30Rap’s 2013 Hip-Hop Summer Draft Picks

After an exciting and eventful NBA draft, we figured it’d be as good a time as any to have a look at some of the most promising rap prospects out there.  These guys aren’t all household names just yet but that’s only a matter of time.  They’ve been making their mark through the mixtape circuit and the industry has taken notice.  So without further ado, here is 30Rap’s 2013 draft class.

1. Joey Bada$$

Hailed as rap’s great hope, Joey Bada$$ has to deal with some lofty expectations.  At 18-years old he’s to carry the torch for hip-hop lyricism at the time when words seem to become less and less important with every passing Waka Flocka Flame mixtape.  His DNA is put together from a nineties New York rhyming template and could easily make him this generation’s biggest star.

2. Freddie Gibbs

Gangsta Gibbs might be the hardest rapper out right now.  What sets him apart from other thugged out rappers is the fact that he’s also firmly positioned in the ‘skilled emcee’-bracket, having both flow and bars to spare.  His work with legendary left-field producer Madlib allowed him to exponentially increase his fan base and transcend the confines of the gangsta rap subgenre.

3. Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire

Don’t forget the muthafuckin’, without that it’s nothin’.

Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire is a many facetted emcee able to put out an ode to drunk driving (Huzzah!), reminisce on more innocent times as a kid (I should be sleepin’) and vividly describe a sci-fi fantasy caper (The Maltese Falcon pr.1 and pt.2) on one tape.  And that’s just scraping the surface.  On follow up mixtape Kismet the psychedelic possibilities of the rhyme game are explored even further.

4. Action Bronson

About 85% Ghostface Killah and 15% Raekwon, Action Bronson takes the crown as the most bugged out, over the top rapper in the game.  Check any one of his videos for proof.  His rhymes are laced with what at first glance appears to be nonsensical imagery and pop-culture references, some more obscure than others and requiring several listens before they fully reveal themselves.

5. Logic

At his best Logic brings to mind Illmatic Nas and Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z, both obvious influences for Young Sinatra.  The mixtapes of the recent Def Jam signee have been all about beats, rhymes and live.  If he can carry over that classic vibe to his major label debut, he could very well end up with a record mentioned in the same breath as the above-mentioned classics.

6. Chance The Rapper

What if The Fresh Prince really did get in some trouble?

Answer: Chance The Rapper.

Chance manages to convey that same ‘looking for a good time and finding trouble’-Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince vibe.  His career basically kickstarted after a 10-day suspension from high school, an event that inspired his debut mixtape.  There’s more death and despair (and drugs) in Chance’s world than Will Smith could ever rhyme about but his enthusiasm is just as contagious.

7. Ab-Soul

The Black Hippy posse, consisting of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul, is the most talented and influential West Coast rap collective since the Hieroglyphics camp.  Lamar and Q already broke into the mainstream and Ab-Soul appears to be next in line.  Both wild and insightful, Ab has charisma in spades.  His look would make Eazy-E proud.

8. Fat Trel

Fat Trel always looks dirty, dangerous and intent on doing whatever he has to do in order to survive.  That’s what he sounds like as well.  Part of Master P’s Louis V Mob and the most prolific member of the Slutty Boyz camp, Trel recently inked a deal with Ricky Rozay’s Maybach Music Group.

9. Ar-Ab

Ar-Ab is your standard looking portly Philadelphia rapper with a beard.  With hood credentials that come by way of getting shot ten times, driving himself to the hospital and getting to rap about the incident afterwards.  Never venturing too far off the street-level track, his hustle is all about the hustle; Ar-Ab is the grimy heir to Beanie Siegel’s throne in the city of beardedly love.

10. Lil’ Dicky

Lil’ Dicky wears his outsider status like a badge of honor.  A Jewish (still an exceptional characteristic in hip-hop) rapper concerned with something other than the trap, like the pressure that comes with trying to lay pipe to the perfect girl after you find out her ex is hung like a moose.  He balances a fine line between comedy and skill, walking it with great bravado.  His debut mixtape, So Hard, is quite possibly the funniest album out right now.

Hall of Game: If it weren’t for those meddling kids!

If it weren’t for those meddling kids!

