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Topic: Hip-hop's next star? Here are 10 to watch

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    Boston Globe: Hip Hop Next Star?-Here's 10 to Watch http://p076.ezboard.com/fpoliticalpalacefrm69.showMessage?topicID=213.topic By Ken Capobianco, Globe Correspondent | February 3, 2006 Predicting who's going to break out as the next big hip-hop star is always a roll of the dice. You have to weigh an artist's lyrical dexterity, musical connections, label support, and, of course, raw talent. Add all those things together and then . . . the public decides. For some performers, like the Game -- a limited MC with mighty friends -- all those elements came together last year, making him an overnight success. So, who's this year's Paul Wall or Young Jeezy? Here are 10 to watch: [b:969e3ae8a4]PENELOPE JONES[/b:969e3ae8a4] Out of Nelly's circle of friends, this St. Louis native spent nearly five years behind bars, so her lyrical truths have come the hard way. After getting released, she made a demo that sparked a bidding war thanks to her whip-smart rhyme schemes and taut flow. Jones is pretty green, but she's going to get a big push from her label, Universal, and the buzz on her debut, due in April, is huge. [b:969e3ae8a4]9TH WONDER[/b:969e3ae8a4] You have to hesitate when considering DJ records because buyers respond to MCs first. But 9th Wonder is one of the most inventive producers in hip-hop. His full-time gig is in the band Little Brother. But in the past few years, Wonder has produced tracks for Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z. He brews deeply musical tracks that draw from various genres from straight-up pop to jazz. He's in the studio working on his solo debut, ''Dream Merchant Vol. 2," which will feature turns from Mos Def, Jean Grae, Buckshot, Little Brother, and Sean Price. It'll be on the terrific indie label 6 Hole and could jet Wonder into the top echelon of hip-hop producers. Little Brother plays at Avalon tonight. [b:969e3ae8a4]RHYMEFEST[/b:969e3ae8a4] One of the best-known battle rappers, he has a major label debut, ''Blue Collar" that could be the first big hip-hop record of the year. He co-wrote Kanye West's ''Jesus Walks," and West produces his lead single, ''Brand New." It's a delicious mix of Rhymefest's word wizardry and West's musical might. The MC is known for trying to inject real lyrical skills back into hip-hop, and he has little patience for weak wordsmiths trying to pass themselves off as the hip-hop elite. This is almost a can't-miss. [b:969e3ae8a4]NE-YO[/b:969e3ae8a4] What does it say when a complete unknown's first joint drops in the dead of winter and turns out to be the first smash of the New Year? This 22-year-old singer has confidence and swing. And with a sly, smooth voice, he's poised to be the silky vocalist that MCs call to lay down hooks. He appears on a sharply etched track on Ghostface's upcoming CD, but it's the aptly titled single ''So Sick" that has radio programmers buzzing. If his full-length debut, due Feb. 28, is even close to it on the likability meter, then Ne-Yo may be the one. [b:969e3ae8a4]STAT QUO[/b:969e3ae8a4] The last time Eminem backed an MC as he has this Atlanta native, his name was 50 Cent. Stat has toured with the G-Unit crew and blown hot on mixtapes. His unique flow has also impressed Dr. Dre, who produces a track on Stat Quo's debut, ''Statlanta," due later this year. With Scott Storch behind the board and guest MCs like Scarface, Devin the Dude, and, yep, Stat Quo's boss, word is that ''Statlanta" is on fire. [b:969e3ae8a4]LADY SOVEREIGN[/b:969e3ae8a4] No one has gotten more hype than this diminutive Brit with the titanic mouth. So far, the 19-year-old has proved to be a tart versifier combining a quirky flow with a combative spirit. Last year's EP, ''Vertically Challenged," was just a tasty appetizer to her forthcoming full-length. But even with the mighty Def Jam machine behind her, there is a caveat. American hip-hop fans seem to have trouble adjusting to British accents and linguistic quirks. Tons of people say they love the Streets, but try finding his records on the charts. And the brilliant Dizzee Rascal has fallen off the US radar. Can the Lady break the trend? Find out when her debut drops this summer. [b:969e3ae8a4]MATISYAHU[/b:969e3ae8a4] Yes, his story sounds like something out of an Albert Brooks film. But there's nothing funny about the success of Matisyahu, a Hasidic MC -- with full beard and black fedora -- who has come out of the New York scene to outsell most of his indie peers. His sound is conscious reggae meets hip-hop meets traditional Jewish melodies, which means it's wildly unconventional and utterly original. The 26-year-old (real name Matthew Miller) saw his CD ''Live at Stubb's" jet up the charts last year rising almost into the Top 40 -- phenomenal for an independent release. When his major label debut, ''Youth," is released March 7, oy vey, is it going to be big. Matisyahu plays Avalon Feb. 12. [b:969e3ae8a4]A-TRAK[/b:969e3ae8a4] Since we're talking about those on the cusp, we can't ignore this DJ, who has won the world championship of turntablists five times and is now spinning for Kanye West. Translation: He'll have muscle behind him when he releases his debut this summer with guest spots from West, the Diplomats crew, and Little Brother (they get around). For now, he's got a new DVD out, ''Sunglasses Is a Must," and it gives you an idea of his remarkable skills. [b:969e3ae8a4]ASAMOV[/b:969e3ae8a4] This group led by MCs Therapy, Basic, and J-One-Da is an inventive, lyrically diverse, and musically challenging unit from Florida. It released an overlooked disc, ''And Now . . .," last fall. So much of today's hip-hop is rote, with its cliched tales of street running, that it's great to hear verse brought with wit and style. Not to mention that locals Mr. Lif and Akrobatik make sharp cameos. [b:969e3ae8a4]APATHY[/b:969e3ae8a4] Apathy has been wreaking havoc on the underground for a few years now. Some may recognize him from his work with 7L & Esoteric, but the 25-year-old from Connecticut has signed a deal with Atlantic and will drop a disc later in the year. On March 21, he releases his first major solo record, ''Eastern Philosophy," on the indie Babygrande label. Apathy is from the dank, dirty school of hip-hop that reveres early rap stylings. His aggressive approach and tenacious wordplay have made their mark. He just appeared on Mike Shinoda's Fort Minor record, and there's no doubt people are starting to pay attention.