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“For 20 years, I’ve been preparing myself for this point,” admits Nems. In 2021, the Brooklyn MC with a respected catalog, decorated battle history, and worldwide FYL merchandise brand created a new wave of attention through trademarking “Bing Bong.” The New York Knicks used his catchphrase, and Nems’ voice appeared over a billion times on TikTok. He rapidly cultivated a new fanbase that discovered Nems had made great music and videos for years. The artist offered his latest album, CONGO, which showed Gorilla Nems as king of his jungle. Since then, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island has expanded into stand-up comedy, hosting a season of REVOLT’s The Crew League, and tripled his social following. “It’s not just about being a good rapper,” says the artist whose FYL merch brand has made over a million dollars in two years. “There are great rappers that suck because they can’t structure a song or relate to people. I’ve survived situations just to let people know that you can make it out; I’m the proof.”

“Anything that’s thrown my way nowadays is nothing compared to what I’ve been through,” Nems asserts. While many artists claim perseverance, he is a true survivor. Raised in a Puerto Rican and Irish household in Coney Island, Nems lost his father when he was four. He found a community hanging out on the corner and snapping—a time-tested rite of passage in Brooklyn. That bleeds into Nems’ “Don’t Ever Disrespect Me” schtick—which has exploded on Instagram and created new comedy opportunities. Hip-Hop was Nems’ other passion, combining a love of rapping and graffiti. In both, he made sure everybody knew his name. Originally known as Nemesis, he eventually abbreviated to Nems: Now Everything Makes Sense. The artist used strategy to become one of the first-ever MCs to rep’ Coney Island. “I knew that the battle circuit was a better way to get my name known than if I was just handing out mixtapes,” he recalls. “So I just started battling, and I was winning all of these competitions—15 years old beating grown men.” By the early 2000s, Nems successfully dovetailed that attention into his catalog.”Music always came first—structuring a song, being vulnerable were most important.”

Although Nems made a name for bravado and ruthless punchlines, that vulnerability is essential to his music and story. His catalog is dotted with revealing records about his past and his will to succeed. “Every project I do, I don’t want it to sound the same as the last. I’m growing as an artist because I’m growing as a human. My values and the things I stand for change and become more goal-driven.” In 2019, Nems released the acclaimed Gorilla Monsoon. In 2020, he teamed with fellow BK veteran Ill Bill on Gorilla Twins. 2021’s CONGO features “Go Fish.” The video single begins: “I wanna tell you that you’re worth it, right there where you are/Everything that’s in your path don’t define who you are.” The message draws from experience. “I’ve been in prison, solitary confinement. I’ve slept in project staircases with nowhere to live. I was a drug addict for eight years,” he admits. Now clean for a dozen and running a thriving DIY operation, Nems closely connects with fans. Across the world, people wear his FYL (F*ck Ya Life) merch, support his music, and tattoo his name on their bodies. He recently leveraged a GoFundMe for one recurring character from his clips. Because of the crowdfunding, Byron now has a home.

Nems built a career with talent, charisma, and authenticity. “I’ve never had to go out of character,” he touts. In 2022, he and Grammy-nominated producer Scram Jones will team for Beast Music. The album arrives with more FYL merchandise as well as TV and radio hosting. For Nems, “Bing Bong” was merely an affirmation. “I’m always gonna win, no matter what.”


Mac Lethal, born David McCleary Sheldon, is a rapper representing Kansas City, MO. He released his first album, Men Are from Mars, Porn Stars Are from Earth in 2002, years after having already garnered a reputation on the freestyling/battle-rhyming circuit. He signed to RHymesayers Entertainment in 2004, but it took close to three years for him to release his first album on the label, when, in October 2007, Lethal released 11:11. Lethal is co-founder of Black Clover Records, a Kansas City-based label that has been home to his four-volume set of albums entitled The Love Potion Collection released between 2003 & 2007. Followed by Irish Goodbye (2011), Postcards from Kansas City (2014), Congratulations (2016), Winter Heartbreak II (2021) along with numerous mixtapes.


John R. Austin II (born September 26, 1973), better known by his stage name Ras Kass, is an American rapper. He is a member of the hip hop supergroup The HRSMN, along with Canibus, Killah Priest, and Kurupt in 2014. He is also a member of the group Golden State Warriors with Xzibit and Saafir. ranked him No. 30 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007), while Pitchfork Media called him “one of the best rappers of all time.”

Austin was born on September 26, 1973 and grew up in Carson, California. In 1996 he and R&B and soul singer-songwriter Teedra Moses had twin sons, Ras and Taj, both of whom are founding members of the rap group Coast Contra. BMF Entertainment artist Barima “Bleu DaVinci” McKnight is Austin’s cousin.

Early career, Ras Kass took his stage name from the legendary Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV whose name was Ras Kassa Mircha before he was crowned as an emperor. In 1991, he made his debut appearance on the single “Trick or Treat” by Wild West Corral alongside B.O.X., Ganjah K, Torche and produced by DJ Battlecat. Ras Kass sent waves through the hip-hop world with his debut independent single release “Remain Anonymous,” earning him a Hip-Hop Quotable in The Source Magazine. Before his signing with Priority/EMI Records, Ras Kass began making guest appearances on several records and freestyles on numerous radio shows, further solidified the emerging lyricist’s notoriety. Recorded guest appearances include Sway & King Tech’s “Come Widdit” (feat. Ras Kass, Ahamad and Saafir) (Priority Records) and their “Wake Up Show Anthem ’94” (feat. Ras Kass, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Chino XL, Organized Konfusion and Saafir), as well as Chino XL’s “Riiiot” (American Recordings), and KeyKool and Rhettmatic’s “E=MC5” (feat. Ras Kass, LMNO, and Meen Green) Up Above Records.

Soul on Ice and Rasassination

From a young age, Austin was influenced by hip hop music and inspired by a variety of emcees including Ice Cube, Rakim, Scarface, and KRS-One. His first album, Soul on Ice, was released in 1996. Taking its name from a book by Eldridge Cleaver, Ras addressed racial relations in the same manner, most notably with “Ordo Abchao” and “Nature of the Threat.” The album was released on Priority Records, as was the follow-up, Rasassination, which featured beats from Easy Mo Bee and guest appearances by RZA, Twista, Xzibit, Mack 10 and Dr. Dre. Lead single “Ghetto Fabulous” featured Dre and Mack 10 and was pushed by a lavish video shoot. The album received generally positive reviews, and shortly afterward the MC announced his third album, Van Gogh.

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