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Fire Starter: Club Crucial's Hustle & Flow Mondays
T.I.'s Club Crucial has been known as one of the most crunk spots in ATL for a couple of years now, but recently it has been getting a name as a hip-hop breeding ground — so to speak. Every week the club holds an open-mic showcase called Hustle & Flow Mondays. DJ Unk was the record-spinner there until he went on to "Walk It Out" fame, and new group the Shop Boyz were discovered there by record execs after they performed their "Party Like a Rock Star" there in front of a crowd that included some Warner Music people.

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

Artist : Grafh

Representing: Queens, New York

Mixtape: Autografh

  Grafh in London (click here for more photos)
411:Grafh used to be known as "the black Eminem" when he first hit the mixtape scene, but nowadays you might wanna start calling him the Chef (with apologies to Raekwon, of course). Grafh recently leaked 12 songs from his long-in-the-works debut and he said he did it because he felt songs like "MySpace Jumpoff" and his countless freestyles aren't enough to show why he considers himself the "best chef in the city."

"I use the example of being a chef, because how would you know that I have the best food if I never gave you a plate?" he explained. "So I have to give people a sample so they don't get it confused. They need to understand what I do and what I represent. Most of the records are really introspective and personal and relate to me directly. But they're based in pain and struggle, so anybody that's gone through anything real in their life can relate."

To get a taste of the album, you can head over to Grafh's MySpace page to download it for free.

Joints To Check For:

  • "In My Mama's Eyez." "Every man can relate to when you go home and your mother looks at you with the particular innocence she knows from her little baby being a kid," Grafh said. "She sees that pure innocence in her son. And when that same man leaves through them front doors to go in the street, the streets done made him a whole 'nother man. He might be in the streets doing all kinds of wrong. Especially when I look at my own life, I was in the streets getting money doing all kinds of sh-- I wasn't supposed to do. Then I got home and I'm still that innocent little dude to her."

  • "Cold-n-Heartless." "I'm analyzing pain and the feeling of being numb to it," Grafh said. "Our society in general is numb to it: You watch the news and hear about people being shot or raped and it doesn't affect your mind, really, and I'm just reflecting on that. Everybody seems to be so numb to that stress. Sh-- has to be so jacked for you to feel it, like the Virginia Tech shootings. It seems like some people don't even react."

  • "Lil' Kenny." "That record is dedicated to a little kid that I used to take care of and kind of raise when I was in high school," Grafh revealed. "His mother was on drugs and he used to live downstairs in the basement of the building I was living at. She didn't care for him much so he used to always come upstairs. I would care for him, buy his clothes, all his school stuff, and feed him. Take care of him like I was a parent when I was a little kid. And she f---ed around and killed him. That's one that's dear to my heart."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
  • DJ Furious Styles & DJ Dub - Shine, Vol. 2
  • Hevehitta & Question - Don't Mess With Texas, Vol. 3
  • Future Star DJs - Welcome to the Venue 2
  • DJ Bedz & DJ Psycho - Capone Carmelo Kustomz, Vol. 2
  • Wize G - My Time 2 Shine
  • Statik Selektah and DJ Premier with Royce the 5'9 - The Bar Exam
  • DJ RNS - Street Heat

Click here for more of Mixtape Monday ...

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • The LOX - "We're Back"

  • Timbaland (featuring Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake) - "Laff At You" ("Give It to Me" remix)

  • T-Pain (featuring Akon) - "Bartender"

  • Lil' Flip - "The Virginia Tech Song"

  • Lil Wayne - "My Thing"

  • Lil Jon (featuring Three 6 Mafia) - "Act a Fool"

Celebrity Faves

  Lauren London
Lauren London is so fine, you'd never take her for the type that loves to hear music coming straight from the gutter. The "ATL" star, who plays Turtle's new love interest on Entourage (the two only kiss this season — no sex scenes, she said), bumps to hard-core street generals. "In my CD player right now I have Styles P's second album [Time Is Money]," she said. "I love it! I play Beanie Sigel's last album [The B.Coming] because "Bread & Butter" is my jam ... but I also like Mary J's My Life."

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

The last couple of guest appearences we've heard from Jay-Z are Ne-Yo's "Crazy" and Rihanna's "Umbrella," but it looks like Hov is finally doing a record with a person the streets have been dying to hear him collaborate with: T.I. Chances are Jigga will appear on T.I.'s T.I. vs. T.I.P. LP which is due early this summer.

"We got word back that Jay did a verse for this song I got," T.I. said last week at his Grand Hustle Studios in Atlanta.

