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Hip-Hop’s Top Proteges: 15 Mentor-Student Teams We Love

“You still a protégé, that’s the reason I don’t holler,” Drake declares on the track ‘A Scorpio’s Mind.’ Well, no disrespect to Drake, but that’s how he started out. Alongside every great rap leader is an upcoming protégé — learning the ropes of the craft in the hopes of excelling in the Hip-Hop School of Thought, paving a way for themselves. Protégés start out wet behind the ears, and if they’re lucky, evolve into something greater. In the spirit of passing the torch, the BoomBox has compiled a list of our favorite protégés and the big brothers who mentored them. You will be surprised at how many of your favorite rappers’ favorite rappers began as protégés themselves.

15

Gucci Mane / Waka Flocka Flame

Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame have been friends since childhood, so Gucci mentoring Waka surpasses rap. When Gucci entered prison, it became the greatest fodder for Waka’s career, as the wild headbanger released his anger on wax. Who would have thought that Gucci Mane’s absence in Waka Flocka’s life would have led to chart-topping material? Now the Ferrari Boyz are reunited and ready to go hard in the paint.

Hot Track: ‘Mud Music’

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14

Notorious B.I.G. / Lil Kim

Speaking of Lil’ Kim, who can forget how Queen Bee got her B.I.G. break? The slick talking BK representative had Biggie‘s ears burning and his eyes bulging by her combination of sexiness and sharp delivery. He ushered her entry into hip-hop by supplying the demand. Biggie may have penned a large portion of Lil’ Kim’s early rhymes, but when the spotlight was on her, it was her star power that put the wheels in motion.

Hot Track: ‘Another’

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13

Cam’ron / Vado

Dipset has a long family tree of rappers with branches of protégés everywhere. While the Ma$e-Cam’ron-Jim Jones timeline runs deep, the best example of a true mentor-mentee relationship exists with the most recent one. Cam’ron has weathered the storm in this industry and has placed his energy into Vado. While Vado does qualify as Dipset, thanks to Cam, the rising star has become his own entity. Now everyone has contracted the Slime Flu.

Hot Track: ‘Hey Muma’

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12

Lil Wayne / Nicki Minaj

There was a time when Nicki Minaj was being groomed as the next Lil’ Kim. Those days are long gone, and the visual turning point happened when Nicki joined Young Money. There’s photographic evidence of Nicki’s transformation once Lil Wayne allowed Barbie to express who she really wanted to be in both her style and song. The result? A female rapper for the ages doing what has never been done for women in hip-hop.

Hot Track: ‘Knockout’

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11

50 Cent / Lloyd Banks

When faith was placed in 50 Cent, his own G-Unit brand was born and with it came a whole slew of rappers ready to rep the set. One raspy-voiced Lloyd Banks stood out from the rest. While he shared some real estate with Young Buck, Tony Yayo, and for a short while Game, Banks eventually received credit on the mainstream front. Now everyone can’t decide between a Beamer, Benz or Bentley.

Hot Track: ‘Hands Up’

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10

Notorious B.I.G. / Jadakiss

Jadakiss remains on most Top 5 Dead or Alive lists. We must remember, though, that one of the G.O.A.T.s cosigned the rapper early on and inspired him to be what he is today. Before Biggie left this Earth, he put a lot of faith into making the Lox the new face of hip-hop. While his teachings to the trio were cut short in 1997, the Lox collectively bettered rap with Jadakiss at the forefront.

Hot Track: ‘Letter to B.I.G.’

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09

Lil Wayne / Drake

There’s no elephant in the room when discussing Drake‘s graduation from ‘DeGrassi.’ It’s a necessary thumbprint in the superstar’s career that would have left many rap dreams stuffed into a locker had Lil Wayne not stepped in. Weezy saw something in the actor-turned-rapper that could up the notch on rap’s tax bracket. When the bidding war for Drake began, he went with Young Money. Despite Drake’s continuous rise in fame, he still reps Young Money loyally.

