This is the part of the blog where I pretend my former quasi employers hold any relevance by breaking down XXL’s recently announced (sort of) Freshmen 10 list into some statistical ratings and snap judgements. But before we get into that, a couple quick notes:
- More than half these names were on that fake list that leaked a few months back. In fact, XXL has only officially announced four of these names. The rest have been leaked heavily. So if I’m jumping the gun I’ll be the gun jumper and if I’m wrong then I’ll be that too.
- Why don’t they just make it The Freshmen 15? That way it’d be an actual pun.
- No southern rappers from anywhere but Atlanta. Unless you count North Carolinian J. Cole and I don’t because Wikipedia tells me that he’s secretly German.
- Not one token New York rapper this year. The Statue of Liberty sheds a single tear.
- There has never been a Bay Area rapper on one of these things. #imjustsayin.
Ever since Blu squandered his buzz (and his Exile beats) in favor of dropping self produced 96kbps albums on his blog Fashawn has stepped in as the emcee whose (Exile produced) debut is heralded as THE NEXT ILLMATIC my misguided message boarders. His album definitely isn’t that but it’s grown on me a bit. And I’ve been told that his patterns is unmatched. He is also the only rapper on this list who isn’t and hasn’t ever been signed to a major label. You might recall that the rapper that held that distinction on the previous list was Blu. He is now signed to a major label.
Last Year’s Parallel: Blu
# of Twitter followers: 4,937
Marketability: Token backpack pick. Dude’s audience will never expand beyond the 2DopeBoyz comment section. Which is fine, I don’t think he aspires to more than that. 2/10
Sustainability: Exile is an outstanding producer, an emcee as skilled as Fashawn should be able to ride his beats into a long underground career. 8/10
Pittsburgh’s Wiz Khalifa was making great music five years ago but it took a pair of tiny pants to get him on the cover of XXL.
# of Twitter Followers: 73,002 (!)
Last Year’s Parallel: Currensy
Marketability: Even in his hipster zone Wiz has proven himself to have a great ear for beats, though his hook writing could stand some improvement. “Say Yeah” probably could have been a minor hit with the right push, I’m not sure how he ended up getting dropped from Warner. 7/10
Sustainability: How many shots can one kid get? Hopefully the Heinz factory still hiring. 4/10
GOOD Music signee from Detroit. Probably Kanye’s half cousin or something.
Label: GOOD/Def Jam
# of Twitter Followers: 23,800
Last Year’s Parallel: Kid Cudi
Marketability: apart from himself and (arguably) Common, which was a career reboot, Kanye’s never backed marketable artists. But maybe Sean can get lucky eek out a single hit Cudi-style. 5/10
Sustainability: the people who still listen to GLC tapes today might remember him in 2012. 2/10
Label: Roc Nation
Last Year’s Parallel: Asher Roth (I suspect that both of their careers were built from nothing but some sort of Duke & Duke style $1 TI bet.)
# of Twitter followers: 31,755
Marketability: Drake 1.0 seems to sell records okay. We’ll see. 7/10
Sustainability: like Memphis Bleek before him, we only know his name because Jay-Z thinks he’s cute. If that relationship fizzles he’ll be right back to sending Eskay zshare links with email headers that say “used to know Jay-Z.” 3/10
The rise of Pill has been an odd one. He released a great mixtape of uncharacteristically lyrical Southern rap that was mostly ignored. Then he released a generic trap hop song that critics who usually ignore generic trap hop songs latched onto because it had a bunch of true to life crackheads in the video. Or a Beastie Boys sample. Or something, I don’t really understand the critical fawning over that song.
# of Twitter followers: 2,009
Marketability: “Trap Goin’ Ham” is the closest thing to an actual hit anybody on this list not named after a citrus beverage has dropped and it was still pretty far from being an actual hit. He does use the word “trap,” and I’m told that the kids like that. 7/10
Sustainability: hard to say, the if he goes deeper into the trap he probably won’t last long. The blogeratti has a short term memory for drug dealers. If he goes lyrically lyrical he can probably maintain a decent fanbase, but that’ll obviously affect his marketability. 4/10
OJ Da Juiceman
Sort of a lob-ball cop out selection, the guy has already been on the cover of XXL! By all traditional standards he’s incapable of rapping well, but he’s a masterful adlibber.
Last Year’s Parallel: Ace Hood, I guess? I’m not really comfortable with accusing anybody of being Ace Hood.
# of Twitter followers: 7,283 (though there are multiple fake accounts, none of which live up to the potential that a fake OJ Da Juice Twitter account offers.)
Marketability: Through the roof. He’s already a mid level rap star and should have been on last year’s list. Compare him to every other rapper here and note not what he doesn’t have (the aforementioned talent) but what he does. Personality, character, a unique style, star quality even. If you put all these other guys on a posse cut and stripped a few of them of their local accents I’d be hard pressed to ID them. 10/10
Sustainability: The shelf life of “Aye Okay” adlibs seem limited at best. He won’t be around next year. 3/10
Donnis is an Atlanta rapper whose most viewed youtube video is one where he awkwardly pushes a drunk kid off the stage. Most of the comments are like “who the fuck is Donnis?” which, incidentally, is what I said when I first read this list. Turns out Donnis is like B.O.B., except with none of the qualities that make B.O.B. good or interesting. He just signed to Atlantic, which I’m sure had nothing to do with him landing this cover.
Last Year’s Parallel: B.O.B.
# of Twitter followers: 1,577
Marketability: he’s another one of those hybrid singer/rappers like Drake, which means that girls might like him. 6/10
Sustainability: dude has nothing to sustain. 2/10
Gibbs is probably the purest technical talent on this list. If I say anything more his manager is going to deem me unworthy of running interviews with convicts. Which means I’ll have to scrap the Lord 3-2 feature I had planned. Just kidding. I have no Lord 3-2 feature.
Last Year’s Parallel: Wale. Blog baiting by way of Rapidshare mixtapes.
Marketability: let’s be real, dude was dropped from Interscope for a reason. Great and cohesive albums/tapes don’t make stars, hits do and Gibbs does not make hits. Thankfully, some might say. 3/10
Sustainability: fruitflies who never listened to Pac are already calling him the next Pac. He’s not that, but the misperception will surely guarantee him a spot on the Rock The Bells lineup until the day he dies. 9/10
Nipsey Hussle & Jay Rock
Did they purposely pick both a Crip and a Blood for this shit? Prison subscriptions must be lagging. They are both pretty good rappers, so I’m not complaining.
Label: Epic / Warner
Last Year’s Parallel: I don’t know there weren’t any Gangsta Rappers on the list last year.
# of Twitter Followers: 29,664 / 23,074
Skills: 6/10 for both.
Marketability: Only one new LA rapper has been able to sell records outside LA in this decade and even he can’t sell records anymore. Nipsey was on the “We Are The World” record for some reason, so he has that going for him. 3/10
Sustainability: West Coast rappers never die, they just sign to Koch. 8/10