The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest discoveries.
This week, he tells NPR's Arun Rath about a rising star in country rap, a mixed martial arts fighter who just won't stay down and an innovative plan to turn failing schools around.
The New And The Next
A Growing Trend In Country Music: 'Hick-Hop'
"We're listening to what some people would call 'country rap.' Over the last couple of years, not surprisingly, you've gone from having rap artists and country artists work together on pieces, to now you've a guy named Big Smo, whose real name is John Smith, has emerged as one of the first country rap superstars.
"It all started with this amazing YouTube video that he did with himself and some friends down in Tennessee and subsequently got signed to a big label. He's the first of several stars in this space and calls himself the 'Boss of the Stix.'
"I've got to tell you, I first started laughing ... and then I started grooving to it. It's good music! They just signed a really interesting deal with Warner Brothers so my guess is that more people are going to see them at the country music awards and other places."
"[Joe Kavey] has lost one match after another as an MMA fighter, and has never quit. Most of us, if we had lost even a couple times we would have said, 'No mas!' and let it go. But incredibly, this guy ... has gotten into the ring or the cage one time after another with some really aggressive mixed martial arts and keeps coming back for more.
"People use martial arts, they use classic boxing and punching, they use headbutts, they use kicks. It's kind of 'all's fair' and is thought of as some of the most sophisticated fighters in the world. And this guy, Joe Kavey, is not the star of it but instead an example of a guy who just won't quit."
"Sadly, as [Roland Fryer] tells the story, he was abused by his father and didn't have much of a home life early on. Found himself in jail multiple times or in juvenile hall. At about 15 or 16 realized that he only had himself to turn to. Worked his way through college. Finished college in three years at the University of Texas Arlington while holding down a full-time job.
"Former gangster turned Ph.D. in economics, said, 'I've got an idea on how we can fix our existing schools.'
"So he got permission from the both superintendents and the teacher's unions, by the way, in Houston and Denver — two of the largest school districts — to essentially take over parts of those school districts and run about 30 schools in all. And in just two short years he's managed to see some substantial progress among the kids in their ability to read, their ability to write, their ability to do math. And, most importantly maybe, their interest in moving on to college."