Rap Draft with Dallas Penn
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Okay, we’re back with another edition of Rap Draft, and this time around, we tapped the brain of hip-hop/sports/sneaker/Polo enthusiast Dallas Penn, who quiet as kept had his own fantasy rap draft popping back in 2006. So to give him his props, and see what he’d make of his squad with our roster format, we brought him in to create his fantasy rap team, as if he was starting his own record label from scratch using artists and front office personnel that are hot THIS SEASON. And make no mistake, Dallas is playing to win. This ain’t just a list of his favorites. Sure, he’s got some picks on here that represent his personal palette, but there are some very strategic selections being made here, too.
Check out Dallas’ squad below, and make sure you look out for him co-hosting The Combat Jack Show, and also exploring the best places to eat in NYC neighborhoods for his new web series The Food Warriors. Let’s get it.
1. East Coast Rapper – Action Bronson
Dallas Penn: “I like the upside for Action Bronson, for [everything he brings to] the game. White dude, hella witty. He’s like Ol’ Dirty [Bastard] almost, with a mean flow. This guy, he’s like a rap degenerate. And I feel he cuts across more than just the region that he comes from. He’s just super relatable. That’s really why I go for this guy. People look at Action and say, ‘Oh snap, I see myself, or someone I know.’
“I’ve enjoyed what he’s done [with his music]. I really enjoyed Blue Chips 2 more than I thought I would. I thought I was going to enjoy his and Alchemist’s work more, but I would say that I like Blue Chips 2 more than Rare Chandeliers, and more than Saaab Stories. Maybe it’s the rhymes from Action, not that it’s any different from his usual content. But for some reason, this particular music is where I feel he’s right in the pocket.”
2. West Coast Rapper – Kendrick Lamar
“If you’re putting together a roster, and you don’t choose Lebron James, you don’t choose Albert Pujols, you don’t choose whoever is one of the top performers in the game, how’s your team going to win? And Kendrick Lamar is one of the top performers in the game right now, content-wise and skill-wise. And the other thing you look at is the potential, the upside. Where can this person go with their career? And I feel like Kendrick Lamar just has a big space open in front of him. He can be around for a long time. He’s kind of like my Alex Rodriguez, during the steroid years. [Laughs.] He’s gonna get those big numbers.”
3. South Rapper – 2 Chainz
“He’s quietly a veteran of music. You see him on features with Robin Thicke, you see him all over the place. Doing good feature work, bringing something to that production. And you need that guy. As I look at my roster, he’s in the third slot, and you need somebody in the third slot that can bring runs in. He’s an RBI producer. He can bring runs in. I would want 2 Chainz on my team, because he’s the kind of guy that can be a nice glue between other guys that might be ultra-lyrical, or ultra-something else. 2 Chainz brings that X.
“I [respect his rap skills]. I know his attempt is not to be ultra-lyrical. He’s ultra-memorable. He said this crazy line, and it took me through the summer. The chorus, ‘I’ll be fresh as hell if the Feds watching/Drop top, head bopping.’ It takes you where you have to go. He’s definitely not on my Top 5, Top 10, [even] Top 20 lyricists [list]. But he’s on my team, because he’s gonna bring in runs.”
4. Midwest Rapper – Big Sean
“I’ll be honest and say that I’m not the biggest Big Sean fan. But I’m putting him on my team. Again, the team I’m building is about artists who I feel have an upside, who still have a lot to offer to music. And they’re really just finding their voice, and hitting their stride. And after a few years, Big Sean’s just hitting his stride. Finally Famous. I see an upside to Big Sean.
“Rap’s changed from when it was all about the ultra-lyrical guys who put together all these crazy bars. And I love that stuff. I love Eminem, and I love Kool G Rap, and guys that put these incredible bars together where you have to dig up a thesaurus. But for the music, that time may have passed. It’s a new generation, it’s a new way of communicating. I’m not saying that style won’t come back again, but right now, people aren’t communicating like that.”
5. Utility Rapper – Tech N9ne
“On your team, you’re going to need someone who as an artist can do it all. And from making music, to marketing his music, to touring the country and making money from his music, Tech N9ne might be in the Top 5 in all those categories. Here’s a guy who understands that the word ‘business’ is twice as long as the word ‘show.’
“On my team, he’s the guy who I feel like can coach the other players on how to become better at their craft, and how to become all-around better performers and businessmen. I mean, he’s the guy who no one hears on the radio, but he still makes more money touring than almost everybody else, except for Jay Z and the guys who go on stadium tours. He’s killing it. Constantly killing it.
“Tech N9ne’s rhyme style is not something I favor, but he’s mastered it, and he’s mastered developing an audience from it. He’s authentic. You can’t put a price on that. I like having him on my team. He’s the veteran on my team. He’s like the Paul O’Neill I picked up, because he can play, and he’s gonna shape up the other people on my roster.”
6. Rapper/Producer – Kanye West
“Who else in the world would you put in a rapper/producer spot? If you’d given me a category called ‘God,’ then I would’ve put Kanye there. Tremendous artistry, production skills, everything. It’s the whole kit and caboodle with him. He is my roster’s MVP. I don’t have a Jay Z there, I don’t have an Eminem there, so he is my roster’s MVP for this season.
“I feel like Pusha’s My Name is My Name is so inspired by his sound. Magna Carta Holy Grail was inspired by the Kanye West sound, from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Watch The Throne. He’s pushing hip-hop forward. He’s pushing it into the pop music realm, but he’s pushing hip-hop forward sonically. Yeezus was the album of the year. Not hip-hop album of the year, not rap album of the year, it was the album of the year, period.”