Hanna Barbara’s Scooby Doo put me onto detectives. From reading all the miraculous tales of Sherlock Holmes, to visiting key stomping grounds for inspector Morse in Oxford, to snickering at the cheesy jokes of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Cabot Cove, a small fishing town in New England with a murder rate that would rival any wartime ravaged city.

Kids, crime and sports, … apparently not all is well all the time in New England. I’m normally very good at picking out the whodunits. But not Aaron Hernandez. I was looking forward to seeing him and Rob Gronkowski dominate for years to come. A tale of two tight ends, and that sort of prosaic future. Instead of the best of times it has become the worst of times.

Could anyone have seen this coming? (Apart from the likes of Matlock, Monk and Marlowe – too bad Belichick doesn’t start with an ‘M’)

In 2007 Hernandez got into a fight when he was at college. A drunken fight, in a bar, a bill dispute. So hands up my esteemed readers if you’ve never gotten so drunk, or so enraged, or so jealous in your late teens or early twenties that didn’t want to punch a guy (if you’re a guy) or pull a woman’s hair (if you’re a woman). (Just to be clear seeing girls dishing out uppercuts and guys pulling mullets – would love to see that too!) Still, I don’t want to make light of the incident. The victim suffered a ruptured eardrum and fighting an causing bodily harm is a crime, rightfully so. But the case got deferred, so in legalese the bar fight got categorized as ‘an incident’.  And legalese can be as murky as a Florida swamp full of gators.

So far, if I were a scout on a detective mission, I would categorize ‘the incident’ as a red herring. However the Hernandez picture gets more hazy with admissions of drug taking right before the 2010 draft. Still, a teenager, difficult background, drugs readily available, he coughs it up like a man and drops in the draft hierarchy. Now I’m really thinking red herring. I’m thinking about drafting the guy. And I’m thinking about the feel good moment at the end, when everything is resolved and the air cleared and the tale of two tight ends ends in Canton. Second chances, Cinderella stories, the American dream, … and all that.

And boy-oh-boy does he play well his first years!

At that point, if I’m a scout, I’m patting myself on the back, relaxing and only cursing at the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI. I’m feeling good about myself. After all, in sports it’s impossible to assemble a complete team without players with checkered pasts. Once again, who is completely, pristinely clean? (Girls will be boys and boys will be girls Manti Te’o? Who let the dogs out Michael Vick? Tom Brady not doing the Samba di Janeiro with Gisele?)

Somewhere out in detective land there’s a bullet with your name on it. Supposedly Aaron Hernandez had a shoe box with a little collection: Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, Safiro Teixeira Furtado, Alexander S. Bradley, Odin Lloyd. There’s speculations, accusations, sensations. Still, a man is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

But on the grid iron that man gets the sack. (… Just in case.) And as a scout/detective I’m now under fire. Why didn’t I see this coming? I knew about the fight and the drugs … so why the hell did I decide the guy worthy of a second chance? Hernandez has a lot of tattoos, why didn’t I ask what they all stand for? Why didn’t I take pictures of them go to the police and ask if there’s gang tats among them? Why didn’t I go through his trash cans? Why didn’t I read his hand palms? Perform frenology? The golden power ball from the pre-crime machine from the movie ‘Minority Report’? Why not use the a hot tub time machine?

How far do you go? I once broke a kid’s arm in the playing ground. (Just for the record, we were both 11 and he had a couple of months on me.) I never did drugs, but I do recall a night with lots of beer, tequila, whisky and some other stuff. I have tattoos, I’m not in a gang. Am I going to kill someone? Well, it’s not in my diary, nor in my long term plans for life. I’m sure Hernandez didn’t lay down his baby child in the cradle, walk towards the fridge for a soda and saw a post-it on the fridge door remembering him to but a bullet in someone.

So what happened? Violence is in him? You can take a boy out of a gang but not the gang out of the boy? He was born evil, like some Stephen King Carrie-character, drenching the blue astroturf of Florida blood red?

