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Fire Starter: Spot
See Spot rap. See Spot produce. This Coney Island, New York, MC and beatsmith recently released his indie debut, A Breath Away, featuring collabos with Gucci Mane and R. Kelly (the latter artist on "She Hate Me"). Backed by Jimmy "Henchman" Rosemond and Sickamore, who executive-produced the project, Spot spits with his woozy flow and shares his sharp eye for the routines of daily life, making him a BK cross between Devin the Dude and Lupe Fiasco. See Spot blow up? Soon enough ...


Mixtape Monday: Bun B Is Back In The Booth -- Alone; Lil Wayne Hopes For Eminem Collabo

— by Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes, Joseph Patel, Yasmine Richard and Bernard Lumpkin

Artist: The Re-Up Gang

Representing: VA and Philly

Mixtape: We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3: The Spirit of Competition

411: You don't know how many conversations the Mixtape Monday and MTV News fam has had with the Clipse and our friends at Jive Records (Roberta, we see ya) about putting out a video for "Trill" from the Brothers Thornton's last classic, Hell Hath No Fury. The record is way too hot to be just an album cut.

But as Skateboard P would say, "Cot-damn — it's a new day." The Clipse, as you know, are on a new label, Sony Music.

"It's everything it's supposed to be," Pusha T told us last week. He and his brother are loving their new situation. "It's the new year. It's a Re-Up Gang new year. It's war. It's the spirit of competition."

Speaking of which, that happens to be the name of the new LP by the Re-Up Gang, which consists of the Clipse, Ab-Liva and Sandman (loved you in "Spidey 3"! Just playin', homie). They're calling the effort We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3: The Spirit of Competition.

"Who do I see as competition for us?" Malice grinned. "None. I don't feel it's anybody out there who do what we do and is as thorough as my crew. That's how we feel about it.

"We been selecting tracks for a minute," Mal added, "trying to figure out what beats were relevant and what beats made sense. We took it back to [Raekwon and Ghostface's] 'Rainy Dayz,' [Ruff Ryders'] 'Scenario 2000.' The beats are hot."

The Gang also brought it up to date by rhyming over Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" and Shawty Lo's "Dey Know."

"You can tell we're such fans of the record, the music that came before us," Pusha said. "So much so, we be like, 'Damn, we gotta get on that sh--.' "

Spirit of Competition, according to the fellas, is just the commencement of their '08 smackdown. The Re-Up Gang's official album is coming this spring (Pusha says in March) with the Clipse's third LP launching this summer.

"I can't do no more records for that," Pusha said of the yet-untitled Re-Up album. "I have to wait for [Sony executive] [Kyambo] 'Hip Hop' [Joshua] to round out the album with his A&R-ing. That's something I never had before. ... Then the Clipse album is the baby. That's not done. So that could be the focus coming into the summer, as well as the solo projects.

"[Kyambo] and [his crew] have definitely proven themselves," he added. "We both love the same in hip-hop music: very lyric-driven guys. Hip Hop comes from a camp where the criteria for rap is high. I think we've mastered that."

Joints To Check For:

  • "Cry Now" freestyle by Obie Trice. "Man, that beat was something," Mal said. "One of the great beats that was often overlooked. It didn't get the shine it deserves.

    "You might think it's only me on there, because of the way I kill it," he laughed about his performance on the song. "All four of us on there, though."

  • Re-Up intro. "I tapped anything that annoys me," Pusha said of his lines that stab at Cash Money's Lil Wayne and his pal Birdman. "Anything that needs to get addressed gets addressed. Anything. That don't stop. That's never gonna stop. When y'all hear the Re-Up Gang album ... I don't wanna do a lot of talking. Let the music talk. I'll talk after [the] music. It's the spirit of competition. Lil man is a small thing. It's much bigger than him. It's about a lot of mutha----as getting over not saying nothing. ... We're doing this sh-- to evoke the emotion in the listener."

  • "Roc Boys" freestyle. "Sandman and Liva definitely hold their own," Malice said. "They're soloists and group members as well. We regard them dudes as our peers. We figure that's why we're all blessed to come together. We have the same views, speak the same language when it comes to this hip-hop."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
  • DJ Whiteowl and Wu-Tang - Protect Ya Neck 2K8
  • DJ Racks and Andre 3000 - Back to the Future
  • DJ Obscene - Dade County at Its Finest
  • DJ Young Focus - Certified Focus

