Grading XXL's Past 5 "Freshman 10" Classes
Apparently there are still rappers who want to make the XXL Freshman 10 class this year. Take Riff Raff, for example. He wants it so badly that he has been following everyone on Twitter who votes for him in the contest.
The magazine began running its annual list of noteworthy, "undiscovered" rappers in 2008, dubbing them the "Leaders of the New School." These artists were on the rise, and predicted to achieve some kind of commercial success in 2008-09. Since its inaugural year, XXL has changed the name to "Freshman 10."
Joining the Freshman Class doesn't really bolster a rapper's career -- it's more of a confirmation that people are paying attention, like adding an extracurricular activity to your resume. They don't really need it, but it might help their image.
In recent years, XXL has missed out on many artists who rise and fall in a matter of months. Most of these rappers get famous through the buzz from their first mixtape and drop off when they cannot keep their fans' attention.
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A rapper now uses the Internet as a vessel to build his or her career. By simply uploading music, they become accessible to the masses. And even if the masses can't find it, bloggers can. After all, music journalists are always desperate to find something "untouched". They navigate the Internet to find hidden treasures so that they can say: "You heard it here first!"
Because the Internet moves so quickly, it's easy for XXL to miss out on some powerful artists who are waiting in the confines of the web. Does that make the list irrelevant?
Who will qualify this year? Does it matter to you anymore? We're taking a look back at the last five years of Freshman classes to see how many graduated and how many flunked out by sophomore year.
2008 (Leaders of the New School) Crooked I, Lupe Fiasco, Gorilla Zoe, Plies, Papoose, Lil' Boosie, Young Dro, Rich Boy, Saigon, Joell Ortiz
Graduates: In terms of time-conscious hits, Plies graduated with honors. Lupe Fiasco and Lil' Boosie had a strong fanbase and a few popular albums before making this list.
Dropouts: Most of these rappers peaked in 2006-07 as one-hit wonders. Rich Boy and Young Dro's singles were in radio rotation in 2006. After Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's" and Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean," they both fell off. Same thing happened to Gorilla Zoe in 2008. The rest of the Freshman class didn't really make it.
2009 Ace Hood, Asher Roth, Mickey Factz, B.o.B, Wale, Kid Cudi, Curren$y, Cory Gunz, Blu, Charles Hamilton
Graduates: This was the year of "alternative" rappers like Wale, who dropped a Seinfeld-inspired mixtape and self-proclaimed weirdo Curren$. Kid Cudi dominated 2009 with his debut album Man On the Moon, proving that nerds can thrive in hip-hop. B.o.B also had a good run.
Dropouts: Asher Roth couldn't hang. Dude is still trying, though. Cory Gunz and Ace Hood tried their best. There actually might still be hope for Gunz in the next few years.
2010 J. Cole, Pill, Nipsey Hu$$le, Wiz Khalifa, OJ Da Juiceman, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, Jay Rock, Fashawn, Donnis
Graduates: J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa, and Big Sean are still selling records and going on tours. All three rose to fame through mixtapes, and Khalifa released the most material. He released his eighth mixtape, Kush and Orange Juice, in April 2010 months before his debut album.
Dropouts: Freddie Gibbs and OJ Da Juiceman were both strong contenders, but couldn't deliver in the long run. Nipsey Hu$$le's Cali-style rhymes also weren't what the people wanted. They all had potential.
2011 Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T., Cyhi The Prince, Lil Twist, Yelawolf, Fred The Godson, Mac Miller, YG, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar, Diggy Simmons
Graduates: Kendrick Lamar, Lil B, Big K.R.I.T..
Dropouts: Diggy Simmons, Fred The Godson, Mac Miller, Lil Twist. This must have been this year that XXL wanted to include some young blood. Diggy Simmons and Lil Twist? Simmons never stood a chance and the only thing keeping Twist in business is his connection to Young Money.
2012 Future, Kid Ink, Danny Brown, French Montana, Macklemore, Don Trip, Machine Gun Kelly, Hopsin, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash
Graduates: Future, Danny Brown, and Macklemore. I remember hearing Future featured on one of Lil Wayne's mixtapes back in 2007, and not thinking much of it. Now he's come out of obscurity with one hit. And as corny as Macklemore might be, he's buff and more confident than his white predecessors.
Dropouts: Hopsin, Machine Gun Kelly, French Montana. Iggy Azalea has a chance this year or next.
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