Aaron Hernandez was  a family man, a successful athlete. Money wouldn’t be an issue. Fame was all but assured. Do I second guess myself as a scout/detective? No! I rest my case. Anyone can turn to being a murderer in no time. Sometimes the circumstances make it more likely. Still, there are rich murderers. There are murderers who led perfectly happy lives up to the fatal moment. There are murderers who are active in the community. Doctors kill, lawyers do to, architect – oh boy, are they killers, waiters, mechanics, cab drivers, police men, soldiers, …. So, yes, athletes can turn out to be murderers too.

And honestly, honestly, if I had to put my money one year ago on Herandez or Gronkowski being a murderer, well … . Seeing the Gronk dancing after the loss, with his injured arm. Dancing (sorta). Body slamming people. … Well, just saying. Only is always  20-20.

The Hernandez case puzzles me. Why? I don’t blame the scouts, Belichick, the Patriots’ organization. Why ask of them what no police force, no university research in the group can do: define the kill-gene. Why did Aaron do it?

It puzzles me. I need Fred to find me a clue. I need Velma to explain it. I need Daphne to console me (another revelation: I love redheads – perhaps that’ll prevent me from playing for a team with redhead cheerleaders – too risky)/ But most of all I need Shaggy and Scooby to stumble across the answer to the why. Unmask the culprit.

Meanwhile we won’t see Hernandez again. I doubt we’ll see Gronk healthy again. I regret not seeing a new exciting Patriots’ dynasty. I regret not seeing the tale of the two tight ends.

It could have been great team, … if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

– The Journeyman

Hall of Game: wherefore art thou Romo?

It’s in fair Arlington where we lay our scene. Where ancient grudge between cowboys, giants, redskins and eagles, all too often turns to mutiny. Where civil and private money paid for the house that Jerry built. From within these confines two star-crossed lovers spring forth: Antonio Ramiro Romo and the Dallas fan base.

At the end of each season, from the upper balconies of Cowboys Stadium reverberates the same old lament: Romo, oh Romo, wherefore art thou Romo?

There’s no doubt about it: Tony Romo is a hero, … a tragic hero.  No other character can induce the same kind of emotion, ranging from intense (platonic) love and adoration, to utter despair and deep felt sorrow. A dichotomy of feelings shouldn’t be surprising as a tragic hero harbors two personae.

On the one hand there is the enigmatic, desirable Romo: 3-time All-American, heir of the house Jerry built, heartthrob of society (for references contact Simpson, Jessica). Owner of 4 Cowboys careers records, 7 Cowboys season records and 2 Cowboys game records (And the historic Cowboys teams weren’t stacked with slouches.).  Owner of a 95.6 career passer rating, a 64.7% pass completion percentage and 177 touchdowns in what amounts to 7 seasons as NFL starter. Through to the end of his career he will be flirting with a 90% winning percentage in the month of November. The Romo-Witten combination is a QB-TE combo for the ages. His comebacks and highlight plays amount to enough material to fill a DVD-set, with extras. Romo will earn 106 million dollars over a 6-year period. What’s not to like? The kid (well 33 isn’t that old) has the world lying at his feet. Right? How can the above describe anything else than a hero?  

Well, on the other hand there is the listless, bumbling Romo: No rings, no play-off wins, no awards. 91 INT’s to counter his 177 TD’s. 50 fumbles of which 22 were lost. No rings. A non-dramatic but underachieving month of December. His joints which are seemingly held together by duct tape. No rings. His infuriatingly lethargic interviews after heart-breaking losses. And did I mention: no rings.

Sure it’s not all to blame on Romo. There are many factors which contribute to losses and seasons ending after regulation: there’s coaches, the elements, dropped passes, red-hot corners who need interceptions to boost the dollar figure in their free agent contract negotiations, …, the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, the well-meaning friar, Prince Escalus, … the stars and the universe.

So what are Cowboys fans left to do? Seek guidance from the stars? Exchange the salvation army sign in Cowboys Stadium for Fox Mulder’s ‘I want to believe’-poster? Sit through the next season as one would sit through a play? Wanting to believe that this time Romeo and Juliet will live happily ever after? That the tragic hero will be saved from committing suicide; suicide by throwing an interception after the 2 minute warning in game 16 of regulation, trailing by 6 points to a Patriot team led Tim Tebow after Brady left injured at half time?

