Show & Prove: Kap G, D.R.A.M. and Skizzy Mars
Show & Prove is our section in the magazine where we highlight which rappers are hot in hip-hop now. Many who have appeared in our Show & Prove section have gone on to launch successful music careers. With the goal to bring our hand-picked selections online, here are the stories from Kap G, D.R.A.M. and Skizzy Mars. Check out our Summer 2015 issue featuring the 2015 XXL Freshman Class right here, and the issue is available on newsstands now.
Kap G is quickly becoming one of the new faces of hip-hop. The 20-year-old Mexican-American earned national attention in April of 2015, after appearing on CNN to discuss his song, “La Policia (Remix)” featuring T.I. and David Banner. The timely record touched on the ongoing issues of police brutality and racial profiling in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, killed in the back of a police van in Baltimore that month.
Born and raised in Atlanta’s College Park neighborhood to Mexican parents, Kap, a.k.a. George Ramirez, began rapping his sophomore year of high school. After receiving his diploma, the aspiring MC ruled out college to focus on his rap career. “I knew college wasn’t for me,” he remembers. “I just couldn’t do the regular 9-5, so I got determined and made the effort.”
Eager to get his story heard, the dedicated rhymer spent countless hours recording in the studio while keeping his name relevant in the Atlanta rap scene. By 2012, Kap drew the interest of listeners with his record “Tatted Like Amigos” featuring Chief Keef, which was remixed by Wiz Khalifa. The song’s success, along with Kap’s unique story, led Atlantic Records to sign the College Park rapper in late 2012. “He has a story that no one can tell except for him,” says Kawan “KP” Prather, former Atlantic A&R and current President of Pharrell’s i am OTHER Records. “We’re finding out every day that [his] limits keep peeling away.”
By March of 2014, Kap released his first solo mixtape, Like A Mexican. Boosted by production from Pharrell Williams, who Kap met through KP, the story of a first generation Mexican-American spoke to a whole new audience of young American Latinos. “I had to come out different,” Kap says about the tape. “I had to pour everything out that people needed to hear.”
Now, with an eight-song project set to drop in August called El Southside and a role in the new film Dope, the Atlanta rapper seeks to make an impact like no other. “I want to open doors for all my Latinos and be a legend one day,” he says. “For Atlanta and the whole rap game.” —Roger Krastz
The right dance paired with a catchy song has helped kick start the careers of many, and the latest MC capitalizing on the craze is Virginia native D.R.A.M. After dropping his Cuban dance-inspired record “Cha Cha” last fall, D.R.A.M. recently caught the attention of celebs including Snoop Dogg, Travi$ Scott and Beyoncé, all of whom posted about their love for the track and jig on Instagram. Those big co-signs have helped catapult “Cha Cha” to success on SoundCloud and YouTube.
Born on a military base in Germany, D.R.A.M. a.k.a. Shelley Massenburg-Smith’s family moved around the U.S. a bit before landing at his grandparents’ when he was seven. There the aspiring MC got into his first musical endeavor as a member of his local church choir. It wasn’t until middle school that D.R.A.M. began rapping. “In eighth grade, we started off with [Clipse’s] ‘Grindin’’ beat and we were just doing two-liners,” he says. “Then I started writing bars.”
At 17, D.R.A.M. started a rap group with friends called Burna Squad, which lasted for a year before disbanding in 2006. Unsure if he wanted to focus on hip-hop or not, D.R.A.M. enrolled at Kentucky State College in 2007, but poor grades forced the rap rookie to drop out in his freshman year. Over the next six years D.R.A.M. found himself working at a call center and as a videographer, shooting videos for local clubs and events in Virginia while trying to improve his rap skills and learn to craft beats. After losing his camera in 2014, the aspiring MC took that as a sign that it was time to focus exclusively on music and in September of that year he released his debut mixtape, #1EPICsummer. The tape’s breakout single “Cha Cha” spread locally almost immediately. “Everything within [his] music is very genuine,” says Saint Louis, Co-Founder and Brand Strategist of GFC New York. “There’s nothing manufactured or polished. It’s straight up, no preservatives.”
Now, the unsigned rapper is prepping #1EPICsequel project and aiming for a fall 2015 release. With everyone dancing along, D.R.A.M. assures this is only his introduction. “I see myself being able to do whatever I want on all forms of media,” he says. “A mogul, nothing less.” —Miranda J.
Though it’s the epitome of high society, Manhattan’s Upper East Side has never been a hotbed of hip-hop. Yet Skizzy Mars is looking to change all that. The young MC has been steadily building his buzz since his first single “Douchebag” took off in 2011, leading to national tours opening for Jeezy, Logic and G-Eazy and a major release, The Red Balloon Project EP, this February. Not bad for someone who is still only 22.
Mars’ music bridges the genres of hip-hop, pop and R&B as seamlessly as he navigates the two worlds from which he hails. Born in Harlem, Mars, real name Myles Mills, attended prestigious private schools in Manhattan, giving him a more eclectic set of influences than many of his hip-hop peers.
“It was just like day and night...but it helped me be exposed to bands I wouldn’t necessarily know because my friends were listening to them,” Mars explains. “Then in Harlem there’s always music playing, like blaring from car speakers, so it was kind of inevitable that I’d have both those influences from the way I grew up.”
After absorbing everything from indie music to 1990s alternative rock and identifying with Kanye West’s Graduation, Mars began laying down verses on his computer at age 15. Two years later he recorded “Douchebag” with a friend and found the courage to email it to blogs in May 2011, picking up some real traction and sending its YouTube views to well over a million. His follow up song, “Profound,” caught the ears of labels and he began working with Atlantic Records in early 2015. Two mixtapes—2013’s Phases and 2014’s Pace—built his name, as did features with G-Eazy and a dynamic live show developed by watching videos of Wiz Khalifa and Theophilus London on YouTube. The Red Balloon Project would debut at No. 4 on Billboard’s Rap Albums Chart in February, preceding Mars’ first sold-out headlining tour later that month.
“There’s a lot of artists that catch a hit early but haven’t actually put in that time and established that foundation,” says Jeff Vaughn, Senior Director of A&R at Artist Publishing Group, who works with Mars at Atlantic. “Skizzy’s taken his time and hasn’t skipped steps.”
Now, Mars is ready to dive into the studio to work on his debut album, with plans to drop sporadic singles all summer to build anticipation. As of now there’s no release date, but the rapper likes to surprise his fans. “When it’s ready,” he says, “it’ll be classic.” —Sidney Madden