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For hip-hop artists, becoming “the boss” is one of the Top 2 reasons they have for pursuing their craft (1. getting money). But it’s not enough to just be “the boss” in the current climate, you have to be the boss of a winning team and, since everyone is so concerned with staying organic and authentic in 2012, hip-hop currently houses more teams than a March Madness bracket. However, not every team can be a winning team. With the first quarter of 2012 wrapping up, some bosses have stayed the course with a capable crew while others find themselves floating in an ocean of buzz surrounded by a group of yes-men who can’t swim. So which boss is keeping food on the table and which is handing out food-stamps in bulk?:
10. Grand Hustle 2.0
Notable Players: B.o.B, Iggy Azalea, Chip, Trae the truth, D.O.P.E.
Expected in 2012: A joint album and solo albums from T.I., Iggy and B.o.B.
After hustling out of prison and into prescription eyeglasses, T.I. made the most clichéd ex-inmate move imaginable: he started a gang. The recently presented Grand Hustle 2.0 hopes to make waves in places where they speak English funny by recruiting The Rapping Polly Pocket (Australia), the artist formerly known as Chipmunk (U.K.) and Trae the Truth (Texas). Since they haven’t released anything other than an interview it’s hard to judge the potential effects of a group whose second best rapper is B.o.B, but with T.I. at the helm we can be sure that Grand Hustle 2.0 will have ample promotion in the form of reality TV coverage.
9. A$AP Mob
Boss: A$AP Rocky
Notable Players: A$AP Twelvy, Ty Beats
Expected in 2012: Re-release of Live.Love.A$AP and Rocky’s solo album
After building a tremendous amount of buzz from the internets for their Live.Love.A$AP project, the A$AP Mob’s light has begun to dim in 2012. Rocky’s personal brand continues to grow in spite of the fact that it’s beginning to feel like he’s struggling to keep from sounding repetitive, but as long as he keeps doing ‘blog-worthy’ things like calling the XXL Freshmen List “corny as fuck” and beating the shit out of his fans, he’ll be fine. The re-release of Live.Love.A$AP should sell enough copies to ensure that the Mob is well-stocked in 40 oz’s, hopefully keeping them and Rocky focused enough to ensure that he doesn’t accidentally ‘Rolling Paper’ his debut. Other than that, the crew’s most notable accomplishment is going on the Club Paradise tour. Except for Twelvy, he was on an Asher Roth song.
8. Taylor Gang
Boss: Wiz Khalifa
Notable Players: Juicy J, Chevy Woods, Lola Monroe, Amber Rose?
Expected in 2012: A solo album from Wiz
After taking two steps backwards with Rolling Papers, Wiz decided to take one step forward by going back to his Kush & Orange Juice sound on Taylor Allderice, which features every act associated with the Shoe Gang; Wiz’s BFF Chevy Woods; video vixen-turned-singer Lola Monroe; and shouting-extraordinare Juicy J. TGOD may not be the most lyrical group, but expect to hear a lot of their production squad in 2012 when Wiz’s O.N.I.F.C. drops, and on the promised surplus of mixtapes from Juicy J and Chevy Woods.
7. G.O.O.D. Music
Boss: Kanye West
Notable Players: Big Sean, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, John Legend
Expected in 2012: A joint album, solo projects from Big Sean & Pusha T
When he’s not busy designing leather-fetish womens clothing, Kanye West and his group of merry-men have been hard at work on the Unity album which, according to Mannie Fresh, is near completion. Even though Cudi is on his ‘Rebirth’ swag right now and Big Sean gets more and more dated with every performance of Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay, this joint album should light the spark for the solo releases later this year from Sean and everyone’s favorite Playclothes/Cocaine salesman, Pusha T. Now all they have to do is keep Cyhi and his clever quips about YMCMB off Twitter, before they figure out exactly why Gudda Gudda is on the payroll.
