Wednesday, 31 October 2012

7 Lessons to Take Away from Apple’s Marketing Strategy

Yeah, so I know that Apple kind of blew it on the iPhone 5 launch.  It’s not that sales numbers weren’t good (as usual, they were very, very good!).  Instead, Apple screwed up by releasing products that weren’t yet fully-formed – something that never would have occurred in Steve Jobs’ Apple.

However, if we look past these small missteps, there are still plenty of important lessons that can be taken from the way Apple has grown to dominate different elements of both the mobile device and personal computer marketplaces.  These lessons can be applied to just about any business – no matter what your budget is or what industry you’re in.  I hope you find them interesting!

Lesson #1 – Build the products you want to own
When Apple first announced the release of its first generation iPad, industry speculation pretty much doomed the new device to failure.  At the time, there simply wasn’t a market for tablet devices, and those that had been released by PC manufacturers were clunky and failed to differentiate themselves from laptops in a meaningful way.
Obviously, that didn’t stop Apple, who went on to have one of its biggest launches ever with its new tablet device.

The lesson here is that market research doesn’t always give you the full picture – especially if you’re an innovator with a totally new idea.  Before the iPad’s initial launch, consumers couldn’t have answered surveys stating that they would be interested in Apple’s tablet device, simply because similar products hadn’t ever existed in the marketplace.

The bottom line is this: If you have a good idea for a product, don’t be afraid to jump.  Focus on making the types of products that you yourself would like to own, and eventually, the right market will appear.

Lesson #2 – Don’t apologize for charging what you’re worth
Everybody who’s ever stood in line for new Apple releases knows – at least in their rational brains – that they’re going to wind up shelling out the big bucks for the privilege of purchasing the company’s newest products (which may or may not be significantly better than the devices they already own).  But that hasn’t stopped the millions upon millions of people from dropping everything to wait for their own chances to buy.
Apple has never shied away from charging a higher price for its products than what the market might seem to bear.  The company produces a great product and charges appropriately for it – something that’s incredibly rare in a world of undercutting and freemiums.

Of course, Apple has a natural first mover advantage, as its new product lines are often the first ones to market – and thus – the most desirable.  Being the only company with a new product type certainly gives you the flexibility to charge whatever you want for your goods.

However, it isn’t just Apple that can pull off this type of marketing.  Any business owner that has a quality product or service can charge a premium for it – he just has to justify his costs in a way that’s acceptable to consumers.

Personally, I see plenty of undercutting in the world of SEO.  There are always new consultancies forming and new tools being offered at cut-rate prices compared to existing competitors.  But this type of competition has never stopped me from charging exactly what I believe Single Grain’s value to be worth.  Instead, I focus my efforts on helping prospective customers understand why good SEO consulting costs as much as it does, as well as how they’ll benefit from working with my company – even if there are others out there who are charging much less.

Lesson #3 – Cut the clutter
While Apple has absolutely done things right when it comes to implementing sound marketing strategies, there’s no arguing with the fact that the company couldn’t have achieved its dominant industry position without the high quality products needed to back it up.

What makes Apple products so special is – by and large – an interface that’s appealing and easy to use.  Apple doesn’t cram in more features than are absolutely necessary.  Instead, it starts from a pared-down state and then adds back in only the elements that enhance the user experience.

Now, whether you’re a new company or an existing business, it’s always a good idea to pick over your existing products with a fine-toothed comb.  What have you half-assed in the past?  Which elements can be removed without affecting the enjoyment consumers take from using your products?  In plenty of cases, business owners have tried to appease too many people with a single product, resulting in an opportunity to cut back on the clutter and deliver an item that better meets users’ needs.

Lesson #4 – You can’t be everything to everyone
Throughout its tenure in the mobile device market, Apple has been unapologetic about releasing a select number of devices at top price points.  Only recently has the company started releasing lower market versions of some products and allowing previous versions of new models to remain on the shelves following new launches.

When Apple released the iPod, it didn’t set out to create a portable music device for customers in every market.  Instead, it produced a well-designed piece of equipment that, as a result of its pricing strategy, would only appeal to some consumers.

In a way, Apple said “No” to some customers in order to say “Yes” to the right people.  It’s not a strategy that will work for every business, but at least in Apple’s case, it’s resulted in an immense group of “Apple fanboys” who will line up for hours in order to get their hands on the company’s next release.

