After J. Cole smashed the charts with Cole World: The Sideline Story, it’s important to look at artists who aren’t making the charts, at least near the top. This week’s Sunday series also involves two Diplo proteges, one of Michigan’s most exciting emcees on a monumental climb, and a pair that dominated HipHopDX’s 2007 Year End Awards.

Jon Connor – “The Rappers Rapper”

These days everyone with an MBA and a blog – or at least a few business classes and a masochistic circle of friends – have attempted to sum up all the reasons why the music industry is failing and why trying to make  a “name” as an artist is ultimately a futile and profitless career path. Yet all the yelling and opining is basically worthless. The ancient execs are still sitting up on the houses on the hills with their ears plugged talking about “records.”

Enter Michigan emcee Jon Connor who is readying his Vinnie Chase Season 2 project and this week dropped a sneak preview with the track, “The Rappers Rapper.” In just under four minutes Connor puts all the highfalutin analysts to shame with a sharper, tighter, and more accurate picture of not only what’s wrong with the Rap game but what’s wrong with music in general. It’s gotten too easy… Connor lays the ridiculousness of it all out in plain speak… if you want to play in the NBA you need to enter the draft, if you want to work at McDonald’s you need to fill out an application, but if you want to rap… get this you don’t even have to read. Basically don’t expect fat pockets from something that requires nothing.

Sometimes addressing an issue tongue in cheek is the best way to make it come through loud and clear. Connor starts his story with an anecdote about a high school acquaintance who has stepped off the basketball court and traded in the jump shots that earned him recognition back in the day for a new skill-set. Rapping. Yes, thanks to the Internet everyone can do it! And produce too! No record deals are required, no studios are needed, a basement will do. Connor explains this “locust colony”of rappers has “fucked up the pipeline” and in effect swallowed the up-and-coming underground emcees who are really working and who really deserve to be heard. This is Marketplace Saturation 101. And when your job no longer has any barriers to entry forget about getting any ass from it. “The Rapper’s Rapper” should be required listening in all high schools. Kids need to know that sometimes “it’s cooler to just be regular…” – Michael Sheehan

Listen to “The Rappers Rapper” by Jon Connor

Spank Rock featuring Santigold – “Car Song”

There was a time when I would tell anyone who would listen how much I hated Spank Rock. All he talked about were asses, so I felt like I couldn’t relate to his content. Then he drops this song with Santigold, and I’m hoping it’s the shape of things to come (and that shape is no longer an applebottom). First off, most Hip Hop purists will scoff at this song, because of its breed of ’70s-inspired synthy fusion Rap that’s been infiltrating Hip Hop as of late. It’s very trippy and loopy with elements of Funk, complete with hand claps and cymbals. The truth of the matter is Spank Rock plays second fiddle to the return of Santigold. Her rough, T-Boz-esque vocals dominate the cut, even though all I could make of her hook are “keys to my car” and “be where you are”. That’s all it took, honestly. Then Spanky’s slapstick raps make up for the difference. His new project is titled Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar. Well, I know one thing that isn’t boring and that’s this song. – Kathy Iandoli

Listen to “Car Song” by Spank Rock featuring Santigold

Exile featuring Blu – “When Nothing’s Left”

Exile does not get nearly the credit he deserves. Two flawless albums – one from Fashawn in Boy Meets World and one from Blu in Below The Heavens, and it’s remarkable that the California mainstay isn’t on everybody’s collaboration wish-list. While his new emcee album 4TRK Mind might be a polarizing listen, his track with Johnson Barnes is a bundle of audio joy. Ex deploys a certain sample that shall we say plays wonderfully against Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Otis” this year, as Blu provides one of those intimate verses that’s made him one of the most exciting artists of the last five years. Honesty plus soul, and Hip Hop wins. Always. This song is reportedly three years old, and doesn’t seem outdated in its unveiling. With gems like this, his stellar L-R-G mixtape, and W.A.R. masterpiece “Evolve,” anybody who’s not acknowledging Exile as one of 2011’s most exciting music needs to exile themselves. This is two-12″ music. – Jake Paine

Listen to “When Nothing’s Left” by Exile featuring Blu

Last Week’s Slept-On But Dope Hip Hop Songs.