Hot Track: ‘Right Above It’

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08

Pharrell Williams / The Clipse

Pusha T and Malice had Pharrell by their side since the earliest days of rhyming under the name Jarvis back in the ’90s. When the brothers Thornton finally made an impact with the sonic booms and finger snaps of ‘Grindin’,’ it was Pharrell who introduced them on the cut, hugged by Neptunes production. The Clipse have since gone their separate ways — with Malice as a religiously good man and Pusha T as a G.O.O.D. man.

Hot Track: ‘Grindin”

Getty Images | Diana Levine for AOL

07

Dr. Dre / Game

Yes, Game could arguably be considered 50 Cent’s protégé. When Game aligned with G-Unit, the union was potent, albeit short-lived. However, like the story goes, sometimes the bird needs to leave the nest in order to fly. While Game’s break from the Unit was far from amicable, he managed to slide under Dre’s wing to become the Doctor’s advocate. It was then that Game honed his skills to become the rapper we love today.

Hot Track: ‘Dreams’

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06

Eminem / 50 Cent

Once again, D-Dot could be credited as 50 Cent‘s original mentor. ‘How to Rob’ featured the Mad Rapper and presented a wily young Curtis rhyming about sticking up rappers. When Fif survived a near-fatal shooting, he re-emerged as a bionic “new” rapper ready to take his gloves off and give the industry an upper cut. It was Eminem who saw the potential in 50, along with Dr. Dre. Now he’s a Vitamin Water-guzzling empire.

Hot Track: ‘How to Rob’

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05

Jay-Z / Kanye West

Jay-Z is responsible for big brothering many rappers, most turning to Memphis Bleek as a classic example. However, when it comes to the most successful examples of Jay’s tutelage, all signs point to Kanye West. As a producer, ‘Ye was trained by Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie (aka the Mad Rapper) and later No I.D. As Yeezy made the transition from beatsmith to wordsmith, Hov was the helping hand. However, ‘Ye did land Jay-Z a huge early hit by producing ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.).’

Hot Track: ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’

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04

Birdman / Lil Wayne

Before there was Young Money, everyone knows it was Cash Money that cut the checks. The Down South movement introduced a teenage Lil Wayne to the world backed by forefather Birdman. The Hollygrove youngster spit some bars for the elder when he was just shy of nine years old. From that point on, he became Baby’s protégé. Time passed, Wayne grew in power and has continued his “daddy’s” legacy. Now that’s a proud papa.

Hot Track: ‘Stuntin Like My Daddy’

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03

Dr. Dre / Eminem

Dr. Dre took a leap of faith, investing his time (and money) into a loudmouthed whiteboy known as Marshall Mathers. That was probably the wisest investment of his career, as Marshall emerged into Eminem and changed hip-hop’s face forever. Em pays homage to Dre believing in him when no one else did in the Skylar Grey-assisted track ‘I Need a Doctor,’ where he looks to return the favor and bring Dre back into the spotlight.

Hot Track: ‘I Need a Doctor’

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02

Large Professor / Nas

Main Source’s ‘Live at the BBQ’ remains a hip-hop classic and staple for any summer party. Large Professor took a huge leap of faith by placing a young Queens rap stalwart known as Nasty Nas as the opener. “Street’s disciple, my raps are trifle/ I shoot slugs from my brain just like a rifle,” Nas spits. His verse became a classic. Had Extra P never given Nas that platform, what would’ve happened? It ain’t hard to tell.

Hot Track: ‘Live at the BBQ’

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01

Jaz-O / Jay-Z

Before Jay was throwing up diamonds in the name of the Roc, he was perfecting his high-speed rhyme scheme with rapper Jaz-O. Jaz-O’s single ‘Hawaiian Sophie’ featured Jay-Z in the video with few words including the line: “On the strength, money.” A year later, Baby Hov appeared on Jaz-O’s ‘The Originators’ and so began Hov’s steady climb to the top. Who would’ve thought that as Jay’s rhymes slowed down, his success would speed up?

Hot Track: ‘The Originators’

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