This lesson can be applied to just about every business out there.  Instead of trying to make everybody happy, isolate your product’s evangelists (that is, those who purchase multiple times and recommend your brand to others) and build a product that these people alone will love.  You might lose a few customers in the process, but the loyalty and referrals you’ll get out of the process should more than make up for a few missed sales.

Lesson #5 – Control your distribution
You can’t just walk into a Radio Shack and purchase an iPhone.  Instead, you’ll need to either work directly with one of Apple’s cellular service partners or head to an Apple Store, where the company has carefully controlled each element of its retail design to create an atmosphere that resonates with Apple’s existing branding.

As a result of this carefully orchestrated supply chain, Apple is able to create the optimal buying environment – one that conveys the company’s branded image and encourages additional purchases through accessory recommendations made by knowledgeable staff.
Business owners can take a lesson from Apple’s playbook on this one as well.  Though the temptation for retailers is often to sell as many products as possible, in as many venues as possible, there’s something to be said about the advantages of keeping things close to home.  Limiting product availability can enhance desirability, rather than a market that’s flooded with similar items.

Lesson #6 – Create a feeling, not a product
Do you remember Apple’s earliest iPod ads?  They rarely talked about product features or benefits (outside of the remarkably catchy tagline, “1,000 songs in your pocket).  Instead, they featured hip, young people dancing to the music that was playing on their new portable music devices.

That concept captured the essence of Apple’s product line and value proposition more than any series of words could have.  They didn’t create an advertisement – they created a feeling that other people wanted to be a part of.  And yep, you better believe it was a success!

As you get ready to sell your own products and services, think about the attitude your offerings convey.  What exactly are customers buying into when they purchase your goods?  While you may not be able to craft as well-defined a feeling as Apple (which certainly benefits from being a high-end consumer product retailer), at least putting some effort into connecting with your customers’ emotional sides will go a long way towards encouraging future sales.

Lesson #7 – Account for all aspects of your product
Have you ever heard of “unboxing?”  Basically, there’s a whole community of Apple buyers out there who film the process of opening their latest purchases and sharing these special moments with others on Youtube.

It sounds crazy, until you consider just how deep Apple’s commitment to good design has gone.  Apple products aren’t just things of beauty – the boxes that they come in have been designed to convey the same exquisite sense of enjoyment.

There’s a great lesson to be had there for other business owners, and that’s the importance of exciting your customer at every step of the buying process.  If you sell a physical product, that means taking into account everything from the atmosphere of your website, to the language you use to describe your product and to the packaging used to deliver your goods.  If you sell a service, you’ll want to carefully analyze your follow-up process to ensure that the same level of excitement and emotional connection carries through to your buyers.

Like I said earlier, mimicking Apple is easier said than done.  Certainly, the company has marketing and R&D budgets that most businesses can only dream of, while their existing popularity with consumers allows them to take risks that might sink other companies.

However, by tapping into the fundamentals of what’s made Apple so successful – for example, it’s commitment to producing quality products and connecting with consumers on an emotional level – it’s possible to apply some of these same lessons to your own company’s products or services in order to bring about a higher level of success than you’ve experienced thus far.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The 15 Best Rappers in Their 40s Who Are Relevant Right Now

Complex have compiled a list of ol'timers that are still hot behind the mic.

It's only a recent development, but for the first time, rap doesn't seem so scared of age anymore. Maybe it's because the genre itself hasn't even been around for four decades, but as hip-hop's lifespan grows, so does its tolerance for older rappers.

There was a time when turning 30 pushed MCs into "old man" territory, but that's changed. As evidenced by our list of the best rappers in their 30s, many of the most popular hip-hop artists of the moment fall into that category. Instead, it's the age of 40 at which a rapper is now considered "old."

What's most remarkable is that, these days, so many MCs remain relevant well into their 40s. Jay-Z got his first No. 1 song at 40. Raekwon is doing songs with Justin Bieber, and he's 42.

15. Diddy

Age: 42
Label: Bad Boy/Interscope
Active Since: 1989

Even at 42, Sean Combs continues to redefine the hip-hop entrepreneur. In late February, Diddy announced plans for the launch of Revolt TV, a music-themed cable network geared towards African-Americans. Then there's the incredibly successful Ciroc brand, which has propelled his net worth to unprecedented heights for rappers.

