Hello, yo, and welcome to the premiere of The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott! What lies ahead of you is the stirring tale of thirteen young hopefuls who set off to prove their R&B and hip-hop talents to the world—and a no-nonsense judging panel—all while traveling across the country in a tour bus alongside Grammy-winner Missy Elliott. Can any of these kids make it? Well, if an album called “Crunk Juice” can sell, I don’t see why not.
For your reading pleasure, let me tell you . . . we have the most formidable hip-hop writing crew ever to hit the streets. They call me Manny, and I have an extensive knowledge of hip-hop music that extends from Afrika Bambaataa to . . . uh . . . The Beastie Boys. Sure. And my partner in crime, Mariner? Well, let’s just say that she possesses the most fearsome wordplay the world has seen since “Straight Outta Compton.” So now that the introductions are finished, let’s get on with this. It could be your only chance to do a hip-hop dance.
The Renegades of Funk
To get us into the spirit of the music, we kick off the show by attending a tour launch party, which Missy explains is to “loosen everybody up.” It’s also a clever way to introduce us to Missy’s three faithful
henchwomenback-up dancers, who will be assisting with all of her decisions during the show. VIP all-access passes are handed out to each contestant, who must guard them with their very lives, because if perchance you lose your pass, you’re eliminated. As long as you have your pass, you’re still in. If you are eliminated by natural causes, you lose your pass, and it’s back to the roadies with you, wanksta. With all the particulars out of the way, everyone hits the floor for some half-hearted dancin’ before retiring to a couch for introductions. Because really, when was the last time you got your groove on in front of complete strangers (who are soon going to be your fierce opponents)?
Hi, My Name is. . . .
Akil – 23, Teacher; Jersey City, New Jersey
The dreadlocked Akil is the first of the contestants to immediately make an impression when he pulls out an acoustic guitar and plays a tasty little riff, accompanied by his own beatboxing. Hey, he’s a one-man band! This, of course, provides the perfect accompaniment for the ensuing musical self-introductions . . . how very convenient.
Melissa – 19, Student; Plymouth, Minnesota
Melissa immediately realizes that she’s the baby of the competition, but that fact doesn’t intimidate her. She’s taken voice lessons since she was six, but her parents may have been ripped off from the sounds of it.
Yelawolf – 24, Contract artist; Rainbow City, Alabama
Yelawolf bears no real resemblance to Beowulf, first of all. I’m naturally cautious whenever a white rapper comes around claiming to be from the mean streets . . . wicky wicky . . . and I’m still going to be skeptical of his “street cred” until I see him perform. But who knows . . . Ol’ Yela may actually be genuine after all. He mentions that he’s married with a 2-year-old son and another on the way, so he would really appreciate the break of winning this.
Nilyne – 23, Make-up artist/student; Plainfield, New Jersey
Nilyne’s first line of business after a drink is to immediately scope out all the guys on the couch. Forget this competition nonsense; it’s time to chase boys! Her eye falls on. . . .
Nic – 29, Disc jockey; Aliso Viejo, California
At 29 years old, Nic is the old, decrepit man of the competition, and I hope we hear him kick it old school, like an old fool who’s so cool. But I highly doubt this will happen. He’s trying to act cool and indifferent to catching Nilyne’s fancy, but I’m sure everyone else sees right through it, too. “Eyeing the merchandise,” indeed.
Matthew – 25, Theme park entertainer; Orlando, Florida
Matthew introduces himself as a “crazy Christian” and decides to do some freestyling for fun at the couch jam. At least he also admits that he’s not a rapper. Several of the ladies are skeptical of his Justin Timberlake-like appearance, perhaps afraid that he’s going to rip their clothes off.
Frank B – 21, Construction worker; Brooklyn, New York
Frankie says that he’s an Italian from Brooklyn, which is what makes him unique. What!?
Deltrice – 23, Clothing designer; San Francisco, California
Deltrice says that she’s a diva. She’s a diva because of how she looks, how she acts, how she carries herself . . . but “how she sings” is never mentioned.
Jessica – 23, Writer; Chicago, Illinois
The soulful-voiced Jessica introduces herself with some impromptu lyrics, and it’s immediately apparent that this girl can sing! All the other contestants immediately go into “threat mode,” wanting to be nice but not-too-nice.
Heather – 22, Student; Boston, Massachusetts
Frank B had never seen a white female rapper before, and neither had I, so I guess it’s a good thing that Heather’s on this show. She says that when she gets on stage, everyone expects her to start singing, but check it, G, she’s an MC. Will she be able to break down the stereotypes?
