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Summer 2001 Banner 10000140
brought to you by: EspreeNet News Service
Published June 5, 2002

Who's Running The Rap Game?

Lucy Sanchez
EspreeNet News Service

PISCATAWAY, NJ -- Record sales, billboard charts and of course personal CD collections are reflecting the rapid change in the voice of the hip-hop community. You can do the Harlem Shake, Bankhead Bounce and swing your shirt up like a helicopter all in one night.

So what happened? And who do hip-hop fans really think is running the rap game?

According to Billboard Music Charts artists from the South are dominating the top hits for the month of May. Cee-Lo, Big Moe, Ludacris, Nappy Roots, Big Tymers, C-Murder, Ali and the Ying Yang Twins lead as the best selling R&B/Hip-Hop albums throughout the month. The only artists representing the East Coast were Jay-Z, Nas and Ja Rule.

NY: Birthplace of Rap

Some may argue that hip-hop artists other than New Yorkers have been staking their claim to the throne for a long time. However, radio stations just haven't been given them the same airplay or respect.

"Rap is something that New Yorkers originated," said Kenney Dennard. "For a long time, people wouldn't accept anybody else. New Yorkers invented MCing."

Dennard, an Atlanta, Ga. resident said that although New York may have set the trend in the rap game, the hip-hop community is becoming more and more welcoming to artists from different parts of the country. Record labels are also cashing in on this. Artists traditionally known as West Coast or East Coast rappers are signing with their so-called rivals. Scarface is now on Def Jam Records, 8Ball is on Bad Boy and Rakim is now being produced by Dre.

"I think every coast has their time to shine," Dennard, 27, added. "When it's their time we have to listen to them. Just like when Master P and Cash Money were hot, everybody listened. When Suge Knight was running things you couldn't get away from West Coast. And now the Dungeon Family, C-Lo and Outkast are doing it. But no matter what, New York will always be in the game."

Hip-Hop Community Flocks To Southern Hospitality

Mark Jolly, 27, of Connecticut says that music should be appreciated for its origin. And although Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Tupac, Big Punisher and Will Smith are among his top five artists, he said Def Jam South is running the rap game today.

"The hottest music out right now would be Ludacris," Jolly added. "Both of his albums have gone multi-platinum and he has an entourage of quality 'rappers' he's associated with."

Jabari Moore, 24, also said the top artists are being produced by the South and have gained the respect of all the coasts.

"The South has been the running the rap game for the last five years," said Moore. "Master P, Cash Money, Outkast, 8-Ball, even back in the day Scarface and the Geto Boys were the pioneers of Southern rap. How many new groups do you hear coming from Pennsylvania or Rhode Island? They're always looking down South - Atlanta and New Orleans for new artists."

He said music videos have had a lot to do with people becoming more open-minded to artists from different Coasts.

"Southern rap hit the map real hard when MTV and BET started coming out with video shows," said Moore. " I think they opened peoples eyes a little. Before you would never hear the Ying Yang twins, but now if you watch videos you're going to see them."

Personal favorites: Is it where they're from or skillz?

Moore said he listens to a little bit of everybody because he was exposed to it while growing up. He was born in Memphis and later lived in Miami, Oakland, Houston and now a resident of New Jersey.

The major difference in the music is what people are looking for, he said. "I think people on the East Coast are listening to it for the lyrics," Moore said, "and down South people are listening to it to get their shake on."

Cedric Morton, 24, agreed. "The South is more animated than the East Coast is," Morton said. "They are more party and dance oriented. Right now the East Coast is more in tuned to having that rich thug appeal and down South is more in tuned to that laid back, wylin' out and having fun style. The same goes for the Midwest. In the West Coast everybody kind of exuberates the lifestyle of that section of the country."

However, Morton said that regardless of where you are from there is one East Coast rapper holding everyone's attention. "Jay-Z is running things across the board," Morton said. "Making him the most accomplished artist for right now that's still hot. He's been hot since '96 and he hasn't cooled off yet. He's gotten better." Morton, a New Jersey resident and aspiring hip-hop artist, said that Jay-Z and Cam' Ron are monopolizing the rap game because they have figured out the secret to success. "The formula is to get respect from the guys and love from the girls," he added.

In other words, the East Coast is "Big Pimping," according to Maryland resident Kevin Phelps.

He said the appeal comes from the lifestyle that Roc-a-fella and Bad Boy records portray. "They are the epitome of ghetto fabulousness," Phelps, 26, said, "because everybody wants to push the Bentley's, live in the phat crib, with all the phat girls, take those lavish vacations and wear all the designer clothes."

P. Diddy leads Phelps list of leaders in today's rap game.

"No matter what you do to P. Diddy," Phelps said, "He always ends up on top. He's like a damn cat using all of his nine lives. Just when you think he's down and out, he goes through some type of renaissance."

P. Diddy & Bad Boys just released "We Invented The Remix Vol. 1" and it has topped the Billboard 200 LP chart for a week. The LP sold over 255,000 copies in its first week, according to www.rockonthenet.com.

Regardless of what Coast you are from and who you may personally think is running the rap game, one thing is a fact - the sound of hip-hop has definitely changed and people like it.

"People are more ready for it now than ever before," Phelps added. "The display of hip-hop and its talents are opening the eyes and ears of America to this type of music."

comments about this story: SanchezL@SoulOfSyracuse.com

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