Musically, Bad Boy Records has been reinvigorated with hot, new talent like Machine Gun Kelly and French Montana, but beyond that, Diddy is actually spitting some really nice rhymes himself. Diddy's guest verses on remixes of Future's "Same Damn Time" and Waka Flocka's "O Let's Do It" have made for some of the most exciting rap moments in recent memory.

14. RZA

Age: 43
Label: Soul Temple
Active Since: 1989

The Wu-Tang Clan isn't the the deadly force it once was, but the Abbot is still making huge moves in the game. He's got a movie he directed (The Man With The Iron Fists) that's coming out soon, but look no further than the film's soundtrack, along with his production credits on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, to see that RZA is still doing the damn thing on the music front.

13. E-40

Age: 44
Label: Heavy On The Grind Entertainment/EMI
Active Since: 1990

40 Water is an original. There was never anyone like him before and there won't be anyone after. But despite being 20 years in the game, he's still as hardworking as ever. He dropped a whopping three albums this year, The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1, 2, and 3 and scored a hit with "Function." Obviously, the Ambassador of the Yay Area has still got plenty of lingo to put us on to.

12. Tech N9ne

Age: 40
Label: Strange Music
Active Since: 1991

Few rappers exemplify the phrase "patience is a virtue" quite like Tech N9ne. It may have taken him nearly two decades, but he's finally getting his props. And best of all, he didn't have to go mainstream-the mainstream came to him.

Tech has always been a great rapper, but as the culture has shifted away from major labels and more towards independent operations, it's shined a new light on the forever underrated lyricist whose album All 6's and 7's debuted in Billboard's Top 5 last year. Thanks to new found chart success (and a co-sign from Lil Wayne), he's one of the few rappers in their 40s actively expanding his fan base.

11. DJ Quik

Age: 42
Label: Mad Science/Fontana
Active Since: 1987

DJ Quik isn't as hugely popular as he was when he dropped Quik is the Name in 1991, but he's maintained artistic relevance longer than almost anyone in hip-hop. His work with Kurupt on 2009's Blaqkout was some of the most unusual of his career, without losing the kind of loose experimentation that found the rapper divulging highly-personal lyrics one moment and dropping irreverent party tracks the next, or bringing the two topics together on the same song.

His 2011 record Book of David furthered this agenda. The tracks seemed more concerned with originality than broad appeal, to their great advantage. In 2012, no one would claim Quik is setting sales records or reaching a massive audience, but his music is as personal and entertaining as ever. As a result, he's still rewarded a high level of critical respect from hip-hop connoisseurs.

10. Sean Price

Age: 40
Label: Duck Down
Active Since: 1993

Mic Tyson is finally ready to rumble, and we're ready to listen. Price certainly took the road less traveled to get to where he is now. He's a strange concoction of an old man rapper, a relic of '90s New York rap, a rap blog darling, and a guy who found his true voice late in life. He's certainly more relevant than his underground counterparts of the '90s. Ultimately, he's a survivor. And he's still hilarious when he's rambling on the mic.


Age: 41
Label: Lex
Active Since: 1988

There's a slim chance you'll actually see the real DOOM if you hit up one of his live concerts, but his music is still making plenty of impact off-stage. After he dropped the MF from his name a few years ago, he came through with the well-received LP, Born Like This. In the time since, he's released a collaborative album with producer Jneiro Jarel, which once again showcases him rapping with top-notch wit and precision.

Next up: Swift & Changeable, the long-awaited album he's releasing with Ghostface Killah. There's another Madvillain project on the way, too. Even though DOOM remains relatively obscure, his continues to hit hard.

8. Q-Tip
Age: 42
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
Active Since: 1986

Despite being greatly missed on Cruel Summer (even though he recorded for it), Q-Tip is still making plenty of music, we just don't know when we'll get to hear it. Will there be a Cruel Winter? When is The Last Zulu dropping? Tip stays relevant like a drug dealer during the drought and we are the fiends.

Despite the fact that he's lent exceptional production to albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, his headlining "Q-Tip & Friends" set at last year's Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival also proved that he can still rock the mic. In an interview with Complex, Q said heat is on the way, but until release dates are announced, everyone has to wait.

7. Snoop Dogg

Age: 40
Label: Doggystyle/Priority
Active Since: 1992

Snoop Dogg (no, we're not going to call him Snoop Lion, sorry) will never not be relevant. Thanks to his incredible voice, his undeniable charisma, and his infinite style, he's forever just one flow away from the top of the charts. If you put him in the right position (like the way he teamed up with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars for "Young, Wild & Free" last year) then he'll almost guarantee a hit.

