GA’s Most Wanted – Rd. 1, Rappers Take Aim at the Crown
It’s been a long journey since OutKast and the Dungeon Family first struggled to put the South and their home state of Georgia on the hip-hop map back in the early 90s, when NYC and L.A. were the dominant forces in rap. Fast-forward some 15 years later and it’s undeniable that Atlanta, GA is hip-hop’s newest capital city. Regarded as the main source for the genre’s most popular music and culture, the landscape provides fans with the latest sounds, slang and dance steps.
In recognition of this shift, XXL will be breaking down the state’s major figures in a weeklong series dubbed, GA’s Most Wanted. Today, we set things off with the voices on the mic. With a slew of the game’s hottest rappers all claiming the same soil as their home; it’s hard to determine who currently wears the crown. With that said, it’s time to list the candidates. Let’s get it! —Jesse Gissen
Since bursting on to the scene a decade ago, fans have watched the Mouf of the South go from throwin’ ’bows to cleanin’ up his act in order to share screen time with Sandra Bullock and Vince Vaughn, among others. Yet, despite his newfound home in Hollywood, the A-town rep—by way of Chicago—returned to his roots with his latest album, Battle of the Sexes, and delivered two of this year’s biggest club bangers, “How Low” and “My Chick Bad,” reminding fans he can still get dirty. With his new single, “Sex Room” climbing up Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Chris Lova Lova is showing fans he’s still got more love to give. Question is how much will they reciprocate, and is that enough to earn him the title of GA’s Most Wanted?
After spending 10 months in federal lockup on gun charges, as well as three additional months in a halfway house, T.I. was finally released last March. The Bankhead native quickly returned to work, and dropped his first track, the aptly titled “I’m Back,” to warn competitors of his arrival. Tip followed that up with his DJ Drama-hosted street disc, Fuck A Mixtape, as well as several guest appearances on big records like his Grand Hustle protégé B.o.B.’s “Bet I Bust,” Jamie Foxx’s “Winners” and Diddy’s “Hello, Good Morning.” With plans to drop his highly anticipated comeback album King Uncaged around the same time as his upcoming movie Takers hits theaters, T.I.P. is set to have a hot summer. But the verdict is still out on how high the mercury will actually rise.
Armed with commanding raspy vocals and certified street-cred, Jeezy took the rap world by storm with his debut LP, Lets Get It: Thug Motivation 101 five summers ago. Two albums (2006’s The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 and 2008’s The Recession) and a multitude of notable mixtapes later, and Jizzle has secured himself a place amongst Atlanta’s elite thanks to his chart-topping dope boy anthems. As of late, the Def Jam artist has assisted on stand out cuts for Rihanna (“Hard) and Drake (“Unforgettable), and hit stages across the world with Jay-Z on The Blueprint 3 Tour. Preparing for his fourth studio effort, Thug Motivation 103, Young released his long-awaited mixtape, Trap or Die 2: By Any Means Necessary with Don Cannon this past May and strapped on a straight jacket for TM103’s first street single, “Lose My Mind.” But can he make fans go crazy enough to earn a seat on the throne?
Over the course of the last two years, Gucci has steadily churned out an unprecedented amount of mixtapes and hit singles that catapulted him into the limelight. With the streets in his corner, the 1017 Brick Squad leader got enough buzz to score placements on songs by some of pop music’s biggest acts—including the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow (Remix),” Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed (Remix)” and Mario’s “Break Up.” That was followed up last December by his first major label LP, The State Vs. Radric Davis. Just two weeks before his album dropped, though, Gooch was sent to jail for a probation violation, but even that couldn’t stop his momentum. Continuing to capitalize off his buzz, he set aside enough songs for The Burrrprint 2 HD, which hit stores last April, while he was still locked up. Upon his release the following month, Gucci got back in the studio and put out a brand new tape, Mr. Zone 6 in June. With plans to give fans another full-length LP in 2010, it’s impossible to undermine GM’s hustle. But is his strong work ethic enough to earn him a place at the top?
Say what you will about the controversial rapper/producer, Soulja Boy but he knows how to put out hit records. Ever since catapulting to stardom in 2007 with his ubiquitous No. 1 song “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” the 19-year-old (he turns 20 on July 28) has been bombarded with critics who wrote him off as simply a one-hit wonder. Proving them wrong, he managed to pen two more Billboard mainstays with last year’s “Turn My Swag On” and “Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” and turned himself into a viable competitor. Sticking to the script that made him famous in the first place, SB maintains a close relationship with his fan base online, where he releases music regularly. His latest sing-along, “Pretty Boy Swag”—a catchy track, likely to appear on his third album, Dre,—is currently putting The A in frenzy.
Along with partner-in-rhyme Andre 3000, Big Boi is regarded as a legend in Atlanta and with good reason. Besides helping to create OutKast’s catalog of classics, the rap vet has been carrying the city on his back, and making music for his fellow ATLiens long before anyone else on the list, besides Three Stacks, of course. But despite all his accolades, Daddy Fat Sax has had a hard time putting out new material, due to turmoil at his former label Jive Records. Luckily he was able to make the move over to Def Jam and finally put out his oft-delayed sophomore solo album, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son on Chico Dusty, which was led by the funky jam, “Shutterbug.” It’s been a while since fans have been able to hear the rapper’s distinct athletic flows, but it seems as if Big Boi hasn’t missed a step.
While he’s regarded by many as one the best lyricist on this list; some can argue that Andre 3000 has no merit to be in the conversation. Throughout the year he’s only released a verse on Ciara’s “Ride (Remix)” and a cover of The Beatles’ “All Together Now” from a Kobe Bryant Nike commercial. Yet, Three Stacks’ talents continue to be in-demand. He’s actively sought after by everyone from Drake to Young Jeezy and there’s no question that if the OutKast rapper revealed today that he’s currently recording a solo disc, fans would react in pandemonium.
B.o.B. has had a phenomenal year. The 2009 XXL Freshman debuted atop the Billboard 200 with his first album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. The multi-talented artist also racked up two No. 1 singles, “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes,” on The Billboard Hot 100. In addition, he recorded several big name collaborations with the likes of T.I. and Eminem, toured with Lupe Fiasco and, after years of patience and a steady grind, has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in both hip-hop and pop. His success may have just begun but you can’t deny the stats.
WAKA FLOCKA FLAME
Trying his hand at rap for the first time last year, Waka Flocka Flame hasn’t had a long time to hone his skills. But that hasn’t stopped the Gucci Mane protégé from releasing two of Atlanta’s biggest smashes—“O Let’s Do It” and “Hard in the Paint.” The former song even attracted hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and Miami boss Rick Ross to hop on the remix. On top of the music, Waka has also made headlines after being gunned down in a botched robbery attempt in January and then getting into a fight with Jeezy’s camp in Walter’s Clothing store. You can’t buy publicity and buzz like that.
Like Waka, Roscoe Dash is another up-and-comer from the ATL with two huge hits under his belt. The first, his Soulja Boy-featured club banger “All The Way Turnt Up,” received so much attention that it got the Mohawked rookie a deal with Interscope. His follow up single, “Show Out”—currently making the rounds on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart—is building the anticipation for Dash’s debut solo album, Ready, Set, Go!, set for release on August 10. With both songs still in heavy rotation, the rambunctious Atlanta-native has proven that he is someone to keep an eye on.