7. Producer – Hit-Boy
“[Hit-Boy is] up and coming, with an ability to create hip-hop, pop, and R&B pop. Just a great young ear. I’m putting him on my team, because I feel like, ‘Oh snap, I’ve got this guy signed for four years, but in a year, he’s bringing in all the runs. He’s hitting home runs.’ Both my production choices are based on what I think’s gonna happen within the next year.”
8. Producer – Just Blaze
“He’s taking his ear and devoting time to electronic dance music. He’s putting a soulful aspect into EDM, which it really didn’t have previously. EDM is so mechanical, and so redundant sometimes. So once it gets a little soulful treatment, then it really becomes dynamite. It’s not just like a marching theme. It really flowers. For Hit-Boy and for Just Blaze, I want to see what they’re gonna have in another year. Then, who’s effing with my squad? Nobody.”
9. DJ – Mister Cee
“I want Mister Cee to bring his veteran poise, and even his demographic. I want to be able to go into certain arenas, and bring all the people out. Okay, and Mister Cee’s been super controversial. And sometimes you sign a Dennis Rodman, because he’s controversial. But he knows how to play. The guy’s got a good ear, and he knows how to perform. We don’t care so much what he does off the court, or off the field, or whatever arena we describe that we’re playing in. When he’s playing, he’s doing his thing.”
10. R&B Singer – Drake
“I’m gonna have to draft Drizzilino as my R&B dude. Drake is certainly a capable rapper, but his work as a crooner makes him invincible. Also, I picked up Drake for his songwriting capability. I’m taking the serious general manager approach to putting together what I think is a roster of people who for this year and next year, and for the long-term, will be viable, consistent artists.”
11. Executive – Roc Marciano
“In a way, you kind of gave me a bonus with this one. If you consider everything you’re going to get with a Roc Marciano, this put us over the top right here. He’s a VP at Man Bites Dog [Records], he signed AG da Coroner and believes in AG da Coroner, he’s working to redevelop Knowledge the Pirate, and then his own work. His work with Alchemist, his work with Arch Druids. Roc Marciano is massively, massively talented. He can rhyme, lights out. And now look at the producers we’ve got here. We’ve got Kanye, Hit-Boy, Just Blaze, Roc Marciano. We’ve definitely got the heat.
“Roc’s not trying to be something that he isn’t, which is great for an early executive. Stay right in the place that you’re comfortable in, with artists who love boom bap and love that aesthetic. But in the meantime, develop your craft and your voice even more so that people understand how authentic you are. And there will be no question that people will respect your decisions even more when they understand and respect your authenticity.”
12. Press – Karen Civil
“Elliott Wilson would’ve been easy, and obvious. Because Elliott Wilson is out here whoring himself for press, as you have to [if] you want to be a [profitable] writer. My father told me, ‘Don’t be a writer, because there are three jobs that people will do for no money: circus clown, astronaut, and writer.’ People love to do these things so much that no one wants to pay you for that, because they know you’re going to do it anyway.
“I’m looking at Karen Civil because I think that she has come up. I see her name all over the place. She was connected to Young Money, but when she kind of disconnected herself, she still kept moving up. She didn’t fizzle off. And as I go up and down the roster, I realize that we need that kind of energy, that kind of push that a female presence can provide. I read her stuff. It’s super PR-based. And I don’t fault her for that. I more or less salute her for doing her thing, and her consistency.”
Team Name: The Heat
“You can’t beat The Heat.”
1st Single Release
“The first single will be produced by Kanye, and it will have Kendrick and Roc Marciano on it, with 2 Chainz on the hook. Right now, I feel like the guys who are built to deliver the hottest verses are Kendrick and Roc. And 2 Chainz is going to figure out something to put in that hook. I think we’re going to call the song ‘Fireworks,’ but it’s going to be spelled ‘Fiyahverkx.’ And 2 Chainz is going to say it like that German voice from the Wendy’s commercial, like, ‘Fiiyaahhvveerrkkxxx.’
“Kendrick and Roc are just going to be spitting fire. And I feel like Kanye’s going to lace the beat, but we might have Kanye [rap] on the remix, because Kanye is just going to be so coked up, and after listening to Kendrick and Roc, he’s going to say something so crazy that their minds will be blown.”
“Oh yeah, [Kanye’s going to be coked up]. Skied up. This is what I’m bringing to the team. You come inside the clubhouse, and I’ve got piles of it. Whatever guys want to perform.”
Posse Cut Lineup
“Production [will be handled by] Hit-Boy, because I feel like he’s going to find the wild sound for this wild bunch. Sadat X has used the title ‘Wild Cowboys,’ but we’re going to use the title ‘Wild Cowboys’ as well. First up, Action. You know, to be verbose, and grandiose, and be wild as Action gets, but just to set the tone for what the track is going to do. Then, I think I’m going to have Kanye follow Action. Kanye’s gonna keep it rockin’, and keep it nutty. More fly, braggadocio, but from the perspective of somebody who just does not G.A.F. I like to hear what Kanye does when he just gives no fucks whatsoever.
“Then, we go to Tech N9ne, and his style is wild already. He’s screaming. Then I’ll plug in Kendrick for the last verse. I called Kanye the MVP, but who’s the guy that people come out to see? They come out to see Kanye, and they come out to see Kendrick. Kendrick caps it off. Black out, mic dropping, that whole thing. And I’ll have Drake singing in the background, ‘You can’t beat The Heat.’”
Pics via Instagram.