Plus, his willingness to not take himself too seriously (like when he hopped on Katy Perry's smash hit "California Gurls") often pays dividends. Even his Hot Pockets song is kinda catchy! You can never count him out.

6. Ghostface Killah

Age: 42
Label: N/A
Active Since: 1992

Ghostface's timeless humor-filled storytelling abilities were showcased once again on the Cruel Summer version of "New God Flow." While this was the first time we'd heard from Ghost in a minute, it won't be the last. Ghostface and Sheek Louch's collaborative Wu-Block project is set to hit stores on November 13.

Additionally, Ghost is set to release another collaborative LP with producer Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons To Die, on November 20. An accompanying comic book will also be released in December, bringing new meaning to the Tony Starks nickname.

5. Busta Rhymes

Age: 40
Label: Flipmode/Cash Money
Active Since: 1989

After more than two decades in the game, Busta Rhymes continues to impress us with his longevity and ability to constantly redefine himself as an artist. Busta jumped back into our playlists in August with the release of his ninth studio album, Year Of The Dragon, a free release through Google Play.

Then there's the success of No. 1 songs like Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" that prove that Busta can still keep up with the modern sound. As long as he continues to break the speed limit with his rhymes, he'll have an audience.

4. Raekwon

Age: 42
Label: Ice H20/EMI
Active Since: 1992

Rae's verses on "The Morning" off Cruel Summer and "Tick, Tock" from The Man With The Iron Fists soundtrack show that the Chef still isn't playing around. Those bars alone packed enough heat to keep 42-year-old relevant, but with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Pt.III on the way, and his own record label Ice H20 moving units, Raekwon continues to prove that age means nothing to him.

3. Common

Age: 40
Label: Think Common/Warner Bros.
Active Since: 1991

After a slight misstep with Universal Mind Control, Common re-established himself at the forefront of hip-hop with last December's The Dreamer/The Believer, aided by the soulful melodies of No I.D. Whether it was trading lyrical barbs with Nas on "Ghetto Dreams" or talking reckless and taking some not-so-veiled shots at Drake on "Sweet," Com reminded us that he still knows a thing or two about rapping.

Add in a stellar appearance on "In The Morning" off Ye's Cruel Summer compilation as well as a 10th studio album slated for a January release, and including Lonnie Lynn on any list of relevant rappers in their 40s is common sense.

2. Eminem

Age: 40
Label: Shady/Aftermath/Interscope
Active Since: 1992

Eminem is the best-selling artist of the new millenium, and for good reason: He's an amazing rappers. His last solo album, Recovery, wasn't just a commercial smash, but it also proved that whatever creative juices he lost through drug addiction were regained through sobriety.

He followed that up last year by teaming up with his old partner-in-rhyme Royce da 5'9" for Bad Meets Evil, a slick EP that showed Em can still kick witty lyrics with the best of them. Eminem's legacy may be cemented, but it looks like he will continue to dish out lyrical beat downs for years to come.

1. Jay-Z

Age: 42
Label: Roc Nation
Active Since: 1990

Jay-Z doesn't settle. Every time it's felt like his career peaked, he finds new ceilings to chase. It's cliché to say your favorite rapper is Jay-Z because, at this point, everyone's favorite rapper is Jay-Z. He's an omnipotent force in hip-hop. He's leading in nearly every single statistical category. He's got it all; the sales, the hits, the respect, the flows, the rhymes, the classic albums, the wealth, and he's got a beautiful wife and an adorable daughter.

What's most amazing is that he still raps his ass off. His last album, Watch The Throne, spawned the song of the year with "N****s In Paris" and the album itself was a massive success. Plus, every time he drops a guest verse the whole stops and listens. He most recently stole the show on G.O.O.D. Music's "Clique" and Rick Ross' "3 Kings."

As a pop culture figure, he's still hip-hop's greatest ambassador. In the past few weeks alone he's thrown a fundraiser for President Obama, executive-produced NBA 2K13, and helped open up the Barclays Center with eight concerts. G.O.A.T. status.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Great Rappers Who Never Had A Classic Album

Max Normal

Age 30 something
Good Morning South Africa (2008)

Before Die Antwoord, Ninja was Max Normal and he was a dope MC, but I don't know if paying the bills got in the way, somewhere he gave it all up and picked up the alias Ninja. He sure had promise to legendary status.

