Bad-boy Chris Brown signed with Jive records at age fifteen. "I hope I can be the next Michael Jackson," Brown said. His first album was an instant top-ten hit. Grammy nominations brought him even more attention. Billboard named Chris 2008's Artist of the Year. He maintained a low profile after his assault of then-girlfriend, Rihanna. But now he's back on top.
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. wrote his first rhyme at age eight. Lil Wayne still sets his own rules and does not let people tell him how to make his music. He's an artist with a trademark appearance, wearing his hair in dreadlocks. His teeth are covered in gold, platinum, and diamonds. His body is covered with tattoos. And he is rarely seen without a red bandana.
Armando Christian Prez would record his rapping over other songs. This made him one of the most popular local rap artists in Miami. He called himself Pitbull and explained how he and the dog were alike: "They bite to lock. The dog is too stupid to lose. And they're outlawed in Dade County. They're basically everything that I am. It's been a constant fight."
Kanye West is known as an overconfident musician and fashion designer. He is considered a genius by many in the music business. He produced megahits for Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Common. Kanye calls himself the voice of a generation. He said, "Someone could be a better rapper, dance better. But culturally impacting? When you look back ... who's the icon at the end of the day?"
Shawn Corey Carter was born in 1969 and raised in Brooklyn's tough Marcy housing projects. The J and Z trains ran by Marcy, so his friends called him Jay-Z. Hearing rap for the first time "... was like watching some kind of combat, but he was alone in the center. All he had were his eyes, taking in everything, and the words inside him. I was dazzled."
Drake stands out among hip-hop stars. The Jewish Canadian actor has never struggled with drugs or poverty. Critics question his authenticity. Yet Drake has a great attitude. He says, "At the end of the day, I consider myself a black man because I'm more immersed in black culture than any other. Being Jewish is kind of a cool twist. It makes me unique."
People find it very hard to describe Nicki Minaj. She is a very successful solo rap artist. But that leaves out her talent in other styles of music. You could describe her as a fierce feminist. But she also works hard at being really cute. Fans of Nicki Minaj understand that she is anything but simple.
She was a little girl born on an island in the Caribbean Sea. She dreamed of singing for more than just her schoolmates and friends. She sold clothing in a street stall. But one day she would be famous enough to help children who were poor. Now she's a megastar. Rihanna has been on television, in movies, and splashed across the covers of popular magazines.
The world knows 50 Cent as a hip-hop artist and movie star. He has won dozens of awards and made millions of dollars. He works to end hunger around the world. But 50 Cent, also known as Fiddy, grew up living a very different life in South Jamaica, Queens. It was the height of the 1980's crack epidemic. And Fiddy was dealing crack by age twelve...
From gospel choirboy to Star Search winner, Usher, whose full name is Usher Terry Raymond IV, is not just a multi-platinum recording artist. He's a singer, a dancer, and an actor. He is a composer. He has written songs for many famous artists. Usher is a proud father. He is also a mentor, a person who helps or teaches people. He works hard as an activist. He does good things for others.