the chain.
And my “Amp, GTFOHWTB Pick” goes to….
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Notable Projects: 2008’s Look What You Made Me, The Love Project and Mr. Ward mixtapes
Label Status: Formerly signed to Epic Records, currently independent
Chances Of Actually Signing To CTE: Slim to none
Alright, I know what you’re thinking to yourself right now. Amp, get the fuck outta here with that bullshit. But hold on a sec, let me at least plead my case.
Yes, Yung Berg is potentially one of the greatest assholes to pick up a microphone. If he isn’t getting his chain snatched or putting his foot in his mouth, he’s either getting introduced to the “Hand Of God” by Maino or having pics of his “Yung Boss” plastered all over MediaTakeOut. It’s always something with Yung Berg. Fucked up thing is, if he could avoid the fuckery for an extended period of time, maybe people will remember that he’s actually kinda talented. Back in ’07/’08, Berg scored a couple of hit songs with “Sexy Lady” and Sexy Can I” and “The Business Feat. Casha” was a platinum selling single. He came in the game under his own steam, he’s never actually bricked and he has some hit records on his resume, still his antics outside of the studio have stifled his career and cost him his record deal. All the dumb shit aside, Berg has a knack for coming up with catchy Auto-Tuned songs for the ladies and if he produces as much of his own music as he claims to, his talent for creating Pop music could help an artist who isn’t easily marketable to the mainstream get some spins on Top 40 radio. This kid has racked up more then his fair share of L’s (I swear I saw a pic of Charlie Sheen with a Paul Wall grill, rocking that Transformer chain and throwing up the W. For “Winning!” of course) but he’s managed to survive all the adversity and remain relevant in the game despite not having a proper single out in years. Yung Berg knows 99% of his fans wear high heels and even though I’ve always believed that if he’d tone down his asshole factor just a little bit, he’d get over that much more, I’ve gotta give it up to lil’ dude. Through all the baggage that’s become attached to his name, he’s never seemed to lose his confidence and his music remains as arrogant as it was from day one with “Sexy Lady” and to some extent, that’s part of his appeal. His style is equal parts Hip-Hop and R&B and Berg has an ear for melodies and has shown he’s as adept at writing R&B as he is making raunchy music for the clubs. A little guidance (and protection) would go a long way for an artist like Berg who’s been in the game for years and has yet to come close to his potential. Even if Jeezy doesn’t sign him (which he probably won’t), eventually, someone will because as big of a dick as Yung Berg can be, dude knows how to make hit records. That’s equivalent to being a 7 footer in the NBA. You can’t teach that.