Hip Hop Pantsula

Age 32
Introduction (2000), Maf Town (2001), O Mang? (2003), BA 2 NW (2005), Acceptance Speech (2007), Dumela (2009), Motswafrika (2011)

It is safe to say HHP has cemented himself in the history books of SA rap music, but as that may be - the North West hailing MC said it best that he is a hip-hop pantsula.

Busta Rhymes

Age: 40
Albums: The Coming (1996), When Disaster Strikes... (1997), E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (1998), Anarchy (2000), Genesis (2001), It Ain't Safe No More... (2002), The Big Bang (2006), Back On My B.S. (2009), Year Of The Dragon (2012)

Throughout the highs and lows of his career, Busta Rhymes always seems to find a way to be relevant, mostly because he’s one of the most idiosyncratic characters rap has ever seen. He’s a true original, not a novelty act. He’s spent the last 20 years making a ton of classic singles and memorable videos by filling tracks with his signature manic energy.

Unfortunately, even though a few of his albums are considered pretty good, none of them are classics because they often had with too much filler (five of his first six albums clock in at over an hour). Busta is still incredible on the mic, but we’ve basically seen his bag of tricks.

AGE 31
Manuscript (2006), Write Of Passage (2009), Off Da Books Mixtape (2009)FourthWrite (2012)

Sigh… dope MC but Verb lacks something, I can't put my hand on it though. I'm no hater, the Kimberley born MC is a bull on the mic but there isn't an album with weight.


Age: 34
Albums: Ghetto Fabolous (2001), Street Dreams (2003), Real Talk (2004), From Nothin' To Somethin' (2007), Loso's Way (2009)

Fab is a streetwise rapper who can flow forever and he’s had legendary moments in the mixtape game, and he’s never struggled with scoring pop hits. In the last 10 years he’s had eight Top 40 hits, including the unforgettable Just Blaze produced classic, “Breathe.”

The problem for Fab isn’t that he lacks diversity, it’s that he’s always overestimated his diversity and would usually just spread himself too thin on albums. Worse yet, what the Brooklyn rhymer has always sorely lacked is emotional delivery.

Nearly all of Fab’s rhymes sound like they’re coming from a slick playboy, which is great sometimes but tiresome, too. And finally, few of Fab’s tracks (save for the aforementioned “Breathe”) have ever been mindblowing, even if they were great in the club. Fab might be known for his one of a kind punchlines, but he’s not known for his one of a kind albums.


Age: 35
Albums: Back For The First Time (2000), Word of Mouf (2001), Chicken-n-Beer (2003), The Red Light District (2004), Release Therapy (2006), Theater of the Mind (2008), Battle of the Sexes (2010)

Ludacris has had so many hits and classic anthems (we still get hyped when his “Move Bitch”  verse comes on) you would think that he has a classic in there somewhere. Even though his first three albums were highly entertaining, they did lack a certain maturity and nuance.

Maybe that’s why, since then, Luda’s cut his hair and got more serious, but as a result he’s somehow lost some of the edge and most of the humor that made him a star in the first place. The funny part is at this point, Luda’s has been a part of more Oscar-winning movies than classic rap albums. If someone would have told us that back when he was making songs that went, “Yous a hoe!” we would have never believed them.


Age: 37
Albums: Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (2001), Kiss Of Death (2004), The Last Kiss (2009)

Armed with a raspy voice, some of the hardest bars you’ll ever hear, and a countless number of great verses, Jadakiss was built to be a legendary rapper. Not only that, but he’s an influential rapper—at one point in the early Aughts it felt like every single rapper was riffing off his style.

He even famously quipped that he was, “Top 5, dead or alive, and that’s just off one LP.” But here’s the problem with that line and his catalog in general: That LP, his debut, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, is his best album... but it’s not really that good.

The problem with all of Jada’s solo albums was that he always tried too hard to please every crowd. While he’s an undisputed king of street anthems, he simply wasn't apt at making quality commercial rap records, but he kept on trying to.

If he would have just stuck to doing what does best, he could have at least made a hardcore album that lived up to his potential (like his groupmate Styles P has done with his underrated solo albums). Instead, he’s frustrated his fan base with uneven efforts that chased the commercial fame he was never meant to have.

