When local rap and R&B artist Raycel Brown performs Saturday for Black Entertainment Television's annual Hip-Hop Awards after-party in Atlanta, his music could be discovered by some of hip-hop's biggest stars.
Brown, 29, of Buffalo, is performing as a contestant on "Making the Next Hit," which is looking to launch the next hip-hop superstar.
The winner on the show, which will be announced in October, has a chance at a $250,000 recording deal, or a $150,000 production deal.
In his pursuit to be discovered, Brown has opened for artists such as Snoop Dogg and obtained support from local politicians and other community figures.
On Aug. 25, he released a studio recording, "Like I Do," on his label, TOPDAT.
Brown views the Atlanta show as a chance to bring his music, which talks about handling serious situations in positive ways, to a broader audience.
"The thing is you have to be rapping about the right thing," he said.
"You can't be talking about the wrong thing or trying to encourage something that's negative."
"Making the Next Hit," which came to Buffalo in June, offered 15-second tryouts for contestants. But the judges liked Brown's music so much that they asked him to sing for a full two minutes, and then to repeat the performance for DJ Farenheit, who works with rapper Young Jeezy. For Round 2 of the show, the contestants traveled to Atlantic City, N.J., and were each given 25 minutes to make a song with an identical beat.
The winner will be determined by a combination of points, tabulated from various rounds of competition and online votes. Pitted against hundreds of contestants, Brown currently is in 42nd place and spent a lot of time getting out the vote before heading to Atlanta on Tuesday. At his peak, he was ranked No. 16. Another Buffalo group, Family of Notes, is in 19th place.
For information on the show, visit www.next.tv; to vote, visit mtnh.us.
Saturday, Brown is set to perform in the hour after 10 p.m. during the after-party in the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center, which will showcase top competitors as well as talent including DJ Farenheit, Akon and Chris Brown throughout the weekend.
Born in Cleveland, Brown moved to Buffalo at age 10. He went to South Park and Bennett high schools, and earned an associate's degree in business from Bryant & Stratton College.
He has been making music since he was 9 and is inspired by his older brother, Robert Maryon, who goes by the name Kream. Maryon helped put Buffalo on the hip-hop map in 2000 with a video that made it into BET's Top 10 rotation.
Many of Brown's songs are about women, with an emphasis on respect. He doesn't swear because he wants to serve as a role model to younger listeners. He also performs before high school-age kids in Buffalo. "That's beautiful having people look up to me or kids look up to me, so I actually have to lead by example," he said.
In his bid to become the next hip-hop superstar, he has attracted community support and received donations from True Bethel Baptist Church, the congregation of the Rev. Darius Pridgen, also a member of the Buffalo Common Council. He also got a donation from Council Member David A. Franczyk and former Surgeon General David Satcher, cousin of his godmother, Angelette Perry.