If you love lists and Hip-Hop as much as I do, than this week has been a very exciting time. Why you may ask? Well aside from Grantland's awesome Chapelle's Show NCAA-style Bracket, XXL has released the nominee list to their annual Freshman Class selections. In case you are not familiar, each year XXL (one of my personal favorite rap magazines/web sites/news outlets) releases a list of 10 or 11 "Freshman," which is just another name for people to look out for in the next year.
Now you should all head on over to XXL's page to vote for the 10th spot in their class (the Fan's choice spot); but to really understand where we are going we must first take a look back. In other words lets take a look back and see what the past two year's XXL Freshman class members have been up to, and like everything I do I will assign some arbitrary grade or value. Because letter grades are trite, I'm going to give them their deserving grade point average (out of a 4.0 scale) based on their achievements since being named freshmen.
Freshman Class of 2012 a.k.a "The Sophomores":
Danny Brown: GPA: 3.4 - Dean's List
It's a shame Danny had to get a grade this low, because based on his previous work he is an A+ student. But he hasn't released an album or mixtape since XXX which came out before he was named a Freshman. He has been able to keep himself relevant with a series of features (1Train), promo singles with dope videos (Grown Up), and dope remixes (Beilspeak w/ Purity Ring), and for that he is able to stay on the Dean's list for now.
Kid Ink, Hopsin, Machine Gun Kelly, and Don Trip: GPA: 1.0 - Academic Warning
It might seem odd to lump these guys together, but none of them have done anything worth noting since they were names freshman and they are all on the verge of becoming irrelevant. So there. Great picks XXL.
Future: GPA: 3.0 - Most Improved Student
Coming into his Freshman year I expected very little from Future, but he released a very solid debut album, Pluto, and has been able to put together a string of club-bangers (Same Damn Time, Turn on the Lights, Neva End) earning him this very respectable GPA.
Iggy Azalea: GPA: 0.2 - Expelled for Academic Incompetency
Iggy Azalea is now (thankfully) irrelevant and I refuse to say any more about her.
Macklemore: GPA: 2.5
While I am not the biggest Macklemore fan myself, I will give credit where credit is due and he has been able to build a sizable following, which is a very impressive achievement for anyone trying to make it in the rap game. However he seems to have fallen into the pit of rap music for people who don't usually like rap, in my opinion because compared to all the other stuff out there he is kind of boring (the word "Corny" gets thrown around a lot too). So yeah, good start, definitely room to improve. "Thrift Store" is hot tho.
French Montana + Roscoe Dash: GPA: 2.0
While each of these dude has had GIANT hits with their names on it (French's "Pop That" and Roscoe's "Marvin & Chardonnay"), they really wouldn't have scored those songs without the other big names on it. So while they can definitely be role players on hot tracks, neither of them have showed that they can carry their own album, or ever song for that matter.
"Who is this?" You may ask...Don Trip - D Student. Step it up Don.
Freshman Class of 2011 a.k.a "The Juniors"
Big K.R.I.T.: GPA: 3.0 - Perfect Attendance
Big K.R.I.T. has had a very good, but not great career since being named part of the 2011 Freshman Class. While every mixtape and album he dropped has been incredibly solid, nothing he has release has been any better than just that, solid. A consistent rapper and producer, K.R.I.T. has yet to really find what will make him stand out and break through, but the talent is there and I have no doubt he will continue to make excellent rap music.
Lil B: GPA: &.$ - Most Based
Who/What/Why is Lil B? One of the most confusing rappers to come out in the last few years, Lil B refuses to take anything, even himself seriously and the results are usually either exciting and hilarious or just downright confusing. One thing Lil B is certainly not is boring, and being one of the most consistently entertaining rappers is worth noting, and very deserving of his incredibly based @.^ GPA.
Lil Twist, YG, and Fred The Godson: GPA: 0.2 - Academic Warning
Honestly I can't even think of anything off the top of my head to say about these clowns. The phrase "They Fell Off" would be a compliment because they didn't have anything to fall off from in the first place. Hit the books kids.
Kendrick Lamar: GPA: 10.0 - Summa Cum Lade, Current Dean of L.A. School of Hip-Hop
Listen. This is the single greatest prediction that XXL has ever made. The fact that they put Kendrick Lamar in the Freshman class of 2011 excuses every single whack rapper they have ever put in one of their Freshman classes (Fred the Godson, YG, Donnis, Fashawn, Pill, Young Dro...even Charles Hamilton). Let me put forth a timeline of Kendrick's actions since being named part of the Freshman class in February 2011:
July 2011: Releases Section.80. Seen by many (including me) as the best rap album of the year, over such heavyweights as Drake (Take Care) and Kanye & Jay-Z (Watch the Throne). This is his debut album.
October 2012: Releases good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Becomes the West-Coast/Hip-Hop's second coming of Jesus. GKMC is immediately regarded as an instant classic and runs away with the #1 spot on pretty much every critic's year end list. Kendrick becomes immortal.
And unlike other rappers who already put out work that blew up the internet (Danny Brown's XXX), Kendrick's O.D. had yet to really get that much attention, so the pick wasn't as obvious as it seems now. So yeah, good pic XXL.
Mac Miller, Diggy Simmons: GPA: 1.7 - Class Clowns
Both these guys have gotten pretty popular at points, but always for sub-par rap music. C- work at best, pretty simple.
Meek Mill: GPA: 3.2
As you can see, after the Kendrick post my energy is kind of petering out, so lets make these quick. Meek is solid, makes some great club songs but nothing too special.
Yelawolf, Cyhi The Prince: GPA: 2.8
Both of these dudes had a ton of potential, but have fallen off in recent years (Cyhi more that Yelawolf). At any time either of these dudes could drop a really hot mixtape (they both have in the past) or album, but don't hold your breath.
Well that about wraps it up for the past two year's classes. Check back later for a preview of this year's potential Freshman, this years class is gonna be a good one.