Lloyd Banks

Age: 30
Albums: The Hunger For More (2004), Rotten Apple (2006), H.F.M. 2 (Hunger For More 2) (2010)

For a brief period, Lloyd Banks was the shit. Back in the early days of 50 Cent’s career, when he was absolutely destroying the mixtape game along with his G-Unit cohorts, Banks was primed to be the next to blow after 50.

And why not? Back then the the Punchline King was earning his crown with every laugh out loud bar (“She can get me off like Cochran”) and occasionally outshining 50 (they didn’t call it “Banks Victory” for nothing).

Although Banks’ debut, The Hunger For More, was a success (he scored a hit single and a platinum plaque) his album wasn’t the full blown G-Unit classic it should have been (that was Game’s debut album) and it wasn’t even the best G-Unit album of that year (that was Young Buck’s debut).

Which is fine, he was a young rapper who’d have more shots. The problem was, his second album suffered from a sophomore slump and G-Unit’s stronghold on the game was coming to an end.

Banks would have faded into complete irrelevancy if it wasn’t for his Juelz Santana-assisted single, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley," which renewed interest in the Queens-bred lyricist. His third album was a strong effort but it was too little, too late for him to fulfill his promise from nearly a decade ago.

Coupled with 50 recently calling him out for laziness, he’s left fans and critics alike saying, “Damn homie, in high school you was the man homie, the fuck happened to you?”


Age: 37
Albums: Can-I-Bus (1998), 2000 B.C. (Before Can-I-Bus) (2000), C True Hollywood Stories (2001), Mic Club: The Curriculum (2002), Rip the Jacker (2003), Mind Control (2005), Hip-Hop For Sale (2005), For Whom the Beat Tolls (2007), Melatonin Magik (2010), C of Tranquility (2010), Lyrical Law (2011)

It might hurt some of his Internet fanboys to hear this, but no rapper wasted their moment in the sun quite like Canibus did. When he first came out, Canibus was seen as a lyricist with a gruff voice and enough syllables to make your head spin. In other words, he was hardcore rap’s answer to the "jiggy" players of the day. To top it off, he got into a high profile beef with LL Cool J and unleashed one of the best hip-hop diss songs of all time.

But when he dropped his absolute fail of a debut album he squandered his best chance of making a classic and becoming a true star. He would later blame his shortcomings on producer Wyclef Jean, which was fine, but his subsequent albums weren’t any better and as time went on, the general public lost interest in hearing a guy rap like he was reciting the dictionary.

(Sidebar: Canibus also deserves to be taken to task for his series of absolutely bizarre decisions. We’re not just talking about him recently dissing J. Cole for no reason and then apologizing about it. Or the time he started dissing Eminem for no reason. But for doing things like showing up to the VMAs in silver body paint. Seriously, what the fuck was that?)

Juelz Santana

Age: 29
Albums: From Me To U (2003), What The Game's Been Missing! (2005),

Juelz Santana had it all. He was down with Dipset, he was steadily improving as a rapper, he contributed to classic albums (Diplomatic Immunity, Purple Haze), was on hits (“Oh Boy,” "Hey Ma," "Run It"), and scored his own hits ("There It Go (The Whistle Song)"). He was young, fresh, had street cred, and the girls liked him.

So what if his first two albums weren’t perfect? By 2007, Juelz was poised to break out thanks in part to his excellent Just Blaze-produced single, “The Second Coming.” He was homeboys with the Best Rapper Alive, Lil Wayne (back when he really was the Best Rapper Alive), and they were going to do an album together, I Can’t Feel My Face.

What went wrong? Well, his album Born To Lose, Built To Win was endlessly delayed and has yet to be released. Ditto for his collaborative album with Wayne. Combine that with Dipset’s brief but poorly timed breakup and you’ll see why Santana missed his moment when he could have made a classic.

The saddest part about all this was when, in the midst of the group’s turmoil, Cam’ron called out Santana for being a drug addict. We can’t say that it’s certainly true, but it could explain Santana’s severe lack of productivity. Still, here’s to hoping he can come back like crushed up Adderall cooked crack.

