By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Saturday, September 24, 2016
For the second season of Lifetime's "The Rap Game," famed Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri picked telegenic 16-year-old Mani from Los Angeles.
He follows Atlanta's Miss Mulatto, who won season one earlier this year, to be part of the So So Def family.
For the final episode Friday, Dupri had them market themselves in Little Five Points. They rapped in front of people who they wanted to attend to a free concert at Terminal West.
Overall, the five kids were on the whole lot better than season one's crew. (This time around, he didn't choose anyone from Atlanta.) The fact he picked a female season one probably worked against the two ladies this season. Nia Kay had a shot from day one. She brought spitfire energy and confidence though Dupri felt she could sometimes feel one note.
The youngest Jayla Marie, just 11, clearly showed her inexperience and had no chance of winning but improved during the competition.
Lil Key - who got hit by a car and bullied as a kid - was very energetic and intense from day one. During a focus group, he was a favorite. Prince of New York had the most distinctive rap style but had almost no performance experience.
Mani - the ultimate winner - had the most commercial potential from day one stylistically. Amazingly, he never finished on the top of the weekly Hit List. He also got endorsements from Bow Wow, Snoop Dogg and Mariah Carey.
During the actual performances, nobody messed up but Prince of New York appeared to pick a song that didn't make him stand out while Jayla Marie distracted the crowd by bringing up her sister onto the stage. Nia Kay started strong but lost energy by the end.
Mani finished the show and hit the mark. Dupri felt it was his best performance to date. "You could be a star," Dupri said.
"I killed it. No mess ups, no stumbles, it was perfect," Mani said.
Dupri said he followed his gut. "Mani despite being in the middle of the pack always stood out. He has the So So Def look, the swag and a unique sound. I feel I could turn him into a star. Bottom line, that's what it's all about."
Mani "can be a kid that can make some songs that's not just based off dancing and what a lot of kids are trying to base their foundation from," said Greg Street, night-time jock at V-103 who DJed the concert. "JD kinda looks at this as an evolution of where we started hip hop from. Kids making music, dancing, having a good time on their own space. The 80s meet the 2000s!"
The top 5 finish:
5- Jayla Marie
4- Prince of New York
3- Nia Kay
2- Lil Key