6. Bad Boy 2.0? 3.0? 5.0?
Notable Players: French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly, Los, Cassie, Ryan Leslie
Expected in 2012: Solo projects from Cassie, French and MGK
On the surface this group may look less like a “Who’s Who” and more like a “Who’s Left”, but each of these artists come to Diddy with their own fan-base and varied skill set. Cassie can sing; MGK can rap fast; Los can rap for a long time; and French Montana can sell coke while pretending to do the other three. The well-documented Bad-Boy curse may still linger, but since none of the artists are in direct competition with each other the only thing that could possibly stop them is a greedy boss who doesn’t know how to properly manage a career. Oh, wait.
5. Black Hippy Crew
Boss: Kendrick Lamar
Notable Players: ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock
Expected in 2012: Kendrick’s solo album
To nobody’s surprise, Dr. Dre managed to sign California’s Black Hippy Crew to Interscope/Aftermath. Your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, K Dot continues to do no wrong amongst backpackers after releasing Cartoons & Cereal earlier this year while quas-beefing with 2Chainz after dropping a subliminal and then refusing to appear on The Source cover. ScHoolboy Q is still riding the wave from his Habits & Contradictions album wHile continuing to refuse to use a lower cased H, and all three of members will be featured on Kendrick’s debut, Good Kid In A Mad City. Going forward, this group arguably has the brightest future since their skill set is a head above the rest of the “younger generation” in rap.
4. Shady 2.0
Notable Players: Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, 50 Cent, D12
Expected in 2012: A solo album from 50 Cent, Slaughterhouse album
Ever since he’s gotten off the drugs, Eminem has brought new focus to a team with a longer rap sheet than Lil’ B’s discography. Slaughterhouse is finishing up their second studio album while touring, Yelawolf continues to tour while getting regrettable tattoos and 50 Cent’s album gets more and more amazing with every interview he does. Even D12 is still working away, even though it’ll be without Bizarre, who left to start his own movement. If he’s successful, we might see him on the next power rankings! Probably not though, unless he can get his Nicki Minaj tattoo to start rapping for him.
Boss: Tyler The Creator
Notable Players: Hodgy Beats, Frank Ocean, Syd and, I don’t know… 9 other friends?
Expected in 2012: A TV Show, new album from Tyler
For all of their attempted youthful rebellion, you can’t help but love Odd Future. Whether it’s Tyler getting choked out at a Gucci concert or Frank Ocean beefing with Chris Brown on Twitter, they endearingly act like a PR rep’s worst nightmare. Currently on tour and setting up clothing pop-up shops at most stops, Odd Future’s empire continues to grow. Recently released OF Tape Vol. 2 serves as a sign that the spotlight has done nothing to dull their edge and if the ‘Rella’ video is any indication, the Adult Swim show will be full of that edge. Expect Tyler to grumble and growl his way through a few features before dropping the follow-up to Goblin.
Boss: Rick Ross
Notable Players: Meek Mill, Wale, Stalley, Gunplay
Expected in 2012: Solo albums from Ross, Meek and Stalley
The epitome of the word “Boss”, Ricky has positioned himself for a strong 2012 if he can keep his diet game on point. Hopefully he’ll strap on a pair of those Reeboks and hit the elliptical, because he’s sure to be hustling around doing press for God Forgives I Don’t this Spring before overseeing the release of Meek and Stalley’s debut albums. Wale is still riding on his Ambition buzz and touring, and Gunplay took the rolled hundred out of his nose long enough to drop a mixtape making this one of the more well rounded groups of the bunch.
Notable Players: Everyone else.
Expected in 2012: Solo projects from Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Twist, Lil’ Wayne, Bow Wow, Mystikal, Busta Rhymes, Kevin Rudolf, Jay Sean, Chris Richardson, DJ Khaled
Baby’s NFL-sized roster keeps making questionable signing decisions by adding The-Dream and Christina Aguleria’s exes, but you can’t argue with the fact that as long as you can put Drake, Nicki or Wayne on your album (for free), you’re sure to move a few units. Is there dead weight on the roster? Of course, but they’re better off working for a man with tear drop tattoos and appearing on a DJ Khaled song or two instead of getting shelfed by a major label. Realistically, what’s the fifth runner-up on Season Six of American Idol going to do with his life that’s better than working for a grown man who still makes pigeon noises?
That’s my list. Disagree? The comments are below me.