Ras Kass

Age: 39
Albums: Soul On Ice (1996), Rasassination (1998), Institutionalized (2005), A.D.I.D.A.S. (All Day I Dream About Spittin) (2010)

Everyone can agree that Ras Kass is a great lyricist. He’s always had a cocky attitude that made him seem convinced that he was the greatest rapper ever. Too bad he couldn’t find the greatest producers. His first two albums were marred by shitty production unworthy for a rapper of his talents.

Right when he seemed like he was on the verge of putting it all together on third album, Van Gogh (which featured production from DJ Premier and Dr. Dre), he ran into label troubles and later an unfortunate arrest for D.U.I. which landed him in jail. The double whammy killed his momentum and his career has never been the same since.

Big L

Age: 24 (at the time of his death)
Albums: Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous (1995), The Big Picture (2000), 139 & Lenox (2009), Return of the Devil's Son (2010), The Danger Zone (2011)

Big L was a fantastic rapper who was sadly only able to essentially make two albums. Although his debut, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, had many flashes of brilliance that showcased his wit and rhyme style, it suffered from poor production and felt more patched together than a thematically unified project.

His second album was released shortly after his death but it only cemented his legacy as someone who was about to blow but never did. And spare us the whole “But you don’t know about his underground classics!” because as the great Zadie Smith points out, all those “rare” freestyles are easily found on YouTube.

A number of posthumous Big L albums have been released in recent years, though they were largely ignored. In the end, when L’s name is brought up in both G.O.A.T. and underrated discussions, it’s all just a reminder that" dead rappers get better promotion."

Age 36
Blazetha Breaks / Place For A Wife (2000), Summertime (2001), Supernatural (My Return) (2003)

He was almost there, he paved the way in South African hip-hop in terms taking it a notch higher from Club Le to dropping an album but he just went Houdini on us.

Nicki Minaj

Age: 29
Albums: Pink Friday (2010), Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012)

As one of the youngest people on this list, and the only one whose debut album dropped this decade, it might seem a bit unfair to group Nicki along with the other rappers on this list. After all, she hasn’t had as many opportunities to make a classic like everyone else has.

But here's the thing, Nicki Minaj is incredibly talented and a genuine superstar. We expect more from her than we do from the average rapper, so we expect her to make a classic. She’s positioned herself as the queen of rap, which is all good but she needs a jewel if she wants to wear the crown or else her throne is illegitimate.

Nicki has already dropped two ridiculously successful albums, but both failed to live up to criticial expectations. And if that still seems unfair, consider what her Young Money comrade Drake has done in the same time frame. Take Care has a much greater chance of being viewed as a classic in 10 years than Roman Reloaded does.

Age 31
Heads And Tales (2005), DNA (2006), Dankie San (2007)

I don't know what happened at Gallo behind closed doors which fucked up the battlefield Pro we knew from tearing MCs up on the mic. The just MC lost the edge that made him the hip-hop battle field bull terror.

Royce Da 5'9"

Age: 35
Albums: Rock City (2002), Death Is Certain (2004), Independent's Day (2005), Street Hop (2009), Success Is Certain (2011)

Royce Da 5'9" burst on the scene along with his Detroit pal Eminem in the late ‘90s. Royce seemed destined to take off after Em did, but it just didn’t happen for him. His debut album was strong but it was delayed and overhauled so much that by the time it was finally released it was subtitled 2.0.

After that he struggled with depression, alcoholism, and endless beef as he released a series of well regarded, but not quite there albums. He's since found success as one half of Bad Meets Evil and with his group Slaughterhouse, but his solo career still lacks that essential disc.

Age 31   
Leondale MC
Ventilation Mixtape Vol. 1 (2005), Ventilation Mixtape Vol. 2 (2007), Ventilation Vol 3 (2010)

Blacks R Fools is a good track never mind the noise the track is making. Another legend in the game and the only consistence member from Skwatta Kemp but his Ventilation mixtpaes are no classics.

The Rap, Life And Drama (2003) The Principal (2010)

Attention had hoods joyed up and looking forward to the album but when it dropped - some joints let the album down. The rap principal as he calls himself, failed to give us legendary material.

Monday, 1 October 2012

A Timeline of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's Biggest Business Ventures

When Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson came into the game he told the world he would get rich or die trying. Well, to some people's dissatisfaction, he aint dead yet. But the former low level Queens crack dealer turned rap megastar has gotten rich 20 times over. We're not even talking about the millions he's made off record sales or his dozens of acting gigs. 50 has a business portfolio that would make Donald Trump proud.

