A British businessman and marketing expert is searching for the next rap stars -- by going into LA's most dangerous neighborhoods and recruiting gang members with lyrical talent.
Jon Nokes has invested more than US$1 million in the project already, searching the streets for new talent and holding auditions.
"Ideologically it's rescuing as many kids as you can from the inner city 'hoods," says Mr Nokes.
And in terms of business, it's a bold way to find genuine talent and produce music with real street cred.
"We showed them love and we showed them an opportunity," added Robert Lewis, an exec with Reputable Records and one of the project's organizers.
Interested rappers mainly heard about the auditions through word-of-mouth. More than 200 came forward to audition, and most were members of either the Bloods or the Crips. Strict rules banned any weapons or violence at the auditions.
Judges included "Big Chuck" Stanton, an industry executive who has already worked with Dr Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent, Jay-Z and the Game.
"It's almost like basketball," Stanton explained. "A lot of talent comes out of the 'hood and it's just a process of going through the individuals and seeing who's head is right and who's willing to compromise one lifestyle for another lifestyle and buckle down and really get serious."
A complilation CD has already been released featuring the best talent from the auditions, and a DVD documenting the process will be released soon.
1. Gangster Music Recruitment - Recruiting gang members with lyrical talent for music production presents an opportunity for the music industry to tap into a new pool of talent and provide opportunities to at-risk youths in inner cities.
2. Street Cred Music Production - Producing music with genuine street cred using talent from inner city 'hoods provides a disruptive innovation opportunity for the music industry to create new musical styles that cater to a niche audience.
3. New Talent Sourcing - Searching for new talent in unconventional places, such as inner city 'hoods, presents a disruptive innovation opportunity for the entertainment industry to tap into uncharted talent markets.
1. Music Industry - The music industry can capitalize on this trend by tapping into new talent markets and producing music that caters to a niche audience that craves genuine street credibility.
2. Entertainment Industry - The entertainment industry can explore unconventional talent sourcing to find hidden talent and create compelling content that caters to a niche audience.
3. Youth Empowerment Industry - The youth empowerment industry can use this trend to provide opportunities for at-risk youths in inner cities and help them break free from the cycle of poverty and crime.