For most hip-hop heads (real and self-proclaimed), XXL Magazine is the “Holy Grail” for everything rap related. While I respect the publication’s long history of raw and unadulterated hip-hop journalism, I feel as if the 2013 Freshman list slighted some very talented and promising emcees. Each year, since 2008, XXL has released a “Top 10 Freshman” issue to highlight and showcase ten rappers who are new on the scene and are making waves. Below is my list of 10 emcees that I believe should have made the list. Please feel free to sound off and give me your feedback @edwardelliot on Instagram and Twitter.
1. Chance the Rapper- Since Chance dropped his critically acclaimed freshman mixtape, 10 Day, in 2011, his name and sound have been amplified throughout Chicago. His bohemian style coupled with his expansive vocabulary and propensity for using “Chicago type juke beats” in his acid-laced tracks creates a trippy listening session. As one of the leaders of the “Save Money” militia, Chance and his affiliates (Kids These Days and Caleb James) have become household names in the underground hip-hop world of Chicago. His new album, Acid Rap, drops on April 30th.
2. LG- Coming straight out of New Orleans, LG, can be best described as a proletariat poet. His rhymes often focus on the plight of growing up around the crime-infested streets of New Orleans. Yet, unlike other NOLA artist before him, he’s not fixated on consumerism, and his beats are not tinged with booty-bass. He has more of slow southerner’s rap pace which matches well with the soulful jazz sound that he often infuses into his songs.
3. A$AP Ferg- Arguabably the 2nd most popular member of the A$AP Mob behind A$AP Rocky, Ferg has carved his own lane. His song, “Work”, has over 2 million views on Youtube and is definitely on track to be one of the bangers of the year. Additionally, Ferg’s new mixtape: Trap Lord, which features Onyx and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony, is slated to be a cult classic.
4. Ken Rebel- What’s happens when you take the stylishness of Dee & Ricky and the brashness of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and mesh them into one character? You get a skinny kid from Atlanta named Ken Rebel . His rhymes are dark, witty, and filled with just enough bravado to take him seriously as a competitor. Recently he was featured in Complex Magazine as one of the 25 most stylish people under 25. Ken Rebel definitely has a bright future ahead of him.
5. Lil Durk- Of all of the artists coming out of the GBE led “Drill movement” in Chicago, Lil’ Durk has the most potential as an artist. With an affinity for autotune and ability to take the most violent drill song and give it a light “sing-songy hook”, Durk has outpaced his fellow “drillers”. His most recent mixtape, Life Ain’t No Joke, showcases his fast-paced and strong delivery in songs like “52 Bars”, but also his genius in making catchy hooks in songs like “L’s Anthem”. If Durk can stay out of trouble, he will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the rap game.
6. Capital Steez– The late rapper who took his own life on Christmas Eve in 2012, was arguabably the best lyricist in the Pro-Era crew. That is saying a lot when you have people like Joey Bada$$ in your camp. His grimy “East Coast” flow along with his penchant for esoteric metaphors could even leave a philosophy professor scratching their head. In songs like “Free the Robots” you get a glimpse of his cynical outlook on life due to his thoughts on political corruption. Steez is gone but will certainly not be forgotten.
7. Dom Kennedy- Dom has been running things on the West Coast for a while now. His smooth and braggadocious lyrics make him one of the coldest ladies men in rap since Ma$e. He has also dropped 5 mixtapes since his debut album, 25th Hour, in 2008. He should’ve made the Freshman list at least 3 years ago.
8. Sir Michael Rocks- Rocks is probably one of the oldest entertainers on the list not due to his late start, but due to the fact that he has been a force in the underground rap game for the past 6 years. As 1/2 of the Cool Kids, Mikey has been killing the game with his partner Chuck since they dropped the Black Mags music video back in 2007.
9. Earl Sweatshirt- Earl catapulted onto the scene in 2010 with his self-titled track “Earl” that had some of the illest visuals that I’ve seen in a music video in a long time. Earl is loquacious, sadistic, and precocious. As a member of the Odd Future Collective, Earl has, at times, been overshadowed by Tyler the Creator’s success. However, his brief stint at a reformatory school in Somoa added to his legend. Due to his loyal following, his mixtape Doris could easily break 1 million downloads in the first week.
10. Hoodie Allen- Hoodie attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania for college where he honed his accounting and rap skills at the same time. After graduation he took a job as an AdWords associate for Google. He would leave at 7 AM for a shuttle ride to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California work a full day at Google, return at 6 PM, and then write songs, answer fan emails, and schedule concerts until 2 or 3 AM. Now he has blown up. His video “No Interruptions” has over 8 million views.