Live: Machine Gun Kelly Is The Valedictorian Of XXL's Freshman Class
XXL Freshman Class 2012: Don Trip, Kid Ink, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash, Macklemore, Hopsin, Danny Brown, Future, French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly
Daniel Hilsinger Machine Gun Kelly.
Best Buy Theater
Monday, April 9
Better than: Ten rappers you're completely unfamiliar with.
Every year, XXL selects a group of rappers to label as "freshmen"supposed up-and-comers that the magazine feels are ready for the limelight. To jaded hip-hop bloggers, the freshmen bear some resemblance to the Best New Artist category at the Video Music Awards: The selection is wildly uneven talent-wise and tends to ignore an artist's history. To everyone else, including attendees of the XXL Freshmen showcase concert at the Best Buy Theater last night, they're a group of unknowns with one or two familiar names thrown into the mix, names which are worth commuting into the belly of Times Square to witness.
The four-hour showcase, containing ten 15-minute-ish sets, involved at least three people dressed as Spider-Man, Irishmen waving flags, innumerable high-schoolers, and (due to those high schoolers) a lot of awkward, occasionally angry, grinding. It was loosely hosted by Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97, who seemed both excited and disgusted by how many young white people were in the audience. A rundown of the performances:
Don Trip came out performing "Letter to my Son," a sobering, heartfelt song about fatherhoodexactly what a bunch of rowdy teenagers wanted to hear to start off their night. Trip didn't seem fazed by the lack of interest, though; he made his way through his set casually, strolling back and forth across the stage throughout. The song that he dedicated to the ladies contained the lines "bet you can polish a pole even if you're not a stripper" and "I can only love you when you're undressed." The girl next to me pumped her arm halfheartedly at the latter.
HIS OUTFIT SAID: "In The Groove."
CLASS RANK: 5th. Trip didn't make any waves, but he rapped six good songs quickly and then got off the stage.
Kid Ink has a lot of tattoos, which is probably why he calls himself Kid Ink, but it's possible that he was really into Ghost Writer when he was a kid. He would've been better suited to be a freshman in 2011he's a bit of a Thank Me Later-era Drake clone, shamless hashtag raps and all. Hashtags he used last night include "knock 'em out in one round... #miketyson," "smell that... #folgers," and "[something about] #mormons." Much to the chagrin of the body-conscious guy behind me ("Where's his sixpack, yo?!"), he took his shirt off at the end of his set.
HIS OUTFIT SAID: "Dope" and "Reckless."
CLASS RANK: 9th. Kid Ink is not a very good rapper. He had some energy going for him, but not much else. His new single is called "Time of Your Life" and sounds as if it was written by Ester Dean.
Azalea was nearly incomprehensible and needed a huge boost from her hypeman, who was fully incorporated into her short set. After performing three songs and losing the interest of the crowd completely, she asked if there were any "Azaleans" in the audience; once it was established that there weren't, she ducked into the crowd in the hopes of gaining some converts while down there. She laid low while the DJ played Tupac's "Ambitionz as a Ridah" and "All Eyez On Me" and then she quickly disappeared backstage.
HER OUTFIT SAID: "I want to be respected for my rap skills."
CLASS RANK: 10th. Aside from being very difficult to understand, Azalea appeared to lose her breath after performing a couple of songs, which may explain her sudden disappearance.
Dash, who resembles a rap version of Zippy the Pinhead, is the kind of rapper who supplies the extra feature on a lot of current radio hits. This meant that he was able to surprise an oblivious crowd with a trio of songs that they knew"No Hands," "All the Way Turnt Up," and "Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay." This went over well.
HIS OUTFIT SAID: "I like the graphic tees at Urban (that one with the red line over Kate Moss's eyes)." "Also, my rap name could easily be Kid Ink."
CLASS RANK: 4th. Roscoe rapped all of his hits both comprehensibly and well, and he had a short, organized set and a great energy level. He was the first person to really get the crowd excited (after the moment when the DJ played the theme song from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air).
Macklemore was the biggest surprise of the night. He happily stated that it was OK that no one in the crowd knew him (which wasn't true; he had a sizeable fanbase), then proceeded to rap like a cheerful Slug (of Atmosphere), accompanied by an exuberant trumpeter and a rotund singer in suspenders. He also took some time out to tell the crowd that Jim Henson's Labyrinth is a good movie. This was met with total confusion, which was then exacerbated when Macklemore donned a fringed jean jacket with a hand-painted picture of David Bowie on the back.
HIS OUTFIT SAID: "I craft in my spare time."
CLASS RANK: 3rd. Macklemore was upbeat (he climbed a speaker!), got the crowd involved nicely (a couple of the Irish joined him onstage) and displayed the most amiable personality of any performer.