Lord Finesse – Big L = B+
At the top of his game as a dope producer and a feared lyricist, the funky technician introduced the game to Big L. With one album, Lifestyles Ov Da Poor and Dangerous the Harlem representative managed to solidify himself as one of the nicest on the mic. Tracks like “MPV” and classic singles like “Ebonics” still ring off today and left no doubts about his future potential before his untimely death in 1999.
DMX – Drag-On = D
Before the drugs and non-stop embarrassment, DMX was an absolute force in the Rap world, dropping multi-platinum albums, commanding street respect and starring in big budget action flicks alongside Hollywood heavyweights. But when he was handed the keys to the kingdom, Drag couldn’t hold the throne, dropping one gold album and two that failed to chart.
Fat Joe – Big Pun = B+
As a member of the Digging In The Crates crew along side Lord Finesse, fellow BX native Fat Joe decided to get his own next generation MC and introduced the world to Big Pun. Charismatic, clever and flat out sick on the mic, Pun proved to be a true diamond in the rough becoming the first Puerto Rican in Hop-Hop to go platinum with his debut album Capital Punishment. Sadly, passed away suddenly before his sophomore album was released in 2000.
50 Cent – G-Unit = C+
After surviving being shot nine times and being signed by Eminem and cosigned by Dr. Dre, 50 Cent stormed through Hip-Hop like an avalanche. When he set up G-Unit with Lloyd banks, Young Buck and The Game, 50 had three potential protégés from three hot Hip-Hop regions. Every debut album from the three (four including Tony Yayo who would debut after due to prison) managed to go at least platinum, giving him the best batting average of most on this list. However, with Game defecting, Buck going broke and Lloyd in label limbo unable to get any renewed traction, the crew eventually collapsed under the weight of its own internal strife and conflict with all fingers pointing at 50 and no one under the umbrella managing to maintain the momentum. Not a good look.
Nelly – Murphy Lee = F
Nelly had the world on a string. After dropping Country Grammar and going diamond, the Midwest swinger was an instant all-star in the game. With his St Lunatics crew hot on his heels, the people picked the young wordsmith Murphy Lee to carry the torch. But after his Murphy’s Law debut saw platinum sales, Murphy never reemerged with another hit… or album.
Jay-Z – Memphis Bleek = B
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of protégé gone awry would be from the Marcy boys Jay and Bleek. Since Mr. Carter declared Young Memphis the “new, improved Jay-Z” the spotlights been on young Memphis like R. Kelly on kids. And with all of his albums going gold Bleek has had a pretty successful career. His only problem was being proclaimed to be a “new improved” version of one of the greatest MC’s in the history of Hip-Hop, a guy who never went away and continued to put out great music and set trends all through the course of Bleek’s tenure. Talk about mission impossible… Bad set-up by the big homie Jay.
Nas – Quan = F
Platinum plaques, classic albums and longevity along with a rep as one of the most revered lyricist in the culture give Nas a resume with very few peers. So in 2004 on “Just A Moment,” the third single from his album Streets Disciple, he introduced his then protégé Quan with the words ”Here another warrior song from Nasty and Quan/It’s to him I pass the baton to carry this on.” And with him holding his own on the verse and well as the hook, many were eager to see what the Newport News, VA native would bring to the table. But with one shelved album, a lackluster debut in 2009, a slew of mixtapes and no more Nas affiliation, the only thing Quan has produced is disappointment.
Notorious B.I.G. – Lil Cease = D. Lil Kim = A
The Notorious B.I.G. is a certified legend. Blowing up in the 90’s as the franchise artist Puff Daddy’s all-star Bad Boy label, Christopher Wallace and his blend of R&B joints, club bangers, street records and storytelling went from ashy to classy with his debut album Ready To Die. Spreading love the Brooklyn way, Biggie brought his Junior Mafia crew to the forefront with the song “Players Anthem.” Lil Cease and Lil Kim proved to be the standouts with the others never making it to the spotlight. But while Cease only managed to release one album, Kim went on to lead the pack racking up platinum plaques, Grammy awards and acclaim everywhere.
Busta Rhymes – Flipmode Squad = D
An iconic figure in Hip-Hop, Busta has captivated audiences with his top lyricism, stage show, charisma and a catalog of hits along with his relevancy, seem to never end. Forming the Flipmode squad in the 90’s people were eager to see who would emerge from the camp as the next big deal. Rah Digga enjoyed marginal success with Dirty Harriet but Baby Sham floated into obscurity, Rampage The Last Boyscout’s album Death Before Dishonor didn’t have much impact, Lord Have Mercy, who many saw as the clear frontrunner’s debut The Ungodly Hour saw his major label debut shelved indefinitely and Spliff Star has rarely stepped out of his role as Busta’s hype-man.
Lil Wayne – Drake – A+
Perhaps one of the best examples of protégé success to date, Drake was a childhood actor who’s transition into music showed promise but was slow going. Lil Wayne on the other hand had been enjoying rap success since his teenage years, first as a member of The Hot Boyz and next as a solo superstar. At the height of his fame, he cosigned and signed Drake to his Young Money label and effectively set his himself up for the future. Three albums later, Drake is on top of the game as one of the premiere acts in Hip-Hop, racking up awards, sales, magazine covers and acclaim left right and center. Weezy can pretty much kick back and let Drake do his thing for the next decade.
Luda – 2 Chainz = Incomplete
Since coming into the game in the 90’s Ludacris has earned a reputation as a high level spitter and a certified hit-maker loaded with charisma and non-stop star power. Between platinum plaques, movie roles and outshining cats on their own records Luda found time to form his Disturbing Da Peace crew and label. Amongst the crew was Tity Boy, also known as 2 Chainz. After scoring a hit with Duffel Bag Boyz as a member of Playaz Circle, Chainz switched his name and upped his fame becoming the man in the process. The problem is, somewhere along the line, Chainz and Luda had a falling out leading to Chainz doing interviews letting the world know that he had to buy out of his deal to the tune of 100k while Luda, outside of voicing the standard lines about support and pride, has pretty much stayed quiet. Despite the no hard feeling, business-never-personal script they’re both sticking to, you just can’t claim a guy that paid to get away from you.
Cam’ron – Juelz Santana = C-
Cam has been one of the main dudes holding down Harlem since Ma$e’s to the ministry. Cam parlayed his earlier fame from “Horse & Carriage” into the new era with his Diplomats crew aka Dipset, turning it into a full fledged movement. Young, fly and flashy, the slick talking Juelz Santana seemed to embody everything that Cam represented. And with Dipset growing nationwide, the stage was set for Juelz to take the reigns and move the movement forward. His first two albums From Me To U and What The Games Been Missing saw a steady progression in sales but then for some reason, Juelz vanished from the mainstream map. No sign of beef, no negative press just a complete and total, momentum crushing, seemingly self-imposed exile. Stranger things have happened… but not by much. More on this career
if as it develops.
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Passing The Torch: The Best & Worst Hip-Hop Protégés was originally published on theurbandaily.com