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • Missy Elliott - "Ching-a-Ling"
  • Rick Ross (featuring R. Kelly, Fat Joe, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, DJ Drama, Gorilla Zoe, Webbie, Plies, Birdman, Torch, Gun Play, Bigga Rankin, Flo Rida, Brisco and Busta Rhymes) - "Speedin'" (Remix)
  • Rick Ross (featuring T-Pain) - "The Boss"
  • AZ - "Undeniable"
  • Ja Rule - "Judas"
  • Fat Joe - "300"
  • Young Buck - "New York City"

Celebrity Faves

Raw as he's ever come, Ice Cube is back to kicking that critical, analytical breakdown of society on "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It." His next album, Raw Footage, comes out later this year. He and Nas are considering dropping around the same time and going on the road together. His latest Hollywood project, "First Sunday," co-starring Tracy Morgan and Katt Williams, came out over the weekend. Who was the funniest on the set when the cameras weren't rolling? Cube gives the nod to Hustle Man.

"Tracy, without a doubt," Cube said. "He's a good dude to be around. He's a good dude to bring energy to the set. Me and him have become good friends during this whole process. I always thought he was funny, so getting a chance to work with him, I knew I was making easy money this time."

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

He puts on his "gloves and scrubs," and it's Dr. Carter on deck to save the day.

"Your style is a disgrace/ Your rhymes are fifth place/ And I'm just grace," Lil Wayne recently rapped on the set of his album-cover shoot for Tha Carter III. "One, uno, ace, and I'm trying to make your heart beat like bass/ But you're sweet like cake, and I've come to fix whatever you shall break. ..."

Wayne was dropping bars from his highly anticipated LP. The performance was unsolicited but very much appreciated by all within earshot, including photographer Jonathan Manion.

Weezy's LP should be dropping sometime soon, but he's still working and trying to get Eminem on his potential masterpiece.

"I'm trying to get Eminem on this song for my album," he said. "I did a little something for Dr. Dre's new album [Detox]. When you're busy like us, you just send the song. I just wrote some stuff for [Dre], and hopefully he'll like it."

In addition to Tha Carter III, Weezy said he will also be releasing rock and R&B albums in the future. He didn't say when. ...

Chaka for president! And we're not talking about the lovely, legendary Ms. Khan either. We're referring to none other than Disturbing Tha Peace co-head Chaka Zulu. We caught up with his business partner and friend Ludacris last week in L.A. 'Cris was wearing a "Chaka for President" T-shirt. Let's see, since Chaka hasn't been at any of the primaries, 'Cris probably isn't making a push for Zulu to battle it out with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There's a big vacancy at Luda's recording home, Def Jam, since Jay-Z resigned recently.

"Nah, we're just generally speaking," 'Cris insisted about the faux campaign effort, with a devious grin on the set of Chingy's "Gimme That" video. "Generally speaking."

DTP signees Ching-a-Ling and Bobby V were more forthcoming about wanting Chaka in the hip-hop Oval Office.

"I think Jay-Z is a good artist, and he was great president," Chingy said. "He brought Rihanna and Ne-Yo and a couple of artists over there, and they do pretty good. I don't know his reasons for resigning. ... But Chaka for president? I agree with that."

"If you're listening," Bobby V, making a joking plea to the powers that be at Def Jam, "give Luda or Chaka Zulu that executive position, please. For Bobby V. If they move up, I'll move up too."

"We'll see what happens," 'Cris said.

"I think it's flattering," Chaka said, responding to the support he's been getting from peeps in the industry. Several people in and out of his camp have given him their vote of confidence for the position. But Chaka said he hasn't been contacted by L.A. Reid or any high-ranking Universal Music Group execs about the job.

"When you think about the people who have sat in that chair for that brand — Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles, then Jay-Z — who were all presidents (also Wes Johnson), that's a flattering list of people to be considered in the line of," Zulu said. "Would I do it? Yeah. I thought about taking a seat. I was up for an Interscope position two years ago. That in itself is what opened me up to the thought process of sitting at the head of one of these labels. I got so much support from everybody when I was going up for that position — from L.A. Reid to Jay-Z, artists that were on and off the label, 50 Cent. All of these people were like, 'You should take that job, and we'll work through you.' In the process of thinking about [the Interscope job], I'm open to [being a label president] because I know I would have the support of the artists."

Meanwhile, Ludacris is in the midst of heating up the scene for the release of his upcoming album, Theater of the Mind. He's on Mary J. Blige's new album, Growing Pains (the track "Grown Woman"), as well of remixes of "I'm So Hood" and Shawty Lo's "They Know."

"I'm a fan of a lot of music out there, and if I get an opportunity to put a verse on there, I'mma show them what it sounds like for Luda to be on the damn song. Try to take it to another level, and I'm a fan of everybody's [song] I get on." ...

