Every year, XXL releases its “Freshman Class” to much scrutiny and this year is no different. Many have complained that XXL inexplicably included two R&B singers (Ty Dolla $ign and August Alsina), others have taken issue with Chicago emcees representing one third of the group, and of course, there are arguments over who got snubbed. Rukkus has decided to join the debate.
Rukkus’ 2014 Freshman Class
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In full, XXL’s class includes: Chance the Rapper, Isaiah Rashah, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Troy Ave, Kevin Gates, Lil Bibby, Jon Connor, Lil Durk, and “10 spot” winner Jarren Benton.
Though we agree with some of XXL‘s selections, we decided to come up with our own dirty dozen. You won’t find any prissy R&B singers here.
Chance the Rapper
Chance is the sure-fire, can’t miss, head of his class. His Acid Rap mixtape was a game changer, and the young Chicago emcee is poised to dominate the game this year.
This is probably the most glaring omission from the folks at XXL. Y.G. is at the forefront of the white-hot L.A. hip-hop scene, thanks in part the viral smash-hit, “My Nigga.” Y.G. followed that success with his debut, My Krazy Life, and proved that he intends to stick around for a while.
This Tennessee-based rapper recently signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, which is home to former “Freshmen” Kendick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q. His mixtape Cilvia Demo makes a solid case for Rashad to follow in the wildly successful footsteps of his labelmates.
This young Florida emcee is among the biggest snubs from this year’s XXL class. Curry’s mixtape, Nostalgic 64, is packed full of bangers, and the former Spaceghostpurrp protege is proving that he’ll be just fine without the Raider Klan.
Though he is most known for his collaborations with Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples has gotten co-signs from several artists including Schoolboy Q and Jhene Aiko. The L.A. scene is the strongest movement in hip-hop right now and Staples is one of its key pieces.
Someone needed to remind hip-hop where it came from, and RATKING seems to be up for that task. This New York trio has the gritty sound of 90s era Wu-Tang Clan, but with a more modern appeal. The group may be a little too alternative for XXL, but it is impossible to ignore its debut, So It Goes.
Young Thug’s recent success is impossible to explain. The dude has a super weird flow, mediocre lyrics and questionable personal style. Yet, somehow this lean-sipping, dress-wearing trap rapper has managed to score two certified street bangers with “Danny Glover” and “Stoner.” This guy will be boom or bust, but it is impossible not include him on this list right now.
Vic Mensa is a former member of Chicago collective Kids These Days. Since the band broke up, Mensa released INNANETAPE, which features frequent collaborator Chance the Rapper, among others. Based on that tape–and the company he keeps–Mensa will be just fine on his own.
The hip-hop community remains an unfortunately homophobic corner of the music industry. That is a shame, because openly-gay rapper Le1f’s experimental brand of hip-hop deserves recognition. Hip-hop is in danger of going stale, and it takes artists like Le1f to keep it moving forward.
The “gangsta” aesthetic seems to be on its way out, but Fat Trel is one of the few newer artists who seems intent on keeping it alive. The D.C. native has a certain charisma that makes him a perfect foil for Rick Ross and the rest of the MMG roster, and his Slutty Boy Gang has gaining traction as well.
You already know Rocky and Ferg, but Ant is poised to become A$AP Mob‘s next success story. Hailing from Baltimore, Ant is a little more raw than his comrades, but that might be what hip-hop needs right now. His recent collab with Method Man is throwback to an era where hip-hop was still dangerous.
Snow tha Product
If Iggy Azalea‘s recent success is any indication, this year’s XXL boy’s club could use a feminine touch. Snow tha Product is one of the more gifted female emcees out right now and has enough crossover appeal to be a major threat. The Mexican-American spitter already has a deal with Atlantic and a gang of material that should have blown up by now, but something tells us it is just a matter of time.
Article by Jason Schellhardt