CyHi the Prynce has long been in good company.
After a short-lived deal under producer Jazze Pha 's Sho Nuff Records, CyHi signed to Akon 's Konvict Music label in 2008. With the help of DJ Greg Street, he met and befriended Alabama rapper Yelawolf  and landed on the remix to his "I Wish" track, released last year.
Just weeks later, impressed by his verse on the song, Kanye West  got him a deal on Def Jam Records but not before snagging him for his own G.O.O.D. Music imprint. Still, while all the aforementioned music moguls have had a hand in CyHi's career, if you ask the Decatur, Ga., MC who first inspired him to pursue rap professionally, he'll tell you it was Sean "Diddy" Combs .
"The first time I met Diddy, I said to myself, 'I can actually get this close?' " the 26-year-old rapper recalls. "I was around 13 years old and I saw him because he was friends with my friend's father. I remember thinking, 'If I can get this close to Diddy, then I can do something. If I can get this close, I can at least get my music heard.' "
As it turned out, Combs wasn't involved in launching CyHi's rap career, but it was CyHi's "connect the dots" mentality that finally got him heard. Now, CyHi is preparing the summer release of two mixtapes, "The Allies" and "Royal Flush 2," as well a proper LP slated for a late-2011 release.
" 'Royal Flush 2' is going to be topic-wise similar to the first 'Royal Flush' mixtape, but more aggressive, more 808s and more show-driven music. It's the same story, but the music will be different," CyHi says about what fans can expect. " 'Allies' is just a collaborative set of hip-hop and rap with some of today's favorite artists," including Big Sean, J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T.
One of the tracks that made the cut on "The Allies" is "1,000 Pounds," a song that chronicles the story of a man who finds 1,000 pounds of an illegal substance and wonders what to do with it. The track will have an accompanying short film-part of the reason the mixtape is being held up-and will feature some of the rappers who will make guest appearances on the set, CyHi says.
Both mixtapes are about 75% complete, he adds, and feature original production by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Drumma Boy, Kanye West and No I.D., to list a few.
While that star-struck moment with Combs was a key episode in his life, CyHi got his start even before that; he sang in a church choir as a child and then joined the school band. In middle school he started dancing and then shortly after rap became his focus.
After a successful rap cypher aired on BET and a couple of mixtapes later, CyHi has fans anxiously waiting for more.
"He has the 'it' factor," his manager Mike Davis says about his appeal. "Some artists might be good performers, some might be good at writing music, some have camps that make them famous. But with CyHi, he's unique because he has it all." CyHi unabashedly agrees.
"I'm creative. I have a big vocabulary now, because I do a lot of reading," he says. "I try to make smart things sound simple-like Rosetta Stone for rap. My music is easy to digest but it's still witty and clever. That's what makes me a special individual."
- The Juice