April, 2003 Interscope, G-Unit Records
After the Queens rapper's wildly successful debut Get Rich or Die Tryin' sold a kabillion copies, Fif negotiates a deal for his own label, G-Unit Records, through Universal Music Group's Interscope Records.

July, 2003 Marc Ecko, G-Unit Clothing Company
Fif teams up with Ecko Unlimited founder Marc Ecko and creates G-Unit Clothing Company, a line of clothing and accessories.

November, 2003 Reebok, G-Unit Sneakers
Curtis inks a five-year deal with shoe giant Reebok to distribute his line of G-Unit footwear.

2003 G-Unit Films
Fiddy and Interscope team up to form the production company G-Unit Films. The movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is released through the film company in 2005.

January, 2004 Digital Sin, 50 Cent and G Unit Adult Films
Boo Boo signs an exclusive deal with adult film distributor Digital Sin to create an interactive s-x DVD titled Groupie Luv.

August, 2004 Zingy Inc, Ringtones
The “Piggy Bank” rapper dials up more dollars with an exclusive ringtone, voicemail greeting and image deal with Zingy Inc.

October, 2004 Glaceau (Energy Brands), Vitamin Water
Fif obtains a minority share in Glaceau in exchange for an endorsement of the popular product Vitamin Water. In, May 2007, Coca Cola purchases Vitamin Water for $4.1 billion and Jackson reportedly receives around $100 million in the deal after taxes.

November, 2005 Sierra Entertainment, 50 Cent: Bullet Proof Video Game
50 steps into the video game arena when 50 Cent: Bullet Proof, is released on PlayStation consoles.

January, 2007 MTV Books/Pocketbooks, G Unit Books
Off the strength of his best-selling Kris Ex penned memoir, From Pieces To Weight, Curt hops into the literary world and partners with MTV Books/Pocketbooks to form G-Unit Books.

January, 2008 Lifestyle, Magic Stick Condoms
Mr. Cent slides on a new deal with condom maker Lifestyle for his own brand of jimmy hats called, Magic Stick.

2008 Right Guard, Pure 50 RGX Body Spray
After continuously smelling success, 50 strikes a deal with Right Guard for his own Pure 50 RGX body spray line.

May, 2008 Steiner Sports, Memorabilia
50 inks a multi-year deal with Steiner Sports to exclusively sell his memorabilia, including autographed photos and movie related products.

November, 2008 MTV, 50 Cent: The Money and the Power
Getting in on the reality show buzz, Fif makes a deal with MTV for his own Donald Trump style reality show, 50 Cent: The Money and the Power.

January, 2009 Cheetah Vision
Along with Randell Emmitt, Jackson launches the new production company Cheetah Vision. In 2010 the company receives $200 million in hedge funding.

November, 2009 Power By 50
Leaping on the smell goods craze, 50 launches new line of cologne, Power By 50 sold exclusively at Macy's.

December, 2010 G-Note Records
50 announces the launch of new subsidiary G-Note Records, a pop themed sister company to G-Unit Records. Pauly D of Jersey Shore infamy is a signee.

December, 2010 Gunnar Optiks, 3D Glasses
The rapper announces his investment in Gunnar Optiks, a company that specializes in “digital performance eyewear.”

April, 2011 Jam House Live, This Is 50 Comedy Tour
Launches the comedy website, where viewers pay $2.99 to watch live comedy acts from Times Square.

April, 2011 UberMedia, Uber50 App
Curtis partners with UberMedia to launch a customized Twitter theme for their UberSocial Blackberry application.

May, 2011 SMS Audio, Sync by 50
Starts SMS Audio and begins production on a new line of high end wireless headphones.

July 2011 Smarter Comics, The 50th Law Comic Book
Strikes a deal with comic book company Smarter Comics to produce a comic book adaptation of his best-selling book, The 50th Law.

September, 2011 Pure Growth Partners, Street King Energy Drink
Teams up with Pure Growth Partners to bring Street King Energy Drink. Portions of the sales go to providing meals to underprivileged children around the globe.

July, 2012 Floyd Mayweather, TMT Promotions
Partners with boxer, friend Floyd Mayweather to start the fighting promotion company The Money Team Promotions, becoming an official promoter and licensing the brand in New York.

September, 2012 Manny Pacquiao, ? Promotions
After deading his deal with Money May, Fif announces a joint promotional venture with boxer Manny Pacquiao.