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Fire Starter: Alex Melamid
The famed Russian painter is the father of video director Dan the Man, who helmed the lens for Prodigy's grizzly "Mac 10 Handle" clip. After the younger artist introduced his father to 50 Cent and his crew, the elder Melamid got inspired. Between 2003 and 2005 he spent time with a number of rap icons, from Russell Simmons to Snoop Dogg to Kanye West. The result is "Holy Hip-Hop!," an exhibit that's set to be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit from February to April. The show will feature 12 life-size portraits of a number of hip-hop's elite. "I thought it would be interesting to paint the men of hip-hop using the traditional European style I have been perfecting for 40 years," Melamid said of the project.


Mixtape Monday: Game Gets A Special Delivery From Dr. Dre; Prodigy Takes A Tip From 50 Cent

— by Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes

Artist: B.G.

Representing: Chopper City/ New Orleans

Mixtape: Hood General

411: Come NBA All-Star Weekend, we might just see a Hot Boys reunion: The four members have all been talking among themselves about dropping an album this year. Some new songs have been recorded, and B.G. says he wants to try and Don King a show, since the All-Star Game is going to be in their hometown.

"I'mma reach out to Juvie and Wayne and see if they wanna come together and do a Hot Boys reunion [show]," he told us last week. "Everybody come together, and we can go out with a bang."

We will stay tuned for that. In the next couple of weeks, Gizzle will put out a new mixtape with DJ Drama, Hood General, to lead into his album Too Hood to Be Hollywood.

"The same way I came in the game, that's the same way I'm going out — G'd up and soldiered down," B.G. said of his LP concept. "What you see is what you get. Everything I ever did that crossed over, I made the game cross over to me. I'm not too 'hood for Hollywood — I'll go to Hollywood and turn it out. But [at the same time,] I'm too 'hood to be Hollywood. I love these streets. It gives me the inspiration."

For his mixtape, B.G. used a bunch of new producers. The album, which was executive produced by T.I., features Cool and Dre, Mannie Fresh and Scott Storch.

    Joints To Check For:

  • "I Hustle" remix (featuring Young Jeezy and Maino). "This was hard on the album, but it's even harder on the mixtape," B.G. said. "Jeezy is one of the realest in the game. We see each other in Atlanta. When he's in the N.O., we get down heavy. That's my partna. I was listening to the record, and I was [thinking], 'Who's the perfect person to get on there?' That hustle talk. He talks that talk like regular conversation."

  • "Slippin' " "Every real G across America is scared of ... slippin'. Everybody I know is scared of slippin'. I know I am. ... On this mixtape, I didn't really rap over anybody's beat, because I wanted to do me. I got some freestyles, but it's mostly songs. I ain't wanna do nobody else. I could have got on the song and made you feel like you should have gotten me for the remix. But I decided to not steal nobody else's crack."

  • "Born Hustler" "I'm just spitting that rough, rugged, raw B.G. flavor. I'm talking about the streets of New Orleans, man, where I was born and raised. Just representing uptown."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
  • Superstar Jay - The Wire (2008 Is My Year)
  • DJ Chuck T - Battle for Supremacy (UGK vs. Outkast)
  • J. Armz - How to Be an MC Vol. 49
  • Snyplife - Best of Snyplife 2

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • Kanye West (featuring R. Kelly) - "Flashing Lights" remix
  • Big Noyd (featuring Joell Ortiz) - "Ghetto"
  • Kidz in the Hall - "Driving Down the Block"
  • Buckshot & 9th Wonder - "Go All Out"
  • Ryan Leslie (featuring Kanye West) - "Diamond Girl"

Celebrity Faves

Scarface has been coaching football for his son's JV league team, making albums and searching movie theaters for the perfect gory horror movie. But when he was recently in New York, Brad Jordan also told us he was going to try to hear Jay-Z name-drop him in the song "Ignorant Sh--" on American Gangster.

"I gotta hear it, man. I get stuck off Jigga and can't get off one song," he said. " 'Lost Ones' is where I stopped on the last album. And I have the whole album."

When asked who he would pick if he could record an album with any MC, he actually named two: Hov and Beanie Sigel. That's cheating, but who's gonna tell Uncle 'Face he can't dream of an all-star trio?

"That's my brother from another planet. Jay-Z is an animal," he said. "Jigga, Beanie — it would be my pleasure to get on there and do something with them. Do a whole album! Wouldn't that be great? I look forward to doing it. The fans want it too. Jay, Beans and 'Face."

The guys may want to throw Freeway in the mix as well. The two have an astonishing track called "Baby Don't Do It" on Free's meagerly promoted Free at Last.

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

Game is about 80 percent done with his next album, LAX, according to his camp. The man his DJ, Nu Jerzey Devil, is calling "A-Game" has been working with producers Cool and Dre and Scott Storch, among others, but there's word now that he and Dr. Dre are hooking up again too.

"[Dr. Dre] dropped some stuff off," Nu Jerzey Devil said. "But I'm not sure if Game did anything to them yet." Game has been working in Miami and Los Angeles and should be ready to drop sometime this spring. The Compton, California, native has also reunited with his estranged brother, Big Fase, but that hasn't stopped Game from continuing to tell his guys that LAX will spell el fin for him.

"He's fed up with all the BS," Devil said of Game's plans to retire. "Unless something tremendous happens with this album, he'll probably fall back and play the executive role. But this album is sounding better than his first two. He's at his peak. I'mma do everything in my power to keep him going. I think everything will be good."

