The Latest Expansion by Rap, Inc.? Headphones

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Hate your white earbuds?

Then stop whining!  There are so many options beyond stock buds, it’s impossible to keep track.  And, for those that got beyond the tablet and in-dash hype at CES last week, there were thousands of variations to look at (about a half-football field’s worth).  That included hundreds of size, design, connection (corded or Bluetooth), noise-cancelling, and quality variations.

But there was also a curious new category on display: the rapper-branded headphone.  Beats by Dr. Dre have been around for years, but others are also getting the memo.  That includes Ludacris, whose Soul headphones got a little splash.  And 50 Cent is also getting into this game with a ‘Sleek’ lineup.

The game plan for rappers is simple – outsource a backend manufacturer, design a few models, and go.  The Soul series includes professional, in-ear and on-ear models, all noise-cancelling and all very loud.  Signeo USA is on the backend, and expect something to hit retailers later this year.

And 50 Cent?  Remember, 50 is a “soldier,” and in that branding vein, his Sleek headphones lineup will utilize “military grade” metal.  Maybe war-inspired headphones lack that certain soul, but they definitely pack some technological sophistication.  These are still in production, but when Sleek hits the market, expect wireless connectivity with an 18 meter (59 feet) range, as well as a USB-rechargeable battery.  Also, multiple Sleeks can tap into the same audio source using the wireless capabilities.

And who else?  Actually, this goes beyond hip-hop.  Dre just signed Justin Bieber to a headphone-specific deal, and Lady Gaga (Heartbeats) and Diddy (Diddybeats) are already on board.  Also, Jay-Z and Rocawear started rolling the fruits of a joint venture with Skullcandy last year.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Las Vegas.