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A Guide to 2012 Rap Signings

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A brief rundown on 2012's top rap signees and the labels they call home. In no particular order...

Chief Keef

Chief Keef rose to prominence on the back of "I Don't Like," which racked up an insane amount of YouTube views. And since YouTube popularity is the arbitrary measure of potential (can you tell I'm being sarcastic?), Interscope scooped him up and offered him the universe. Keef's I-Scope package reportedly includes: a movie deal, a label deal, and a line of headphones called...I kid you not...Beats by Keef.

Azealia Banks

Label: Universal Music
Hometown: Harlem, NY

Interscope snagged her a day after I bragged about her right here. Turns out people read these things after all. But it's not like Azealia Banks is a newbie looking for some rap nerd's cosign. Before "212" and Twitter beefs, she had a short stint at XL Recordings where things went south fast. Here's hoping for better days at UMG because Miss Banks can rap pashmina shawls around her peers.

Iggy Azalea

Hometown: Australia/California
Label: Grand Hustle

Interscope boss Jimmy Iovine dubbed her "the next Tupac." T.I. gave her a deal because she told him he'd be stupid not to (“I think her exact words were: ‘It’s very smart of you to call me because I’m going to be smashing sh– for quite some time now and no one will be able to breathe if they’re not on my team. So it’s good that you’ll be here, so you’ll have oxygen.”) So shove your opinion of Iggy Azalea's actual rap talent in the place where the sun doesn't shine. You see a bile of doo doo; they see $$.

Mr. Muthaf---in' eXquire

Hometown: Brooklyn
Label: Universal Republic

Mr. Can't-Print-His-Full-Name-Here eXquire caught everyone's attention with last year's Lost in Translation, which showcased a donkalicious woman on its cover and even more explicit stuff in the actual music. "Huzzah" was a clear standout. This year, eX guaranteed we'll be getting more gems from his vault of weirdly awesome tunes by signing to Universal Republic.

King Louie

Hometown: Chicago
Label: Epic Records

It's tempting to dismiss King Louie as another Chicago rapper getting swept up in the wave of major deals. That's far from the truth. King L has been perfecting his sound -- a blend of street raps and bombastic drums Chicagoans call "trap" -- for about seven years now. He was selling music out of his trunk until Epic called and said "We'll take it from here, thank you. You can go back to storing groceries in your trunk." His major debut, Dope & Shrimp, is set for 2019 or something like that.

Snow tha Product

Hometown: California
Label: Atlantic

A brief bio. Raised in Cali. Lives in Texas. And if folks stopped wondering if she's white or latina, they might notice what she is -- talented. Snow has this honey-vs-vinegar thing going for her (go listen to "Drunk Love" and "Holy Sh!t" in that order). She's trying to woo the fellas and the ladies at the same damn time.

Los

Hometown: Baltimore
Label: Bad Boy

Diddy has been quietly rebooting Bad Boy imprint for a minute. First he added Machine Gun Kelly. Then French Montana. Then Los. No, there's no Biggie or Ma$e in that lineup. What Los brings to Bad Boy and to music, according to Diddy, is a youthful energy. And that's an important thing to have on your side when you've been in hip-hop for as long as Puff has. Los has definitely done his share to keep his buzz going. He's dropped a bevy of tapes and managed to hold his own alongside veteran emcees like DMX and Twista.

Cash Out

Hometown: Georgia
Label: Epic Records

You know that moment when Samuel L Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction realizes that he'd literally dodged bullets and suddenly decides it's a sign to do turn on a new leaf? For John Gibson (aka Cash Out), his divine sign arrived when he was acquitted of a gun charge in Georgia. He decided to focus on rap. Luckily for Cash Out, Epic boss L.A. Reid heard an old song titled "Cashin' Out" and requested a meeting. At the meeting, Cash Out performed another song called "Smilin' in My Face." Reid was sold. Gibson signed a deal with Epic Records in February 2012 and "Cashin' Out" was reissued, this time cracking the Billboard Hot 100 and inspiring a slew of freestyles.

DyMe-A-DuZiN

Hometown: Brooklyn
Label: Warner Bros.

Like most teenagers, DyMe-A-Duzin has a YouTube page. Unlike most teenagers, the 19-year-old also has a sweet major deal with Warner Bros. He's said to be recording new music under the watchful eyes of Kid Cudi collaborators Emile and Plain Pat. In the mean time, go download his latest mixtape, 20=X, also hosted by Plain Pat.

Astro

Hometown: Brooklyn
Label: Epic Records

I can't believe this is the "Stop Looking at My Moms" kid. He turned out to be a fine lyricist. Astro's big break came on the X-Factor, where he wowed with original material and rode his way to the finals. He also managed to piss off a bunch of people when he threw a tantrum on the show. But mentor L.A. Reid saw star potential and gave him a second chance at Epic. Astro has an opportunity to prove him right. If he ever figures out how to control those raging teenage hormones, he could become rap's answer to Justin Bieber.

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