Cori – 21, Recent college graduate; Orlando, Florida
Eddie – 25, Construction worker; New Orleans, Louisiana
Marcus – 24, Sercurity guard; Houston, Texas
There are also these three contestants around, but they either used their secret powers of invisibility during this scene or were too normal to be shown at this point.
Too Cool for Lights Out
Now that we’ve met everyone . . . even Busta Rhymes, who appeared in the shot for nearly a second . . . Missy announces that tomorrow their journey begins, and one of them is going to win a recording contract with Missy’s label, a released single, $100,000, and they’re going to “go out and make some Celine Dion money!” I hope not with Celine Dion music, or I’m simply not recapping anymore. Everyone’s dollar-sign eyes light up, and it’s off to bed to get ready for the big day.
Jessica, Heather, and Deltrice have banded together as best friends forever, and Jessica reflects on how much music means to her, having it as her only outlet while growing up almost entirely on her own. Heather tells of growing up with her pastor dad, who wouldn’t allow her to do anything. I wonder how she became a rapper, then?
In the next room, the conversation is considerably less deep, at least intellectually, with Nic and Nilyne still fawning over one another. Matthew sees the ensuing sexual tension and runs for the hills, claiming he just wants to get to bed . . . thus establishing himself as the Clay Aiken of R&B. Everyone else follows suit . . . but not until around 4:54 A.M. Ah, the life of the stars.
Oh No! It’s the Big Bad White Dude!
Unfortunately, our beloved contestants have forgotten that they are not stars yet . . . and are a bit surprised when a big, scary guy barges into the room at 7:54 and none-too-gently wakes them all up. Meet Steve, the road manager. He’s worked with all the greats . . . Run-D.M.C., Jam Master Jay, Tupac . . . and it’s his job to make sure they get where they need to be, when they need to be there. Can you imagine if the kids on American Idol had a road manager? Bwa ha ha! Welcome to show business. Simon may throw out some well-rehearsed and inconsequential barbs at you, but Steve would probably break you in half.
Nobody protests much, considering that Steve just kicked down their door with ease, and they drowsily pack and get ready to head downstairs and get on the bus. The bus! Ah, what an image of the life of a superstar! The interior is decked out with nice beds, 8,000 thread-count sheets, marble sinks, flowers . . . everyone is considerably happier as they begin picking their spots and checking out their new home. Just as everyone begins getting cozy, Steve peeks his head into the bus, and exclaims, “What are you doing on Missy’s bus!? Don’t ever get on Missy’s bus unless you’re told! Come on, your bus is coming.”
With a collective groan, everyone gathers up their bags and shuffles out, where the new bus pulls up for them. Well, at least I think there’s a bus underneath all that graffiti. Everyone puts on their brave face as Steve tells them to get on—taking only one of their bags—until they step inside. Trash, trash, everywhere! The interior seems to have either taken on a small tornado (and lost miserably), or it’s a leftover from Keith Moon’s early days, for everything is either broken or covered in dubious bits of garbage. The bed inside is horrifically stained, the windows are broken, and duct tape seems to be holding the entire vehicle together. You know, it’s a lot like my grandparents’ motorhome, actually . . . and if that’s the case, the roof leaks, too. Marcus proclaims that it’s “dirty, stinky funky, skanky, smelly. . . .” But Yelawolf likes it. He says it has character. Boy, you can tell this guy’s a parent.
Can I Kick It?
The first stop on this wild ride is New York’s famous S.O.B.’s club/restaurant. So famous that I’ve never heard of it, but we learn that a lot of famous artists have gotten their start here. In they go, and we get our first look at the judges . . . Mona Scott, president of Violator management and Missy’s own manager; Dallas Austin, famed producer who has worked with Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, Michael Jackson and Madonna, to name a few; and R&B legend Teena Marie.
Mona greets them and explains that they will take part in many musical challenges as they travel across the country, and they’ve always got to be ready for when their moment might come. . . . “And your moment just came,” she tells them. The contestants will get their first opportunity to perform in front of the judges now!
Missy pops up onto our screen once more to inform us that the contestants must always be ready to “expect the unexpected.” Well, from the look of things, it’s a hard-learned lesson this time. Everybody seems quite nervous. Er, I mean . . . they’re trippin’. Sorry, I forgot where I was for a while. Each will have to perform an original song that the judges haven’t heard. What? Performers who write their own songs? I sense the downfall of mainstream pop music here.
First up is Nic, who swaggers up wearing a towel under his askew ball cap. The judges ask what the deal is with the towel, and Nic claims that they had to get up early and he didn’t have much time to get ready. So, bad hair day? *snicker* Mona stares blankly at him before directing him up the stage, where Nic breaks out into a lusty rap that sounds right like the whitest white write ever written. Between that and his rebellious towel-wearing, the judges aren’t impressed. Next!
