XXL's Editor-in-Chief Defends This Year's Freshman Class

Categories: XXL

Vanessa Satten, XXL Editor-in-Chief
This week, XXL Magazine released their annual Freshman List to much fanfare and the usual fighting. The magazine's biggest issue of the year, since 2008 the Freshman List has become an easy-to-follow guide to which new artists are making noise in the rap game, as well as an increasingly more accurate estimation of who will be making an impact in the future. With such recent alumni as Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and J.Cole, the choices keep getting sharper, as well as more controversial. We spoke to XXL Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Satten about the selection process for this year's list, as well as some of the previous year's biggest hits and misses.

See also: The 2014 XXL Freshmen: A Statistical Analysis

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Five NYC Rappers Who Deserve To Be In XXL's 2013 Freshman Class Issue

The newly-minted Vinny Cha$e

XXL magazine revealed their annual freshmen list today. Among the10 picks for future rap fame (plus a boxed-out bonus picture of Chief Keef's head), New York City is represented by the monolithic Action Bronson, Pro Era leader Joey Bada$$ and Angel Haze. In the interest of municipal pride then, here's five hometown rap chaps that we'd happily see replacing some of the more quizzical picks on the cover.

See also: The Ten Best New York City Rap Albums of 2012

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Maybach Music Group's Rockie Fresh on Why He Chose Rick Ross Over Diddy and the Violence In His Hometown of Chicago

Categories: Rick Ross, XXL

Into The Future We Go...
Even though he wasn't born until the decade after Back to the Future came out, Rockie Fresh still rocks a DeLorean in his videos and even sports a pair of Nike Air Mags AKA the Marty McFlys. Fitting considering he acts much more maturely than his 21 years of age would have you believe.

His rhymes are often of the standard braggadocios fare as many other rappers, but there's wisdom about him in interviews. He often says he's not here to floss or act like a super star. He wants to reach people and bridge different genres and demographics with his unique sound that was cultivated from initially performing with alt rock bands like Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy. He listened to Jay-Z growing up, but he also spent a lot of time in the crib exploring different sounds and artists that didn't fall under the rap umbrella. As a result, he's developed a sound Diddy wanted to recruit for Bad Boy and Rick Ross wanted to bring to Maybach Music. Ultimately he went with Rick Ross. Now, with his third mixtape due out on January 21st, Rockie has arrived in New York to screen some visuals and rock some shows. We sat down with him to discuss his fairly immediate success as well as why he chose Ricky over Diddy and how he feels about the violence in his hometown of Chicago.

See Also:

- The Maybach Difference: How Wale, Meek Mill, and Rick Ross Overcame Early Failure To Find Success
- Meek Mill - 40/40 Club - 9/26/2012

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Live: Machine Gun Kelly Is The Valedictorian Of XXL's Freshman Class

Daniel Hilsinger
Machine Gun Kelly.
XXL Freshman Class 2012: Don Trip, Kid Ink, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash, Macklemore, Hopsin, Danny Brown, Future, French Montana, 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:

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Five Reasons Why XXL's Freshman Class Issue Is Going To Be A Yearly Ritual For A While

XXL's Freshman Issue cover. Click to enlarge.
As traditions go, XXL's annual "Freshman Class" issue is neither all that time-honored or worthwhile. The magazine's been putting rappers it calls freshmen on its cover since 2008, but hasn't exactly been kingmaking or future forecasting in doing so: 2008's list featured Crooked I and Joell Ortiz, half of what would become Slaughterhouse, now doing hyper-lyrical rap over araabMUSIK beats; Rich Boy, who all but disappeared after the success of "Throw Some D's"; Lil Boosie, who has caught more charges than he has released albums since; Papoose, last seen insisting to deaf ears on Twitter that he is the reigning king of New York; Lupe Fiasco, who broke through with 2011's watered-down Lasers, an album he hates; Saigon, who was Jay Electronica before Jay Electronica and dropped a long-gestating solo debut in 2011; Young Dro, a T.I. lieutenant who never blew up; Plies, now a workmanlike Florida street rapper; and Gorilla Zoe, known to most beyond the Cocaine Blunts corner of the Internet only as a guy who was on Yung Joc's "Coffee Shop."

The predictive value of the list hasn't improved since, with abundant misses (2009's Charles Hamilton and Cory Gunz, 2010's OJ da Juiceman and Pill, 2011's Lil Twist and Fred tha Godson), premature calls (B.o.B was a freshman in 2009, but blew up in 2010; Curren$y and Wale showed up on 2009's list, and Big Sean and J. Cole got the look in 2010, but none of the three found their niches until 2011), and just a few right name, right time selections (Kid Cudi in 2009, Meek Mill and Kendrick Lamar in 2011). And worse still, for some, are the out-and-out whiffs: where was XXL on Drake and Nicki Minaj, two of rap's biggest rising stars of the last three years?

