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No Hick Jokes, Please

Raheem, the 17-year-old rapper from Houston, has a chip on his shoulder as big as Texas.

It seems that New York and L.A. rappers like L. L. Cool J and Ice-T have been dissing (read: knocking ) the kid from Texas. And he doesn’t like it.

“Rappers from New York and L.A. were saying Texas rappers ain’t about nothin’,” griped Raheem, whose first album--called “The Vigilante"--was recently released. “We’re stereotyped as country folk. We’re not hicks. Houston rappers are tough. Houston has some great rappers.”

OK, name some.

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His list wasn’t overwhelming. The only noteable Houston rapper he mentioned was himself (modesty isn’t one of attributes). He also listed the Ghetto Boys, a group he was in until, as a grand old man of 15, he decided to go out on his own. Raheem is signed to Rap-a-Lot, a Texas label distributed by A&M; Records.

In underground rap circles, Raheem is recognized as a potential star. But radio hasn’t caught on yet. Black radio--which has proved to be a great supporter of rap--doesn’t play him much, though he has some tame songs like “Peace” and “Say No” geared to radio and parents--another non-fan of rap.

Raheem’s reputation is based on some tough songs--macho, sexist fare like “I’m Mackin’ ” and “The Vigilante.” Musically, his songs strive to burst out of the rap rut. Karl Stephenson, who wrote and produced the music tracks, has created some sizzling rock and reggae hybrids.

Raheem began rapping in earnest five years ago. “I started rapping because all the fellas in the neighborhood were doing it,” he explained. “I used to write raps just for myself--in private. But when I saw all the fellas doin’ it, I did it too. I didn’t want to do it in front of anybody until I saw them doin’ it. That’s when I decided not to hide it anymore.”

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What’s interesting about Raheem is that, for all his flag-waving about Texas, he isn’t even a native. This vigilante, this John Wayne of rap, actually hails from . . . Trenton, N.J.

Also, the name Raheem Bashawn, which suggests power, isn’t his real one. He was born Oscar Ceres, a name, he explained, that “isn’t right for rap.”

Imagine the dissing Oscar’d be getting.


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