  Tony Yayo
When you're making $50,000 a show just for hyping up the crowd for somebody else's concert, it's a little difficult to get overly anxious about putting out your own album. Tony Yayo hasn't been rushing the follow-up to his 2005 effort, Thoughts of a Predicate Felon, even though he's the only member of the G-Unit crew without at least two LPs.

"I got so much material right now," Yayo said last week, fresh from court. "I'm to a point where I got a little spoiled. Honestly, I been working, and I got a lot of music. I get paid so well, I wasn't worried about an album. The average rapper has financial problems. 50 keeps all of us right. If I'm getting $50,000 a show with 50 and I just did two months' worth of shows, come on, man. 50 is the biggest rapper. He's getting half a million just to walk in somewhere, and we're doing nothing but stadiums. We're going places rappers don't go, where they don't know rappers.

"There's an album coming," he added. "I have plenty of material. The title — I ain't think of nothing yet, really, but I got lot of music. I got over 30 songs. I'm good money. I'm still working."

Yayo says the G-Unit album (tentatively titled Lock and Load) is still coming, and it has contributions from Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Swizz Beatz, Havoc and Eminem. But there is no set time table for that release or for the next 50 solo album, Before I Self Destruct.

"It's just really a work process," he said of Lock and Load's being pushed back from the holiday season. "Everything has to be launched the right way and worked the right way. Labels like Interscope, they don't do everything people think they do for G-Unit. ... When G-Unit was at their prime and I got out of jail and 50 sold all them records — all that was done through G-Unit Records.

"I'm just learning a lot, and I'm learning timing is everything," he said. "Everything has to be promoted the right way. Before, it would take a couple of weeks for a single to pick up. Now it takes months. It's a whole different ballgame. 50 is a smart decision-maker, and we have to figure out the right way to put out the album. We got some fire, and we're bringing something new to hip-hop." ...

  Bun B
Bun B is back in the booth following the death of his partner-in-rhyme, Pimp C. The veteran Texas rapper, who is working on his next solo album, paid us a visit last week to open up about how he's been coping with the passing of his UGK brother in early December. In some ways, he said, it reminded him of when Pimp was away in prison, but then the reality sinks in that the group is no longer going be a two-man show.

"The whole 'Free Pimp C' movement, you look back on it and you know it was a test, to see if you could handle that," Bun said, referring to the campaign that surrounded the rapper's incarceration for aggravated assault. "Knowing you can handle that, you know you can move forward. ... [With] the 'Free Pimp C' movement [I knew that] at some point he was gonna come back into the situation; we'd be a group again. So that was always in the back of my mind. In this instance, it's not really gonna be like that. At no other point in time, throughout this music career, from here on, are he and I going to physically share a stage together, gonna physically be in the studio recording together. And that in itself is a little off-putting."

Bun told us Pimp C's absence still hasn't hit as hard as it eventually will. He admitted that at one point he and Pimp's mother avoided seeing each other, although not on purpose, because they both seemed to fear that speaking to each other would open up more wounds as they tried to heal. Since then, however, Bun has been able to talk to her, and he's been able to move on enough to finish his second solo project. He said he wasn't sure if he'd ever be 100 percent comfortable with recording, but he knew that at some point he had to push forward.

"I know people will support it, and I know that I'm strong enough to do it," Bun said of putting out another album. "Just the point of understanding from here on out, it's just [me] — I'm probably never gonna be comfortable with it in that sense. It's just a matter of coming to terms with the reality of it and the finality of the two-man situation in a physical sense."

In the meantime, Bun is planning on penning verses about Pimp. He said he wants to give the story behind the men of UGK, but he wasn't sure if he'd ever release the music. He's spoken with T.I. about coping with the loss of a right-hand man (T.I.'s close friend Philant Johnson was killed while on tour with the MC in 2006). The Grand Hustle MC told him that, from his experience, recording the music will help, even if it doesn't ever land on an album.

Aside from seeking advice from Tip, Bun asked Slim Thug, Lil Wayne, Sean Kingston and "a certain four-man group out of Atlanta that used to be signed to LaFace" to appear on his album. He said "Now That's Gangster," his single with the Jamaican teen crooner, should be out soon.

"It's about reclaiming the streets," Bun said of the track. "Gangsterism is looking like a fad, but it's some real sh--. Not as in the red, the blue, or 'I'm a G,' but when you out there not doing the status quo. People need to understand what a gangster is.

"I'mma start with that word and take that word back," Bun finished, "until I can eventually take the whole 'hood back."

Plans for another UGK album are in the works, but Bun said he'll be cautious and that nothing is set in stone yet.

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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Photo: MTV News

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