Game's next mixtape is tentatively titled Am I My Brother's Keeper and should hit the streets a little before his album. (For more on Devil's work, keep reading.) ...

  Flo Rida
Flo Rida is breaking digital records, sitting atop the "TRL" countdown and resting comfortably at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the fourth straight week with "Low" (featuring T-Pain). But the rise of the Opa-Locka, Florida, native had its share of waves. As the youngest of seven — all the rest are girls, including a twin sister — Flo said he felt pressure to succeed from a young age. The pursuit left him with some tough choices to make along the way. One was taking a job at the MGM Grand — one that didn't have anything to do with flashy Vegas lights.

"I was pulling silverware out of the trash," he recalled. "It was crazy. I had to go through all the food in the garbage, looking for forks and knives, so they could recycle them. At that time in Vegas, it was snowing. But I've had plenty more jobs since."

The main job right now is putting the finishing touches on his debut, Mail on Sunday.

The Poe Boy/ Atlantic project is set to feature collaborations with fellow Sunshine State rhymers Rick Ross, Brisco and Plies, along with Lil Wayne and Trey Songz.

Flo said he's choosing between three or four songs that could be the next single before his album drops in February. He's got records in the can with JR Rotem, Jazze Pha, and Cool and Dre. But ultimately, he may test out the songs in the strip clubs, where "Low" first took off. According to Flo, an exec from Atlantic suggested he spit on the bouncy track since he had roots in the 305, where bass music once ruled. Flo agreed but never thought the track would cross over like it has.

"We took it to the strip club just to test it out," Flo explained. "But the girls acted like they heard the record a thousand times before. I thought ['Low'] was gonna be big, but not this big." ...

Prodigy said the reason he doesn't keep security around him is because he just doesn't like rolling with strangers, period.

"It be a bunch of bullsh-- we have to deal with," P said of why many artists carry firearms, illegal or licensed. "I'll speak for myself: I don't like new people around me. I don't trust people. ... I don't want nobody to know where I live, I don't want nobody to know my movements. A lot of people feel like that. I got a Porsche — 50 bought us Porsches. I can't fit security in my car! Maybe they can fit in another car, then you gotta pay for another car."

P also said resources come into play. A tight security team could cost upward of tens of thousands a day.

"People is out there hustling, striving to survive," he added. "Everybody can't afford to always have a hundred dudes around you. I'm like 90 percent always by myself."

Besides weaponry, Prodigy also takes a cue from 50 and the G-Unit, as far as protection goes, by bulletproofing his vehicle. His Suburban came to over $120,000 once he armored it.

"A lot of my friends got murdered [in their cars]. ... What the f--- I look like riding in a regular car [when] Yayo, Banks, 50 and everybody got bulletproof trucks? So I'm gonna be the one to get killed? No, [I bought] a bulletproof truck too. ... My man E-Money Bags got killed in his car. Big, Pac, my man Stretch out in Hollis." ...

  Nu Jerzey Devil
Nu Jerzey Devil's elevation from DJ/ producer/ in-house A&R man at Black Wall Street has been anything but hellacious. He's getting booked for shows to rap — not spin records — simply from word of mouth. He put the word out on the Net some time ago that he was going to seriously start rhyming, and promoters from as far away as Germany are shelling out greenbacks to get him onstage. You have to love the hip-hop hustle.

"I love it," the Atlantic City, New Jersey, native said about rapping. "It's something I wanted to do since I was a kid but never did it. But n---as kept pushing me. Game was always like, 'I think you should do it.'

"Game and them keep it gangsta," he added. "No matter how G I keep it, I'm too much of a pretty boy, so people don't believe me. So I do it for the ladies. I still keep it gangsta, but females buy records. That's my lane."

Devil, who is Game's DJ and business associate, said that after the response he got from appearing on Lil Wayne's "Bandana on the Right Side" last year, he decided to finally give it a try.

"Everybody loved it," Dev said. "I ain't get no bad reviews from it. Lil Wayne was impressed."

And with the younger listeners — who happen to be buying a bulk of the music these days — not exactly holding MCs to any type of lyrical standard, let's face it, could Devil really sound any worse than some of these guys out there with "hit" records? He doesn't think so.

"At that point, I was like, 'I hear all his other type of stuff going on, I might as well do it.' There's nothing I can't do. I'm comfortable in the booth, I can do my own beats. I'm trying to keep my hands in every cookie jar I can."

NJ is giving the listeners a chance to hear for themselves very soon with the release of his From the Block to the Yacht mixtape, which is a joint venture with up-and-coming Miami rapper Stacks.

"He grew up a rich kid, silver spoon in his mouth. His dad is a millionaire," NJ said about Stacks being referenced in the CD title. "Me being from the 'hood, the other side of the track. We met through Game. The whole thing is produced by me, Steve Morales, Scott Storch and my new production crew, Surround Sound. It's impeccable, man. I don't like to consider it a mixtape — it's more like an album."

Dev says he'll have an official single out soon. One of his choices is an untitled track with Game, while the other is another song with Lil Wayne that has yet to be named as well. Devil also launched his own clothing line, Heaven or Hell, and if you check the Web site you'll see some of his more tenured rapper friends, such as Rick Ross, modeling his hoodies and T-shirts.

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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