With the recent signing of teen rapper Diggy Simmons to Atlantic Records, we can’t say we were surprised. After all, the 15-year-old son of hip hop legend Run of the iconic group Run DMC, has some serious rhyme firepower and vision. But he’s not the only youngster to boldly pick up the mic and make some noise. Through the years, there have been multi-platinum pubescent stars (Kriss Kross, ABC, Lil’ Bow Wow); lyrical wonders (Buckshot Shorty of Black Moon, Chi Ali, Illegal, Da Youngstas, Shyheim, Ali Vegas) and girl-powered rhymers (Roxanne Shante, MC Trouble). Still, if Diggy is looking for inspiration for teen rap success, he should look no further than the following talents listed below. But there’s only one stipulation: no one over 16 is admitted. That means the prodigious likes of the Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith (17), Nas (18) and Busta Rhymes (19), who all made their perspective debuts before legal drinking age, didn’t make the cut. Let’s go. —Keith Murphy
7. Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
Age of Debut: 16
Youngest In Charge Verse: “Ain't got time for chitchat/I'm tryin’ to get this money/So get up out my face, you shit-breath dummy…” (“Yahhh!” 2007)
Skill Set: No one ever said Soulja Boy was Nasty Nas… or Bow Wow for that matter. But when it comes to one of rap’s most polarizing acts in recent memory (Just play “Turn My Swag On” around a group of friends and watch the knock down, drag-out arguments ensue), the fact that he led rap into the YouTube age in 2006 by becoming one of the first acts to garner label interest through the powerful video site can not be ignored. Most of the kiddie-friendly tracks on his 2007 major label platinum release SouljaBoyTellem.com were crafted by Soulja himself, a rarity for most older MC’s, much less a kid under 17. He stands as the youngest act to go no. 1 on the singles chart as both an artist and a producer. If Diggy has half of his ambition a dude, he’ll be good.
6. Mobb Deep
Age of Debut: Havoc (16) Prodigy (16)
Youngest In Charge Verse (Havoc): “Follow the crowd or be a leader, take your pick/Now I'm smokin buddha philly blunt style/ A frustrated and confused young juvenile/King of the project blues so I choose to take a piece of the action/But my sober state of mind won't let it happen." ("Peer Pressure," 1993)
Youngest In Charge Verse (Prodigy): “The little P is not to be stepped upon/And if you think so kid then you're dead wrong/Little, far from big, yo a type small kid P, I represent the brothers from Queensbridge/To make a long rhyme short I smoke weed sip a forty…yo fuck the court.” (“Me And My Crew,” 1993)
Skill Set: A flop album and a rash of negative reviews would kill the artistic spirit of most kid rappers. But Mobb Deep wasn’t having it. Sure, Juvenile Hell was an uneven introduction for Havoc and Prodigy. But the raw skill and fuck-you attitude was there. If anything Mobb Deep are a model of patience. After splitting with a shady manager and cutting ties with their label 4th & B’Way, the Queensbridge tandem found a home at Loud Records and recorded the influential hardcore East Coast classic The Infamous (1995).