Cori comes up and belts out a rather nondescript number . . . nothing bad, but not great, either.
Melissa is noticeably nervous, but Teena likes her voice.
Deltrice is ok, and is grilled whether she’d rather be a singer or a writer.
Mona tells Matthew that he “lost it midway through, and lost me,” but she also remarks that she finds him “credible.”
Mona also feels that nothing about Nilyne has a timeless feeling . . . everything is all “now” and disposable.
Wow—first you have to write your own songs, and now we have judges that actually judge? What is this world coming to?
Akil comes on stage, but then asks if he can go get his guitar so he can put on a better show for the judges. Mona replies that they would rather hear a performance without any props, so Akil spins a rather lackluster freestyle rap (though preceded by some excellent beatboxing). Dallas advises Akil that if the guitar is such a central part of his performance, he needs to keep it strapped to his back at all times.
Frank performs another rather weak freestyle rap, and Dallas says that he’s not quite sure that he “believes” Frank. Frank feels bad about the performance, and having to face the ever-cocky Nic when he heads back downstairs just makes him even more peeved. Come on, Frankie, don’t take that from a man who wears a towel on his head.
Jessica blows away the judges and receives some hearty compliments.
Dallas seems rapt with Yelawolf while he’s rapping. “Cool!” proclaims Dallas when Yela is finished, and then Dallas inquires if Yelawolf can perform freestyle. Yela says, “Yes, but I’ll be honest—my freestyle is weak.” Mona jumps on him for that, saying that in an audition, you need to be able to do anything and everything that’s asked of you. In other words, lie. Ahh, now this is the industry that we all know and love.
Heather shocks the judges with her white-girl rappin’, which sounds more and more as though it’s just that. Dallas advises her to just relax, and if she’s genuine, that will come through without being so overbearing.
Marcus has a nice, smooth voice and sincere delivery and is loved by all.
Eddie gets the thumbs up for his rapping, but the judges point out that it’s difficult to understand his words. Yea-yuh! What!? Owwwwkaiieee!!!
Countdown to Armageddon . . . er . . .Elimination
After seeing all the contestants do their thang, the judges must deliberate and decide on the two weakest performers, who will then be sent to Missy for the final decision. Everyone is lined up in the parking lot, and Mona announces that the two contestants that the spotlights land on will be up for elimination. “Usually, being in the spotlight is a good thing, but not now,” says Mona dramatically. Not if you’re trying to break out of prison, either, like Dr. Evil and Mini-Me in “Goldmember.” They’re good rappers, you know.
‘Round and ‘round the lights go, passing over everyone’s face because it’s fun to make people stop breathing on TV. Eventually, they stop . . . and it will be Frank versus Heather! Each will get to go into Missy’s sacred bus and plead their case to her (and her dancers).
Heather is up first and complains to Missy that the judges didn’t think she was real. She says that everything she does is real . . . and when she gets up on stage, all this stuff just comes out of her, and that’s hip-hop! You know?
Missy doesn’t look entirely impressed and asks when Heather got into “hip-hop.”
“When I was fourteen,” replies Heather (who is now 22).
“Ah, so you must own a . . . Big Daddy Kane record?”
A blank pause from Heather, followed by a not-very-convincing “I wish!”
“How about Salt-N-Pepa?” asks Missy.
“Hmm . . . Salt and Pepper?” muses a confused Heather. Oh, bad move.
Heather at least claims to own one of Jay-Z’s early records, but when Missy asks her to rap a song, it just can’t quite come to her mind in time. I don’t have a very good feeling about Ms. Heather’s future after that little interview. Heck, my mom even knows who Salt-N-Pepa is.
Frank’s turn goes a bit better . . . he admits that he had an off day, but he knows that if he can stay in the competition, he can prove himself again, doing a fiery little rap to prove his point to Missy. Missy seems considerably more impressed by Frank’s energy (Red Bull gives you wiiiiiings!), and sends him back outside so she and the dancers can ponder a bit. A very short bit.
Missy steps outside, and I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Frankie is chosen to stay. Yay! Frank gets back on the bus, blurting out, “Oh, I love you guys.” Awww. Every MC has his soft side. Heather doesn’t seem overly distraught and says that it’s been a great experience . . . she’s learned a lot. Her final words, “I’m not givin’ up, so y’all look out!” A’ight, girl. A’ight.
And with that, the bus drives off into the sunset, and so do I. Be sure to meet me back here next week for more music, mayhem, and diva-esque behavior from . . . Nic. Peace!
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