The tragic hero shows flashes of brilliance and flashes of angst. His self-destruction almost as inevitable as a happy ending is heart-breakingly close by. Still I have one thing for Cowboys fans to mull over when October goes into November and November into December.

Would the Cowboys have been better off with Buffalo’s Fitzpatrick or USC’s Matt Barkley or even Cam Newton? If Romeo got slain within the very first act, there would be no play. Remember, in order to be a tragic hero one first has to be a hero.

– The Journeyman

Hall of Game: enter The Journeyman

If you’re a star and your jersey number is 85, it’s normal that you change your name legally from Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco. It’s no weirder than one of the most penalized NBA-stars changing his name from Ron Artest into Metta World Peace. Because what’s in a name? I’ll tell you. In the brave new world of constant communications:  a lot!

Facebook, Twitter, Commercials, Posters, if you want to be a star, you’ve gotta get your face out there. In sports names often have the equivalent value of brands. We all know Jordans. And we all know Magic. (You’re all thinking about Earvin Johnson now and not the NBA-outfit based in Orlando, am I right?) We all know Big Ben. (Roethlisberger and not the bell in the London, right?) One more for the road: The Kid (Who had Billy and who had Sidney Crosby?).  Nicknames are earned, given by fans and then branded. If you’re Kobe Bryant or David Ortiz you can even make suggestions: Black Mamba or Big Papi any one. A hiccough occurs when your nickname turns out to be The Muscle Hamster. So Doug Martin is feverishly pleading for a more ‘brandable’ name. Hamster cage bedding and chew toys are not the first choice endorsements for an NFL running back. Although a muscle hamster in his wheel could give the Duracel bunny a run for his money. Still, all envy goes out to people like Wayne Gretzky. Who’s  going to complain being dubbed The Great, right.

But the importance of names, brands, labels doesn’t stop at individuals.  Any steamy jazz holes in downtown Salt Lake City? A ‘Dream Team’ winning bronze?  America’s Team lagging behind in viewer ratings? Naming and branding outweigh petty issues like reality. It’s all about forming a community, creating a ‘WE’-feeling. Because ‘US’ is great. And great makes money. Just look at the Red Sox Nation filling up stadiums from sea to shiny sea?

Names and brands are great. But they mean nothing without points, wins, titles, dynasties, legacies. And even though stardom has inserted a morphologically out of place ‘I’ in ‘team’, a team still consists of several players. And I for one am really rooting for the LA Lakers and Miami Heat NOT to make the NBA-finals. Do I hate the Lakers: No!  Do I hate the Heat: No! (I don’t like sweating in summer, but that’s a different kind of heat) Do Black Mambas scare me: No! Neither am I awestruck when meeting a King. Am I Lex Luther who has secretly sprinkled some kryptonite on Dwight Howards yellow and purple shirt shoulder, or Kobe’s ankle socks: No! Why then?  Well, I hate to think that a brand like the Lakers or the Heat can simply buy big names and win championships.

Because it’s not all about the big names, about the players with the cool nicknames, about the big brands and the faces on the commercials, and the soap opera dynasties. Stars and teams have to rely on roleplayers. On grafters who are technically sound, physically able and mentally willing. Think of them as the supporting cast without whom there would be no stars, no stories, no product to sell. They don’t mind the spotlights tracking someone else. They don’t mind being the small change when blockbuster trades are made or salary caps are discussed. At the start of each season they are ready to provide their services to whatever city which be the destination of the plane ticket their agent gives to them.

Only avid fans remember those guys’ names after they’ve done their duty and have moved on. They seldom stick around long enough to get a cool nickname. Nobody wants to brand them. As a group, however, they are provided with a label. Like the early immigrants at Ellis Island were given an ‘americanized’ name, these grafters, these small time earners in the shadows of the big stage get a convenient label. Although it was never planned, I have recently changed jobs for the third time. Always in the same city, always in the same sector. At first I found it annoying that I was always appreciated, but never welcomed into the core team of any company. But now I realize that I just keep learning new stuff, I keep meeting new people, and … I’ve come to realize that I wear my name tag with pride. For I am The Journeyman.

– The Journeyman

**Little is known about The Journeyman, other than his way with words and vast knowledge of sports.  Stay tuned for more entries!**