But that doesn't make it a bad list, or a bad exercise; it just makes it Sisyphean. And that's part of why the XXL list will be with us, good or bad, for as long as the magazine exists. Here are five more reasons why the magazine will keep publishing it—and why we'll keep lapping it up.

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Download: XXL Freshmen Class Member Fred the Godson's "Headbanger"

Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.


Bronx rhymebeast Fred The Godson is the only rapper representing the five boroughs on the cover of the XXL "Freshmen Of The Year" issue--and he's a hell of an ambassador. His rhyme style, a silky update of '90s hometown heroes like Fat Joe and Big Pun, is an effortless pile-up of punchlines and street bravado, all delivered with the cool, snarky rasp of a back-of-the-classroom mutter. His next mixtape, Fred And Friends (part of DJ Drama's esteemed Gangsta Grillz series), is due to appear any day now, featuring appearances by Raekwon, Talib Kweli, Diddy and Jadakiss. But even with that formidable line-up, it'll be hard to beat teaser track "Headbanger" featuring Dipset associate Vado. The track is full of old school gun talk and new school hashtag raps--easily the absolute, hands down funniest of this new trend (our faves: "I came in the crib unexpected... Kramer" and the labyrinthine slow-burner "For the record, I came with the mac... Serato"). We're just as geeked on the beat by Remo The Hit Maker, a track that brings the flip-flopping rhythms of Fat Joe's "Ha Ha (Slow Down)" flailing into the mosh pit. Says Fred, "Whenever you think about 'headbanger,' you think about guitars breakin' and everything. So, it's got a little rock edge."

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The 10 Most Shocking Revelations About the Tragic Last Days of Gang Starr MC Guru

Guru and Premier, in happier times
When erstwhile Gang Starr MC Guru passed away on April 19, the rap world mourned. Not just for the loss of one of the best to ever to do it, but also for the shadowy circumstances under which he died--alone, in a hospital bed, with his family forbidden to visit him. For months, if not years, the rapper's only link to the outside world had been a much loathed figure, John "Superproducer Solar" Mosher, who moved in on Guru in the waning days of Gang Starr, when tensions rose between the rapper and his longtime producer, DJ Premier. In the months following Guru's untimely death (he was 48), rumors began to spread about just how badly he'd been served by putting his trust in Solar. Then an anonymous hacker managed to find his way into Solar's email account and Twitter, using one to post damaging revelations from the other. So what exactly happened? This month's XXL has a story by Thomas Golianopoulos [print only, though excerpted here] recounting what exactly happened in Guru's last agonized days, according to people as diverse as Premier, Guru's sister, longtime Gang Starr affiliate Freddie Foxxx, and Solar himself. It's not a pretty picture. The ten most damaging revelations?

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Ranking XXL's Freshman Class at the Highline Ballroom Last Night

In what has become an annual tradition, the minds over at XXL magazine recently unveiled the elite class of fresh-faced rappers they dub the Freshman 10. Mostly products of Internet buzz and/or critically acclaimed mixtapes, the Freshman class issue has risen from a gimmicky excuse to put non-famous but promising rappers on the cover to a legitimate honor for those who are given a spot (just ask Lil Wayne's homie, Jae Millz, who took aim at this year's crop after being conspicuously excluded). Is it a gauge for stardom? Well, the honor has been met with mixed results. Some have gone on to become sort of famous (Kid Cudi, Asher Roth); others have remained underground (Blu); and others have just...well, frankly, they never belonged in the first place (Ace Hood).

Last night, six of them--all non-native New Yorkers, including Nipsey Hussle (Los Angeles), Jay Rock (Los Angeles), Donnis (Atlanta), Pill (Atlanta), Big Sean (Detroit), and Freddie Gibbs (Gary, Indiana)--took the stage at the Highline Ballroom to introduce themselves to a city that's never less than skeptical of new rappers, especially those who come from out of town. (Three of them -- Fashawn, OJ Da Juiceman, Wiz Khalifa --were not in attendance for reasons unknown, though OJ was booed last time he was here. The fourth MC missing in action, J. Cole, headlined his own show the night before at SOB's for Hot97's annual Who's Next concert series).

For all involved, the goal of the performance was simple: Demonstrate to skeptics that they rightfully deserve to be on the cover of XXL and will hopefully be back in said magazine again in the future. So did they show and prove? Well, yes and no. Below, a breakdown of last night's performances categorized from worst to best.

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