What has happened to XXL’s Freshman list?

Over the years XXL’s Freshman list has helped elevate rappers or just grant them the respect they deserve, these names range from Kendrick Lamar to Action Bronson to Lupe Fiasco. The first few years of this meant you were something within hip-hop and people took the time out of their lives to listen, helping garner a new audience for these artists, who sometimes need this attention and others respectively don’t. But sadly, the genuinely good artists getting onto the once prestigious list in the past few years have been few and far between, granted yes this may be my opinion, but I’d rather listen to an artist more lyrical and clear to understand than one like someone on the 2016 list like Desiigner. Yes, Panda was very catchy and did get a lot of attention and helped build the artist but on first listening to people who didn’t go out of their way to listen to it, it’s a Future song. Even when you know it’s Desiigner he sounds so much like Future.

This year’s list featured; Anderson .Paak, Dave East, Denzel Curry, Desiigner, G Herbo, Kodak Black, Lil Dicky, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and 21 Savage. This very eclectic group of rappers can collectively boast about how they can cater to nearly every fan of hip-hop. But when you get down to it, are they any good, or is the production that makes these guys good or the fact they where the clothes they do, or that they’re vine famous or is it just some bittersweet irony that makes people like them because they find them so bad?

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Denzel Curry, one the XXL Freshman of 2016.

Some of the rappers on there can boast extensive fanbases worldwide for their music such as Denzel Curry, but then a name like Lil Yachty or Lil Uzi Vert can be argued to only be there due to the ridiculing they get from people on the internet and the hype they get for the clothes they wear, how they sound (negatively) and how they look. Yes, it is good for a rapper to stand out but it is not good for a rapper to be known more for standing out as opposed to the music they’ve released. Desiigner is on there for one song and one song only – Panda, without that not many people would have known him. Anderson .Paak brings diversity to the list due to his different, soulful approach to music, similar to that of August Alsina in the 2014 list. G Herbo (FKA Lil Herb) was unsuccessful in making it to the last the past couple years but after a diss track aimed at XXL, they couldn’t afford to lose any more face and be insulted anymore.

The talent, or lack of in some cases, is clear to see within the freestyles the did for XXL. Lil Dicky absolutely killed his an in my opinion deserves his spot on that list due to the creativity he brings with his music, another rapper who belongs there is Denzel Curry. He has put out 3 solid mixtapes in the past few years and has proved himself as one of the underground greats putting out hits like Threatz and Ultimate. Looking at these guys’ freestyles, you can see the talent they possess without the beat, but other guys need it. They so desperately need it that peopled have edited beats over the top of them so they sound like real songs and even made memes out of some of them.

My rankings for the individual freestyles put out have to be:

1. Lil Dicky

2. Denzel Curry

3. G Herbo

4. Dave East 

5. Anderson .Paak

6. 21 Savage

7. Lil Uzi Vert

8. Lil Yatchy

9. Kodak Black

10. Desiigner

As the group cyphers came out it became clear that this ranking wasn’t just a thing that happened with the freestyles, but also it was similar to the cyphers, even more so when some of the worse rappers on the list were paired up with the better names. Lil Dicky was made to spit with Desiigner, Curry with Kodak and Lil Yatchy and therefore the talent gap was exposed. This is what XXL needed to stay away from, if you’re going to choose rappers with mixed talent ranges to be on the list you can’t but the best with the worst otherwise it just looks ridiculous. Even with the roundtable interviews they did, Denzel looked out of place (for the better for him) with those rappers.

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XXL Freshmen of 2013, arguably the greatest line up they’ve had.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy that type of music that the rappers I criticised in the article put out, but there has to be a time and place to enjoy their music and that’s my problem with them, the fact there needs to be a time and place to enjoy them. The best rappers can put out multiple songs that can be enjoyed anytime, Swimming Pools by Kendrick Lamar for example is an extremely deep song that can make a listener feel a range of different things at different times – that’s what XXL needed.

One of the main problems XXL has encountered in the past couple of years isn’t a lack of rappers with a lot of talent – there’s a lot of them you can vote for who should definitely be on the list – but it’s in fact the internet. It’s vine, or twitter or somewhere somebody can do something funny over an artists song to help it go viral. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and props to the rappers for getting theirs, but if you look at OG Maco who made it in 2015 due to U Guessed It, and compare him to Freddie Gibbs being put on in 2010 you can see the difference. I’m not saying XXL didn’t make this mistake in the past of putting one hit wonders on (See: Asher Roth in 2009) but they do it more persistently now.

What I’m trying to put across is that XXL need to rethink who they put on the list, and the people voting also need to rethink who they vote for as Lil Yatchy was the people’s choice this year, but hey that’s democracy I guess. Nevertheless well done to those on the list, as I’m sure they do work hard and do warrant some reward, but I think it’s a crime when someone like Kodak Black gets more recognition than a name like Aston Matthews or Lucki Ecks.

Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments and don’t hesitate to send me an email if you want to get in touch with me: rohanjakeparmar@gmail.com

Follow me on twitter @rohanjparmar

Follow me on Instagram @rohanjakeparmar

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