99.9% of the time I would chose to change places with a rapper. There is something about the lifestyle of luxury cars, duffle bags of money, Crystal filled hot tubs and making like ten grand to hang out in the VIP section of a night club for 15 min. that appeals to me. However, there is that 0.01% of the time that I would turn down that offer, and here are 10 reasons why:
TEN: Ja Rule
At the turn of the century Ja Rule owned the radio & charts and collaborated with some of the biggest stars in the industry (J Lo, Mary J. Blige, etc.), by 2003 he was a laughingstock, crushed by 50 Cent and unable to leave his home without being mocked for “sounding like Cookie Monster.” Despite near constant rumors of a comeback he appears to be semi-retired and appears as a minor character in one of the least watched reality shows on VH1 (“Gotti’s Way”). How the mighty have fallen.
NINE: R.A. The Rugged Man
By his own admission, R.A. The Rugged Man is “mad famous for being unknown,” which is mainly because he originated the “white trash/crazy-white-guy” persona popularized by Eminem almost a decade before the release of “The Slim Shady LP.” And while real Hip-Hop fanatics know he collaborated with Biggie (“C*nt Renaissance”), made several classic “White Label” releases in the late 90’s indie scene, was instrumental in the start of Rawkus records, released 2004’s criminally slept on “Die Rugged Man Die” and routinely murders the competition on guest appearances he remains largely unknown and has received none of the recognition he deserves.
EIGHT: Charles Hamilton
For the last couple of years this kid was supposed to be one of the hottest young rappers coming up. In the last six months he has had his album release pushed back (big surprise), lost several battles, angered industry veterans, failed to make a single that aroused fan interest, got punched by a girl on the internet and stated a deceased producer that he never met executive-produced his still-unreleased debut album that has caused him to receive death threats and warnings to stay out of the entire Mid-Western area of the United States. I want to believe Charles Hamilton can still deliver and become a star, but with all this stacked against him it looks like he’s about to be more Canibus than DMX.
A decade ago Dark Man X was the center of the rap universe, his energetic flow, insane stage presence and ability to balance street records with club/pop songs was unparalleled and he was a serious contender for Jay-Z’s King of NY title. It is unbelievable what 10 years, dozens of arrests, two weak albums, an extended hiatus and probably millions of dollars worth of narcotics can change. DMX has a record so long he has actually had to miss court dates in one state because he was attending court in another state, he has been in and out of drug rehab and has recently been incarcerated in a facility that forced him to wear a pink jumpsuit (people become less violent when wearing pink, it’s a known fact, ask Charles Hamilton). Of everybody on this list, DMX is the only rapper that didn’t think he would be on top forever. He stated “I’m not greedy, all I want is a five year run” and that’s exactly what he got, in 1998 he was on top of the world and by 2003 it was basically over for the dog.
I am a Jay-Z fan and I don’t have any idea what happened between these guys, but it’s hard not to feel a little bad for Jaz-O. Twenty years ago Jaz got a record deal, released the novelty single “Hawaiian Sophie” and put his little homey Jay-Z on the track (check youtube for the video if you haven’t seen it), since then his protégé has gone on to become the biggest star in Hip-Hop, the richest rapper ever (according to Forbes new list) and an international icon while Jaz-O continues to make mixtape records and internet-only videos. To further rub salt in his wounds, Hov continues to take jabs at his former mentor, including the rumored intro to the upcoming “Blue Print 3.” (NOTE: I find it hard to believe that the trust fund/hipster crowd at the Palms in Las Vegas have any idea who Jaz-O is therefore could not really appreciate the freestyle Hov delivered there the other night).
If Shia Lebeouf gets his wish and produces and acts in a Cage biopic the story is so incredibly unfortunate that Hollywood producers will likely doctor-up the facts in order to get a wide release. Born in Germany to a physically and mentally abusive, heroin addicted father that was kicked out of the military for selling dope to other soldiers, Chris Palko moved back to NY, had several abusive step fathers, was institutionalized for various mental disorders, was part of the initial group of American test patients for Prozac, became addicted to harder drugs, released several classic singles in the NYC underground of the late 90’s, watched his one time rival Eminem become the biggest celebrity in the world, supposedly got scammed by Eastern Conference records, experienced several drug relapses, the death of his best friend (Camu Tao) and continually gets hated on for maturing as an artist. While these experiences have lead to some amazing music for Cage the artist, it’s hard to argue it’s been worth it for Chris Palko the man.
FOUR: Joe Budden
Joe Budden is the poster-boy for today’s Mad Rapper. In 2003 he had a hot single and was about to be Def Jam’s new MVP, unfortunately Jay-Z jacked the “Pump It Up” beat and delivered a blistering verse about obscure NBA players (JR Rider, Harold Miner, etc.) that completely stole the show from Joey Jumpoff. Following the flop of his self-titled debut (NOTE: Fans that actually bought the album and critics really liked it) he spent several years in label limbo battling drug use and depression. In 2007, he returned to the game sans Def Jam and released the “Mood Muzik” mixtapes, which depending on your penchant for soul-searching musings on depression from a bi-polar drug addict (I like it) were either classics or trash. In 2009, things started to look up for Joe with a buzz surrounding www.joebuddentv.com and the formation of lyrical supergroup Slaughterhouse, however, Joe has responded to this second chance at fortune and fame by upsetting Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Redman and currently is the subject of diss record by Wu- Tang’s Inspectah Deck. This fall from grace is truly remarkable; he went from being dissed by one of the top 5 mc’s of all time to being verbally abused by the 7th or 8th best guy in Wu-Tang.
THREE: Trick Daddy
The upside of Trick Daddy’s career is that he has turned virtually no talent into a string of hit singles, respectable album sales, a decade of stardom and probably getting to bang Trina. The downside is that he has been diagnosed with lupus (which automatically makes him a candidate for “Sickest Rapper Alive”), is rumored to have AIDS, recently had the beard beaten off of his face at a strip club (Google this mug shot if you haven’t seen it), and watch the rest of Miami (DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Pitbull) blow up and leave him in the dust.
TWO: Young Berg
Young Berg has crammed enough failure into two years to last most artists whole careers. In the 24 months since “Sexy Lady” debuted on the radio this kid has been robbed multiple times, released an EP (an EP? Really? Why didn’t somebody tell him it’s not 1987? He should have went all the way retro an put out a cassette-only Maxi-Single), angered nearly every African American women alive with his now infamous “No Dark Butts” comment and has had his ridiculous Transformers chain go on tour without him all over the world like some kind of Hip-Hop Stanley Cup. Honestly, with the exception of his work on Ray-J’s bangin’ “Sexy Can I” (which, let’s keep it real, would have been hot without him) Young Berg’s career has been one massive lesson in how not to become a player in the industry.
ONE: Prodigy from Mobb Deep
After releasing three classic albums in the late 90’s Prodigy life has been full of more L’s than Meth & Red’s tour bus. He suffers from sickle cell anemia, was called out by 2pac (who died before P could respond), has been dissed by Jay-Z, released a few wack solo albums, a few more disappointing group efforts, got robbed and stripped naked by Tru Life, signed to G-Unit and was promptly the first flop the label ever released, is currently serving prison time for carrying weapons, is rumored to have a drug habit and in a “Loser’s Bracket” match-up was recently lyrically battered by Joe Budden. It is almost inconceivable that this guy finds the will to live.
They say to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it, and I think it’s safe to say these guys should have stayed regular dudes, but who knows?