Oh man. I have a soft spot for up-and-coming New York MCs, especially ones who name check my city so frequently. I distinctly remember hearing “Alphabetical Slaughter” in high school, and telling a friend that Papoose was “like 50 Cent, pre-Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, back when he was still hungry.” Papoose’s track, which was basically him shouting out several words in a row that begin with the same letter, was a blatant rip-off of Big L’s “Ebonics,” except not good. Papoose is now better known for his weird engagement to fellow New York rapper Remy Ma, who has now been in prison for longer than “Lean Back” was on the charts.
The Cool Kids
I saw The Cool Kids open for Pharoahe Monch in New York in 2007, and became utterly convinced that they would be the Next Big Thing in hip-hop. Cut to: five years later, when the duo has released one album to moderate acclaim, and mostly seem to be branching out into solo careers. They had some songs on commercials, and are probably doing pretty well for themselves financially, but from a talent perspective and for sheer crossover appeal, they have to be considered a bit of a flop. I think it was a function of timing: the two met on MySpace, got their first heat before Twitter, and seem to have been snowed under by the Soulja Boys of the world, who better used the internet to their advantage. There’s always hope for the future, but I still can’t figure out why they never got huge.
He was one of XXL’s Top Freshman in 2008, and I’ve heard his name like 6 times since then. That year has some top talent - Curren$y, Kid Cudi, Wale, Blu – and then poor Mickey, whose biggest claim to fame is… that Honda commercial? I don’t know. Another NYC guy that I thought would be huge, who rapped with such force that it seemed like he might spontaneously combust at the end of certain tracks. He’s got some life left in him, evidenced by his multiple mixtapes this year, but I don’t think he’ll ever trend on Twitter like Kendrick Lamar.
Kidding! Just checking if you were still paying attention.
I don't know if it's totally fair to include Banks on this - he had a top-25ish album in 2010, he pops on stuff with G.O.O.D. Music every once in a while, he can still spit. But when I loved G-Unit, as we all did, and owned G-Unit sneakers, as probably less of us did, I thought Banks was unquestionably the best member of the stable and the one poised to break out. Then The Game became too big for the Unit and became a certified star, then Young Buck left and became... I dunno, I assume he's around somewhere. And that left Banks to try and reboot his career about three times. After a while, it becomes harder and harder to reintroduce yourself to hip-hop fans. I think Banks is cursed to be the best lyricist out of that whole conglomerate to just never really pop.
Ah, the aforementioned Sonic The Hedgehog guy. The guy who has probably released more mixtapes in the last week than most rappers do in a career. This is not meant to pile on to a guy who clearly has some psychological issues, and has been in treatment. Nor is it meant to malign a guy who has created more YouTube moments than albums. But when Hamilton hit the scene in about 2006, I thought he was going to change hip-hop. His lyrics were personal, raw, often revelatory and a little weird. He produced new tracks at an incredible rate. His beats had video game noises in them, back when that was still new and cool. And yet – he had one single, “Brooklyn Girls,” which was bubblegum and shallow and cracked the top 100 and disappeared. And then he disappeared too. He’s only 24 years old, and has plenty of time to turn it around, but this seems like a guy destined for obscurity, the guy whose track pops up on your iTunes on shuffle mode and makes you think, “Oh yeah, I really liked him for about a month.”