Let’s take it back to 1998. It’s another brick winter day in the concrete jungles of the East Coast, and an adolescent LaRon Louis James is busy traveling back and forth from his block in Harlem to the outreaches of upstate New York. Jumping in his Acura 2.3 CL, the newly signed Dip Set MC—presenting himself to the world as “Juelz Santana”—is busy transitioning his lifestyle into etched out stories and wordplay for an ever-growing following.
Some would rightfully argue that the best things come out of this bustling city. American muscle cars, trucks and SUVs were bred and born in Detroit. In the hip-hop world, Eminem, represents the Motor City and its 8 Mile to the fullest. Teairra Mari, the newest kid on the R&B scene, pays homage to the cold, sometimes rough and gritty, always raw streets of Michigan. And, just like her Dodge Magnum R/T, she’s 100 percent Detroiter.
Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t know who Xzibit is? Whether you grew up in Los Angeles and heard of him during his early years or you live in some yurt in the craggy wastelands of Kyrgyzstan and saw him on MTV, Xzibit is universally recognized.
Dancehall phenom Sean Paul is riding around town proud these days. Forget his groundbreaking success, or his reign in the game, and never mind the platinum plaques and the Grammy, or the new Escalade ESV and CLS 500 he’s pushing. No, this Caribbean sensation is content knowing he’s fully representing his beloved Jamaica.
“Yeah... we gon’ send this one out to everybody that put mo’ into they cars than they do they relationship. Let’s ride.”
That’s how Ludacris kicks off his hit song “Two Miles an Hour,” with words that prompt a guilty smile.
World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar John Cena is without peer. Not only has he been the Champion of the most dominant professional wrestling circuit in the world, he’s also a bonafide rap artist whose freestyle disses before fights have earned him the respect and adulation of millions of fans. To top it all off, his first album, You Can’t See Me (Sony, 2005), debuted No. 15 on the Billboard charts, and continues to earn the admiration of anybody who thinks that the Italian American’s rapping is just a gimmick.
On the single, “got ur self a…” from 2001’s stillmatic lp (sony, 2001), nas explained a dilemma that continues to plague scores of would-be superstar rappers; should first-time youngsters feature a slew of “famous guest appearances”— or, like nas, refrain from doing so in order to be “crowned the best lyricist?”