Two day’s back, XXL Magazine unveiled its 2014 freshman class live on BET’s top music show 106 & Park. The top hiphop magazine describes the new list as “an event that many in the hip-hop community view as a sign that these young artists have ‘made it.'”
This year there were 2 additional recipients which made it a total of 12 up from the usual 10. The list included Chance The Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign, Isaiah Rashad, Troy Ave, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Rich Homie Quan, Jarron Benton, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, Kevin Gates, and Jon Connor.
This may be one of the better list they have put together thus far. Over the years XXl has had some misses and according to theStashed.com this maybe the first time they got it right. Check out this great article below written by the stashed’s Kaz
For seven years, XXL Magazine has painted itself into a corner. In its initial edition, the XXL Freshman cover was in its purest form. Not yet franchised as a yearly occasion, the famed publication tapped a number of hungry up-and-coming rappers as the future of Hip-Hop. That first cover included the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Lil Boosie, Joell Ortiz, Plies, Saigon, Rich Boy, Gorilla Zoe, Young Dro, Papoose, and Crooked I.
There were artists from each side of the country that would go on to attempt to define the sound of their region and the future of Hip-Hop. Some of those worked out pretty well in most cases; others didn’t. For an encore, they did it again with the likes of B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Curren$y, Wale, Ace Hood, Asher Roth, Mickey Factz, Cory Gunz, Blu, and Charles Hamilton. Again, most went on to see plenty of success while others peaked once their name graced the cover.
The entire concept of the XXL Freshman cover is pretty ambitious in itself. Just playing the numbers game, it’s impossible for every rapper on the cover to become a bona fide star. Rap is not professional sports. People try to make the comparison all the time, but trust me, it isn’t. The same reason why their shouldn’t be a retirement age in Hip-Hop is the same reason why you can’t treat the XXL Freshman cover like a draft. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.
What it is though, is a great platform for young and relatively new upstarts to get their jump-start into superstardom. In year’s past, XXL has missed the boat (Drake, Nicki Minaj), been late to the party (Big Sean, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar), or has just gotten a little too crew happy (Lil Twist, CyHi The Prynce). Plenty of times, however, they’ve nailed it (B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Macklemore, Future, Wiz Khalifa). The 2014 edition of the XXL Freshman list is one of the rare cases where they’ve gotten back to the essence of what it should’ve been from the beginning, a risk-taking introduction into the next generation of probable music stars.
The most notable member of the 2014 XXL Freshman class is a Chicago MC who hasn’t released an official album, but boasts a Justin Bieber feature. The other most notable members are two R&B (?!) singers with a penchant for smash club singles. The rest of the class are guys that have regional momentum that are all collectively getting the biggest look of their life thus far, simultaneously. What made the XXL Freshman cover really cool was that when it first jumped off, it was a lot of MC’s first time on the cover of a magazine. Save for Chance The Rapper, all of these artists are gaining mainstream publicity for the first time. While Chicago predictably makes up a heavy amount of the cover’s geographical pie in artists like Lil Bibby, Vic Mensa, Lil Durk and Chance; it’s which artists that were chosen from other states that makes this cover more legitimate than in years past.
I, for one, am not the biggest fan of Rich Homie Quan. Outside of “Type of Way,” many people couldn’t tell you another song that has come from the rapper. However, he does have his legion of fans below the Mason-Dixon line who can’t get enough of his “Goin In” series of mixtapes. I know many fans who can’t stand the likes of Troy Ave, most of whom don’t hail from New York City. However, if you poll a good amount of the street rap-loving public within the Big Apple, they couldn’t be prouder of a New York artist who actually sounds like he’s from New York.
For the first time in a while, it’s hard to not vouch for many of the artists on this year’s cover. Sure you can save a spot for a guy like Mack Wilds, Boldy James or Bishop Nehru, but who would you take out? For most artists on this year’s cover, as has been proven in the past, this might be as good as it gets for them. For some, the XXL Freshman cover has been a blessing that has been used as a launching pad to success. For most, it’s been a burden that they have to bear to compete with their contemporaries that share the cover. Wale spoke about it on a song called “New Soul,” where he admits that it now becomes a competition once you are on that cover. There are only so many people that can go on to be J. Cole, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa while others will have to settle to be Cory Gunz, Mickey Factz and Pill. At this point, though, all of these artists for the most part are on a level playing field. Many called for people to end the XXL Freshman list altogether, but I’m opposed to that. In fact, this year more so than in years past, it’s time to test just how strong a litmus test for success this cover is.
For that reason alone, XXL got it right this year. The 2014 Freshman cover features true newcomers with a true dedicated fan base who are truly getting their first big shot in the arm by the mainstream media. This is what the Freshman cover was supposed to be about, even if they do have R&B artists on it. Who will blow up and who will just blow? We’ll see in the next couple of months.