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."
|XXL's Freshman Issue cover. Click to enlarge. |
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 itand why we'll keep lapping it up.More »