Thanks to a certain Mr. West, Chief Keef is one of Hip-Hop’s most sought-after talents. The 17-year-old emcee has hardly been in the public’s eye for more than a couple of months, but he has some very big decisions ahead of him. With everybody from Birdman to Rick Ross preparing large, novelty checks to send his way, Keef’s future will be determined in large part by the team that drafts him.
As such, the following 10 rappers have all experienced some degree of success in rap without the bump of a major record deal. Call them employees of smaller, local labels, but technicalities aside, all share a level of success earned without the help of a big-name co-sign. And, since speculation is fun, we paired the artists with major labels that seem best-equipped to help the rappers thrive.
A&Rs, consider this your heads up.
1. Jon Connor
Who Should Sign Him: Shady Records
Bolstered by a team of staunch supporters and the drive of a factory worker with a house-full of kids to feed, The Con man has slowly but surely made his way into the public eye. However, despite being able to craft any type of song you can think of, it almost seems like his penchant for murdering mics and speaking the truth holds the Flint native back from making major moves. That’s why a boost from Marshall’s crew would be a perfect fit. The label’s built on turning lyricists into stars and a hard-nosed Michigan kid like Connor would thrive with guidance from a team who turns talent into hits. — Beware
Who Should Sign Him: G.O.O.D. Music
Chip already has an established history with some of G.O.O.D.’s finest, putting out a number of tracks with Kid Cudi and Big Sean. His merits run deeper than association, though; fans know that Chip is a very talented lyricist with a radio-friendly voice. And he’s done his part as an independent act over the years, slowly but surely building a fan-base. Toss a Chip verse on the next G.O.O.D. Friday release and watch the heads turn. — AJ
Who Should Sign Him: Fool’s Gold
Let’s face it, Bronson is a niche rapper. He doesn’t have radio songs and he probably couldn’t care less about making them. So, finding a legit label that can secure a long-term career for his selective menu of unadulterated Hip-Hop would be key. That’s why Fool’s Gold would be wise to put together some paperwork for Flushing’s favorite wrestling fan. Following the same formula they did with Danny Brown, A-Trak’s label can allow Bam Bam to do Bam Bam, while still watching him flourish in front of an astute audience that can appreciate his wit, as well as the occasional crossover joint he’d inevitably end up on. — Beware
Who Should Sign Him: Interscope Records
Seeing as the Richmond rapper has already shown his knack for crafting hits, more than likely a few major labels are already looking to break off the Heartbreak Kid. However, it’s Jimmy Iovine’s cover-all monster that could actually help this kid blossom into a star. Instead of trying to rush out a debut album right away, Interscope could afford to let Suzie marinate with a substantial signing bonus and plenty of placement opportunities, while an LP properly materialized and the relative new jack’s charisma cultivated. — Beware
5. Don Dada
Who Should Sign Him: CTE
The wildcard of the bunch. G said it best: “A regular dude in South Carolina? Wearing Coogi? Rappin’ in between bites? He’s definitely not coming to you so book a flight, bring a check or cash in advance in small bills only, sign him and look like a genius.” It’s going to take a street label to bring out Don Dada’s best, and even if his style isn’t the same as Young Jeezy or Gangsta Gibbs, whew lord can Dada spit. Any label would be lucky to have him, but CTE would in all likelihood understand him the best, and allow him to keep doing his thing. — AJ
6. Mac Miller
Who Should Sign Him: Columbia
Despite the disappointing coming-out party that was Blue Slide Park, Mac’s most recent work, Macadellic, was one of the more daring projects to drop in 2012. Showcasing a darker, more creative side that few thought the young Pittsburgh MC had, it represented significant growth. If there’s one producer out there who seems capable of working with Miller and taking his craft into even bolder directions, it’d have to be Columbia co-head Rick Rubin. The Double-R has the most diverse catalog on the market, working with pop stars, rock bands and rappers. Wherever the hell Mac wants to take his style over the next 10 years, Rubin seems the man with an eclectic enough background to make it happen. — AJ