When asked about the cameos, Hova laughed and said, "I'm getting my Andre 3000 on right now," referring to the string of sterling side appearances Mr. Three-Stacks has been making on songs like DJ Unk's "Walk It Out" remix and Devin the Dude's "What a Job." ...

Since we're on Andre, well the cat has been let out of the bag that he will likely appear on T.I. vs. T.I.P. as well. Dre has also been talking to Rick Ross about getting in the studio for Ross' upcoming Trilla. Tying it all together, Jay-Z has already recorded a song for Trilla, a duet with Ross called "Maybach Music."

"You already know what it is," said Ross, who was also in Atlanta last week, of the track. "I'm not going to say too much about it. ...

  Beanie Sigel
Beanie Sigel is officially back with Roc-A-Fella records and is working on his next album, The Solution. Sig says he wants to keep the guest spots to a minimum, but you know you can expect to hear Scarface and various members of the crew once known as State Property on there — and he's already mentioned two guys from Detroit Rock City he wants for another song.

"It's a rock track I wanna do with Kid Rock and Eminem," Sig said last week at New York's Quad Studios. "It's called 'Rock Out With Your C--- Out.' I might have to get the Big Homie to pull a trump card or something. If I could pull it off, then that's good. Other than that, it's just getting Jay in here to do his features. I been gone for a minute so I just wanted to give them me on this album.

"Towards the end of this album, I'mma rap it up and do a mixtape that's gonna be relevant for the album, make [fans] thirsty for it. It's gonna be called The Halfway House, so look out for that." Two DJs are at the top of his list to put it out. "It's a toss between Green Lantern and Drama," he said. ...

Anyone who thinks the Usher material that's been circulating around the Net and mixtapes, such as the strip club ode "Make it Rain," is newly recorded — guess again. Ursh said none of the new material from his album has leaked out yet, and the tracks in question are probably throwaways from Confessions or tracks made just for the streets.

"A lot of music has been coming out on the Web. I even heard a couple of new-old songs from my last album on the radio," he said in Atlanta. "Don't get it confused: If you hear any of my stuff floating around, it may be underground stuff that just got leaked or something like that, 'cause I always stay creative with the team. But this album, when it's time for you to hear it, you'll hear it. The [most recent] thing I did was a remix of 'Icebox' with Omarion, which is kind of like a tribute to R&B. So many hip-hop artists support each other when you get a hot one. I felt like this is something that will be just as hot for an artist who's well established to jump on a song with a young, up-and-coming artist." ...

  Dame Grease
Dame Grease has been in MIA for a while. While he's laid back on the beats, the hard-core New York sound has been replaced with snap music and other forms of Southern bounce as the most popular type of tracks right now. Grease says he's on the comeback trail, and the first song to herald his return is DJ Drama's "Taking Pictures."

"It was the perfect thing for him after his situation," Dame said. "My manager played the beat for him as soon as he came out of the courthouse. My artist Meeno is on the hook." Grease said he had no idea Drama would put so many artists on the record, but thinks T.I. has the best verse.

"I just been regrouping," he said of his hiatus. "The first thing I know is that I can make songs, I can make hits. I have to get back in there and do what I do. The beat's gotta be meaty, and I'm bringing that edge back that turned the game upside."

Grease has been producing for the LOX, Styles P (he did a banger for SP and Beanie Sigel), Freeway and Hell Rell.

"I got a joint by Freeway with Hov on it," he revealed. "I'm hoping that'll be the single from his album, its called 'Big Spender.' That's gonna be big. I thought that was gonna be my first comeback single. Then the 'Takin' Pictures' just crept up. I did half of Hell Rell's album. His sh-- matches my sh--. His music is more gutter than flashy dude. It's a Grease type of vibe. I'm also working with Lil' Mama. She has it — you would never know she's that young. She's a star."

Just chillin' and analyzing the game isn't the only thing the producer has been doing since we last heard him a few years ago. He says he's recorded about 80 songs for his album, Sour Diesel.

"I got a mean joint with DMX, I'm pushing for this Kelis song to be the single. I'm reaching out to my South dudes, T.I., Jeezy. Meeno is definitely on there, Dipset is on there, I'm getting Lupe Fiasco on there, he's got bars. I like Lupe."

Although DMX appears on his solo album, Grease says he's looking forward to the day when he can really lock in and do most of his friend's album again. He said label politics have been blocking them from working together.

"I have to do what I gotta do to solidify myself as a world- renowned producer so I can do him the way I know he needs to be done. [The lukewarm reception] of his last album hurt me because that's my friend. It's more than just doing a beat for him."

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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