Sunday, May 16, 2010

Update on XXL's Freshman of 2010

When the April issue of XXL with the top 10 in 2010's Freshman Hip Hop class hit the shelves on March 16, there was a reason why I didn't create a post for it. For one, I wasn't nearly familiar enough about most of the artists to be able to pass judgment, make any predictions or even say who were my favorites. Another reason was, none of them had released enough noteworthy tracks (compared to last year when Asher Roth, B.O.B., Wale and Cudi, who were all somewhat well known before they graced the cover for XXL's 2009 edition).

Fast forward about two months and that has all changed as I've grown a much deeper appreciation for a few of the artists and can give more of an opinion. Before you read what I think, you have you watch a quick video where each of the artists perform a 1 min clip of their most well known tracks at a XXL promo concert...check it:

After watching that video, I went back to check and see if I had grabbed a few of the tracks that were performed and I found a few of them in the library, but had neglected to give them more than one listen. Weird how watching one performance of a song can take a track from "completely passed over" to "my new favorite track". Here's where I think they're at right now:
1. J Cole - Definitely my favorite of the group and the one who seems to have the most "backing" from other "veteran" artists like Jay-Z. For example, who else on this list got to drop a verse on Blueprint 3? Yep, that's what I though...but that verse and respect from the "elders" isn't why I think he's the best. The proof is in the pudding as I dissected a few of his most recent leaks on my New Artist Spotlight, with Who Dat and Grown Simba being the two best reasons why I think he's at the top of this class.
2. Donnis - Hailing from the ATL, he has recently risen to the top of this list with his upcoming single Tonight. That new single came after two of my favorite tracks in the past year with Gone and Over Do It. Donnis hasn't had the quantity of tracks you'd look for, but I'm eagerly anticipating his Fashionably Late mixtape due out sometime this summer. Make sure and check out his performance of Gone in the video above...I literally watched him performed that, then went and found the track, which I had put on my August song list and then re-ranked it in the top 5 of the April song list I just sent out.
3. Wiz Khalifa - About a month ago if you would have asked me who my favorite was out of this group it would have been Pittsburgh native Wiz. Feels like way over a year ago when he came on the scene with his Say Yeah track, sampling Alice Deejay's Better Off Alone. Not many people recognize he has already dropped two albums, with his most recent being Deal or No Deal, which reached #1 on iTunes for a hot minute. Real big fan of the first single off that album titled This Plane. Look out for that second single Red Carpet (Like a Movie) produced by none other than Ryan Tedder.
4. Big Sean - Coming out of the mean streets of Detroit, it seems Sean  has become good friends with Mr West. Oh yea, he also toured and became friends with Drizzy along the way and recently did a track with him titled Made It. I like his new track Bullshittin' more than the Drake collab's the limit with his talent and the group of friends he hangs around with.
5. Nipsey Hustle - This was actually the only pic I could find on the 'Net where Nipsey isn't throwin' up a set reppin' the 6 0 crips. Guess the gang life is still alive and well in South Central LA. Yet again, I gained a frame of reference with Nipsey on a track that he and Drake did titled Killer, where he absolutely stole the show from Drake. Most recently he caught my eye with this Run This Town (freestyle)...he's got that West Coast, Snoop Dogg diction that is every bit OG as his lyrics are thought provoking and creative.
6. Jay Rock - Another West Coast native, Jay Rock hailing from Watts, CA is starting to make some waves outside of the left coast. Truth be told, its a complete toss up between he and Nipsey for that #5 spot, but in my opinion they're both bringing some vitality back to West Coast rap that has been taking a nap for a number of years now. Favorite track from him is his new one Know Who to Trust, that epitomizes the classic West Coast sound with the haunting organ and strings (sounds slightly Dr Dre-esque). He's probably most well known for his collabo with Lil Wayne titled All My Life. His harsh, raspy dialect takes a little getting used to, but I wouldn't consider myself a huge Gangsta Rap fan, which is why I'm still warming up to him.
7. Freddie Gibbs - Freddie probably grew up in the harshest of living conditions, calling Gary, Indiana home for most of his upbringing. Recently being ranked in the Top 5 most Un-Safe cities, Gary isn't what you'd call a vacation spot. Right now I feel like I'm shortchanging him the most out of all 10 artists because many people believe he sounds like a young Tupac, showing he clearly has a lot of talent. As evident, witness his newest track The Ghetto. In my opinion, he brings a true Hip Hop sound that you'd liken to any NYC artist, very East Coast in delivery. My guess is he'll end up being in the top 5 out of this list before long after his new mixtape Str8 Killa No Filla and album The Devil's Palace (which is going to be produced by the legendary Alchemist).
8. Pill - Out of this list, you won't find a more unapologetically in your face artist like Pill. He also calls the ATL home and it isn't hard to tell with that Southern drawl of his. Interesting combination of wit and vulgarity, especially on his freestyle over Usher's Lil Freak. That track had me laughin' at some of the one liners like "And I only go Ham I go AbraHAM Lincoln" and "everybody done had her like corn in can". He's most well known for his booty shakin' Trap Goin' Ham song, where it's really convenient to compare him to a young ATL trapstar, T.I. It remains to be seen if he can evolve the way Clifford did, but getting on this list is a good start.
9. OJ Da Juiceman - Lord knows you've already heard the well-know "Eh Eh Ok" in the background of damn near every song Mr Vitamin C has been a part of (look at that damn orange chain above...smh). Judging by the copious amounts of gaudy jewelry and being a protege of Gucci Mane, you probably already guessed what I think about OJ. I still have mad love for that Supaman High track he did with R Kelly though, that beat goes HAARRDD and was a pleasant surprise. Still not exactly my bag of doritos if ya know what I'm sayin....
10. Fashawn - Really the only reason he's 10 is the lack of familiar material I've heard from Fashawn, who reps Grizzly City, CA (aka Fresno). Here's the best example I could find of his talent as a artist on his track F.A.S.H.A.W.N. Clearly he has a lot of respect for Hip Hop having paid tribute to Nas's Illmatic and he similarly takes pride in being a lyricist rubbing shoulders with Talib Kweli on Life's a Bitch. Definitely an artist that deserves daps & lbs for keeping it real and not needing the commercial success to validate his talent personally. He's already years ahead of Pill and OJ now that I've given a more thorough listen...keep that in mind cause this cat is talented.


Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 11:54 AM  

Man check out George Reefah out of Toronto. I think he and Drake were on the XXL list a few years back. Diesel!

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