This was posted on Friday, January 13, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Legendary Atlanta music producer Jermaine Dupri knows to hit when something is hot. He has now taped three seasons of "The Rap Game" in fewer than 18 months. The third season began tonight after Atlanta's own Miss Mulatto and Mani won the first two seasons in 2016.
"Now that the kids know the series," JD said in a recent interview, "and they've seen it, the talent is getting better. The talent continues to keep increasing. The season is getting longer. There's more stuff we can do. A lot of people have questioned how long 'The Rap Game' can keep going. As long as the talent is out there, that's what the show is built around."
While he had to hunt for talent early on, now kids are tagging him and tagging Lifetime.
King Roscoe was born and raised locally with a focus on good grades and positivity. "He's from the Bluff [the nickname for the area near English Avenue and Vine City]," Dupri said. "He's a true Atlanta native. He's not like the usual suspects from that part of town. I was a little skeptical when he first tried out. But he definitely turned me around and made me a Roscoe fan."
His mom and manager, August native Deishonna Jones, said Roscoe recorded a song about being a Straight A student when he was in third grade. He's tried out for "America's Got Talent" and met T.I. when he was nine. He auditioned the first two seasons of "The Rap Game" and finally got on this season.
"I feel I have what it takes," Roscoe told me, noting his favorite artists include Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. "I feel I'm way above people my age" with his rap ability.
Roscoe, who attends Kipp Ways Academy, said he works on verses and his rapping four hours a day. "The TV show has made me more competitive and better as an artist and writer," he said. "My confidence on stage has improved. And when I walk, I have a little more attitude."
Flau'Jae, who has lived part of her life in Savannah but now lives in Kennesaw, said she probably came in a bit too cocky. "I thought it would be a piece of cake on TV," she said. "It's ten times harder. It makes you want to work. You have to have a good personality and good attitude."
She describes her rap style as "hard core, fun and relatable."
Flau'Jae is also a basketball player. At 12 years old, she is already 5 foot 6. "She looks much older than her age," her mom Lakia Jones said. "JD wanted her to look younger but she's so tall." She said basketball keeps Flau'Jae in shape and helps build her stamina when she performs her raps.
Flau'Jae's goal is to carry on her father Camouflage's legacy. The rap star was murdered in Savannah in 2003 when she was four months in the womb so she never got to meet him.
The first episode was all about first impressions. Dupri first tested out the five young rappers by having them perform live in front of a crowd of teens at Ventanas in downtown Atlanta. Most did well. King Roscoe missed a few lines but recovered. Flau'Jae had the wrong track playing but recovered and managed to roll with it. Both Nova and Deetranada are older and look like strong contenders from the get go.
Tally, now 17 and oldest of the five, was eliminated season two and is back, well aware she has a target on her back. "I'm not going to forget one lyric," she said on the show. "I'm here to win." She is the only white person in the competition and sounds and looks a bit like Iggy Azalea.
Then each one had to come up with 16 bars to introduce themselves with help from mentors. John John Da Don, a battle rapper, chose Flau'Jae. "You got to be more clear of what your words are," he said to her. "As far as your voice projection, you don't have to scream it." Noting her father, he said, "you have big shoes to fill."
King Roscoe got Michael-Bryan Cox, an Emmy-winning producer and writer, as his mentor. He brought the kid to the gym to build his stamina.
They had to perform not only in front of JD and the mentors but also rap star Fabolous.
- Tally came in aggressive and made up for her season two flub in front of Snoop. "That was a real performance," JD said. "I was really impressed. New season. New Tally."
- Flau'Jae did a decent job describing her past. "But I still don't have a feel for her as a rapper," he said.
- Deetranada stumbled a bit at the start but then got her act together to finish strong.
- King Roscoe did a very positive rap and then ended it with his dad. "This dude has a little bit of substance," said JD.
- Nova tries to mix sexy with vigor. JD liked the bilingual start.
Fabolous thought a couple were in too his face and he said that's not necessary. Nova was the best, he concluded.
JD's first "Hit List" ranked as follows:
5- Flau'Jae. "The reason why I would say you were No. 5... is because it's first impressions. And I don't remember too much about the rap except 'down in the water,' " JD said.
4- King Roscoe. "You did strike a nerve in everybody when you went into talking about your father," JD said. "But putting it up with the others, it wasn't as strong."
3- Deetranada. "I know you did mess up. But I also know you're new to performing," he said.
2- Nova. "You left a very memorable impression on everybody but it wasn't a true introduction rap. I would have wanted to know where you're from," JD said.
1- Tally. JD said her message was clear: "I'm back on my feet and this time I'm going to stay."
Later this season, stars such as Rick Ross, Kelly Rowland, Jadakiss and Young Jeezy will help out. JD also bring the kids to the King Center to give them a sense of civil rights history. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice gives them a talk and a special VIP tour. Neither Atlanta kid had been there before, Dupri said.
"Each season, I try to find different special things that add flavor using the backdrop of Atlanta, to show what's happening in this city that attracts people not from here," he said.
The winner gets a contract with So So Def Records, Dupri's label.
JD plans to take the three season winners on a tour this year once season three is over.
His show's success has led Lifetime to create another competition show called "The Pop Game" with Timbaland set to debut next month with guests such as Macy Gray, JoJo, Macy Gray and "Idol" season 7 winner Jordin Sparks. Dupri and Queen Latifah are executive producers.
"The Rap Game," 10 p.m. Fridays, Lifetime