In a climate where MCs are judged on sales and charts as much as bars and hooks, Andy Mineo has already accomplished quite a bit.
Last year, the Syracuse, New York, spitter sold 28,000 copies in the first week of his debut album Heroes for Sale independently, and now, he's back and out for rap respect. He currently occupies the #1 spot on iTunes' sales chart with his latest EP Never Land, which he dropped Tuesday on LeCrae's Reach Records.
Despite his indie cred, Mineo has spent the last 12 months overlooked by the hip-hop media and the fans who follow it. The reason? His Christian rapper stigma could be to blame.
But his music doesn't exactly scream gospel, however — not on a surface listen. Take Never Land's "You Can't Stop Me," for example, where Mineo embraces the underdog role that most rappers must overcome to complete their story.
"You will never write a verse like Kendrick/ Never be to rap what rock got from Hendrix/ Top 10 alive, you will never be mentioned/ Why aim so high? Won't survive the trenches," he rhymes sarcastically before surmising that his only rap competition is himself.
While it's clear Mineo wants rap respect, he isn't consumed by it. He chronicles his come-up on the radio-ready "Rewind," recalling his early Wu-Tang Clan influence and tossing out his wardrobe to make room from a home studio in his bedroom closet. On the acoustic-sounding "All We Got," he debates whether success is even worth the trouble. "Can you tell? I've been so affected by this industry/ Numbers and CD sales, what the heck has gotten into me," he questions.
"I'm talking about the emptiness of success," Mineo told MTV News of Never Land's theme when he sat down with us at the beginning of January. "Money, status, fame, selling out concerts; I'm doing all that stuff... But that stuff doesn't bring ultimate satisfaction. I'm discovering that."
Andy's battle with success and salvation finally comes to a head on the EP-closer "Death of Me," though it doesn't exactly come to a resolve. "Still can't believe I get paid for this/ As a kid all I did was pray for this/ Now I'm living out my dream; craziest/ Got me really feeling I was made for this," he spits, with wide eyes.
Yet, for Mineo, it all comes at a price. "I bought the lie hip hop sold me, now I want a refund," he rhymes before surmising: "What I do for a living could be the death of me."
If rap doesn't kill him, it will surely make Andy Mineo stronger.