bob.jpgWhile many of his classmates were blowing off schoolwork, getting fitted for their caps and gowns, Bobby Ray Simmons (a.k.a. B.O.B.) was dealing with a whole different level of senioritis. Last fall, the Atlanta native secured a deal with the Atlantic-distributed Rebel Rock label—a full half-year before the teenage MC graduated from high school. With his self-titled debut due this fall, B.O.B. is well ahead of the learning curve.

A multitalented rapper/producer, B.O.B. spent his high-school years recording independently as part of a duo called Klinic. When his partner, Swagg, quit the group the summer before his senior year, B.O.B. recorded “Cloud 9,” a soulfully melodic celebration of inebriation, and arranged to debut the song at T.I.’s Club Crucial the week before classes started. The track so impressed local impresario Thomas “TJ” Chapman that he offered to manage the youngster and helped him garner a deal with producer Jim Jonsin (Jamie Foxx, Trick Daddy) and his Rebel Rock label. Now, B.O.B.’s first few months out of high school are being spent prepping not for college or a day job, but for his full-length debut. Talk about pomp and circumstance.



Clyde Carson is down with the MC-as-entrepreneur program. Born and raised in Oakland—and heir to the independent hustle pioneered by Northern Califorefathers like Too $hort and E-40—the young go-getter took a 2001 trip to NYC, where he soaked up the mixtape game. Back in the Bay, he formed a trio, the Team, with fellow indie scenesters Mayne Mannish and Kaz Kyzah, and scored a local radio hit with 2004’s “It’s Gettin’ Hot.” In 2005, he assumed control of local indie label Moe Doe Records, incorporated the It’s Good Beverage Co. and launched his own energy drink (Hyphy Juice, naturally).

These credentials, and his distinctive whisperlike flow, caught the attention of Southern Cali’s current king, The Game, whose backing led to a joint venture between Moe Doe, Black Wall Street and Capitol Records. After more than a year of studio time—long enough for Carson to record guest vocals for artists like Styles P and drop another Team album—Carson’s debut, Theatre Music, is set to hit shelves in January 2008. Led by the synth-driven club bumper “Two Step” (produced by Dr. Dre acolyte Neff-U) and “Doin That,” a duet with newly minted teen sensation Sean Kingston, the album aims to make the 25-year-old paper chaser moe doe than ever.


dp.jpgWhile the South has distinguished itself with numerous innovations during its recent dominance of rap, in at least one respect, it’s just like its East and West Coast predecessors: Its roster of successful female MCs has been pathetically short. But now the Dirty may have not one but two ladies ready to challenge the boys—Diamond and Princess of Atlanta’s Crime Mob.

Alums of A-Town’s Cedar Grove High School (a.k.a. Crunk High, the alma mater of Scrappy and Trillville), the pair first came on the scene in the spring of 2004, while still in school. Their boisterous verses on Crime Mob’s call to riot “Knuck if You Buck” established them as the stars of the group—a role they relished in live performances and videos and continued on the ’06 smash “Rock Yo Hips.” With charisma and experience that belie their youth (Princess, above right, turned 20 this past February; Diamond won’t until next year) and an as-yet-untitled girls-only album in the works, the lovely ladies of Crime Mob seem ready to lead the charge in hip-hop’s battle of the sexes.


With Compton and South Central well established in the national rap consciousness, raspy-, big-voiced Glasses Malone is hoping to make Watts, site of the famed 1965 riots, L.A.’s next hip-hop hotbed.

Gaining local acclaim through mixtapes like White Lightnin’-Stixxs and an affiliation with The Game’s Black Wall Street, Malone caught the eye of former Aftermath A&R Mike Lynn, who signed him to his Sony Urban Music–distributed imprint, Big Ego Entertainment, in 2005. While things moved slowly within the major-label miasma, Malone kept busy, working on mixtapes like Streets of L.A. and his MySpace blog, which ranges from self-promotion to well-thought-out essays on subjects such as Jay-Z’s artistic growth.

This past March, following Mike Lynn’s departure from Sony, the 28-year-old rapper jumped ship to Mack 10’s Cash Money–distributed Hoo-Bangin’ Records. With the DJ Toomp–produced, Akon-featured “Certified” percolating on Los Angeles radio and with a full-length debut, Beach Cruiser, due out this Thanksgiving, Malone’s all set to tell the whole world Watts up.


gucci.jpgDespite a series of pitfalls that would end the career of many a rapper, Gucci Mane remains one of the most talked-about artists in Atlanta. Born in Alabama, the 27-year-old moved to the ATL when he was nine, cutting tracks in local studios as a young teen. In spring 2005, he collaborated with fellow up-and-comer Young Jeezy and came out with a major national hit called “Icy.” A little more than a week before his debut album, Trap House, hit stores in May, though, he was involved in a shooting that resulted in his arrest on murder charges.

While those charges were eventually dropped, Gucci spent the last half of ’05 in jail for an unrelated assault. Released in January ’06, he spent the year rebuilding his buzz, releasing an indie album, Hard to Kill, powered by the underground Atlanta bangers “Pillz” and “Freaky Gurl.” The signs of rebirth caught the attention of Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman, who signed the resilient rapper last December and looks to put out his third album, Back to the Trap House, in October.

Hurdles cleared, Gucci Mane has come full circle in two tumultuous years. Checking out our watches, it’s about his time.

AND DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE TOP 10: Next Up Pt. 1 & Next Up Pt. 2