Our 2009 Rock Rookies: Lil Wayne’s Favorite Singer, Pharrell’s Dynamic Duo

Kevin Rudolf says 'Let It Rock' is more than a 'party record'; Chester French take credit for 50 Cent's abs.

2008 was a huge year for rock … and 2009 looks like it could be even bigger. So all this week, we’re taking stock of the things guaranteed to rock this year. From the triumphant returns of some of the biggest bands on the planet to a handful of up-and-coming acts that we’re expecting big things from in ’09, we’ve got it all covered. This is Rock Week, on MTVNews.com.

Once upon a time, even the hugest bands on the planet were bands no one had ever heard of. They had yet to rock arenas or unite the globe or even ride on a tour bus with a working toilet, for that matter. They were just a bunch of kids with a single press photo (usually taken against a brick wall) and a whole lot of possibility. It didn’t matter that the odds were stacked impossibly high against them. It was almost better that way.

These days, things are different. Thanks to the vast frontier of the Internet, practically every band has been heard by somebody, which makes the concept of them “rocketing to success” seem rather antiquated. And, perhaps dulled by nearly three decades of “Next Big Thing” articles, we tend to roll our eyes further back into our heads with each “can’t miss” contender foisted on us by the music industry.

That said, please allow us to do the very same thing. Because, really, the Next Big Things have to come from somewhere, right? So while we’re going to refrain from the hyperbole (“This band will change your life!”) we are going to go out on a limb and say that you’ll be hearing a whole lot from these guys in 2009. From [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist]-approved rock stars to much-buzzed blog acts to, um, barely pubescent head-bangers, these are our top picks for 2009′s Rock Rookies.

Kevin Rudolf

Who: The 25-year-old songwriter/producer grew up a guitar virtuoso then switched to making beats after being taken under [artist id="503162"]Timbaland’s[/artist] wing. Since then, he’s produced tracks for [artist id="2000082"]Rick Ross[/artist] and [artist id="961097"]Ludacris[/artist] and played guitar for [artist id="1231683"]Justin Timberlake[/artist], [artist id="932"]LL Cool J [/artist] and the [artist id="30064"]Black Eyed Peas[/artist], to name just a few. His debut album, In the City, was released late last year on Lil Wayne’s Cash Money Records and spawned the hit “Let It Rock,” which, if you’ve been near a radio in the past six months, you’ve probably heard.

Something to Say: “Let It Rock” crossed over to the pop, rock and R&B charts and reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, but unlike most chart fare, it’s actually about something: “It’s a song about the hypocrisy in the world, and I’m saying that when I come through, I’m bringing the truth,” Rudolf explained. “I use the parable of the Prodigal Son, because I want to expose all the fakes out there — in the music industry, in the world, anywhere. A lot of people think it’s a party record, but it’s not.”

Good Non-Answer, Dude: As a kid growing up in Manhattan, Rudolf worshipped at the altar of Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page, so he knows a thing or two about guitar shredding. But what does he think about his labelmate Wayne’s playing? “He’s on his own path. … I’ve done a couple of songs for his new record, and they do lean a lot more rock, and he’s coming at it hard,” Rudolf said. “As a guitar player, he’s sounding good. I’m a different kind of guitar player, you know, but he’s on his own path.”

Chester French

Who: Two Ivy League-educated smart-asses with a penchant for spacey, horned-up electro pop, Maxwell Drummey and D.A. Wallach met at Harvard University, named their band after a sculptor and caught the ear of [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist], who offered the duo a deal. They passed on that offer in favor of an even more lucrative deal from the Neptunes’ Star Trak Entertainment. Judging from their debut EP, She Loves Everybody, their full-length, Love the Future (due later this year), is sure to burst with swanky hooks and smarmy jokes. Oh, and Drummey is rather inexplicably married to British socialite Peaches Geldof.

The Secret Source of [artist id="860639"]50 Cent’s[/artist] Abs?: Though they’ve already drawn comparisons to another head-in-the-clouds electro duo — [artist id="2552793"]MGMT[/artist] — Chester French fail to see any similarities. For one, they’re way more into fighting … and physiques. “We’re a band that really encourages consensual violence — never against women — but we like representing for a whole bunch of people,” Wallach said. “We’ve all been abused by a woman in one way or another, but we come in and we take it, because we’re these strong, assertive men who care about our physiques. This music stuff is really a side project for us. It’s a way to earn money so that we can keep our gym memberships going. … We’re trainers too. We trained 50. Everyone knows that.”

A Big, Messy Year Indeed: When they spurned Kanye for a deal with [artist id="1242768"]Pharrell Williams[/artist] and Star Trak, CF garnered plenty of “who the f— are these dudes?!?” headlines. Looking to silence the critics, they’ve been holed up in the studio, hard at work on their full-length debut. And with an album on the horizon, what else are the dynamic duo looking forward to in ’09? “2009 is going to see the birth of my second child, which I’m really excited for,” Drummey joked. “We’re going to put an album out too.”

Check back Tuesday for the first of our looks at some of 2009′s most-buzzed new acts, as Rock Week continues on MTVNews.com.