Does the XXL Freshmen List Even Matter Anymore?

Every year, XXL selects ten up-and-coming prospects and dubs them as the new crop of “Freshmen,” regardless of how many years they’ve actually been sending mp3s to sites and getting their name on whatever bill they could. To be selected, it definitely helps to have at least two of the following:

- already be signed to a major label – This automatically means you can’t be a total flop, since the major label that cops ads for the magazine will benefit from the partnership of having their new signee appear credible. More Freshmen selected from a label, more ads from the label.

- hype – You don’t have to actually be talented to be selected as next. How else can you explain artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Yelawolf, Iggy Azalea, Lil’ Twist, and OJ Da Juiceman getting an honor that artists like Stimuli, Skyzoo, and Vado couldn’t get?

- come from a hip-hop family – Sorry, Diggy Simmons, but this goes for you. While you’re not a terrible rapper, there’s also nothing besides your bloodline that separates you from everyone else. Oh, and that Atlantic deal.

- don’t be a chick – Out of 50 rappers selected as up-and-coming, only one female has been selected, and it is the untalented and nowhere-to-be-found Iggy Azalea. Nicki Minaj? Nope. Drake? Nope. If XXL had been doing their job, they would have featured those cats before they got as big as they did. Nitty Scott? Nope. Boog Brown? Nope.

- don’t be a producer – For some reason producers don’t seem to count, even though they’re, in my opinion, the most essential element in creating quality hip-hop. No Lex Luger or Harry Fraud takes away from whatever credibility these lists are supposed to have.

XXL also plays it incredibly safe in picking ten new artists each year. It’s pretty hard to pick the one or two artists that will really blow, but when you take ten and hope that one or two of them blow up on a national level and the rest can be mildly successful, which in 2013 terms seems to be dropping a couple of free mixtapes that get picked up by a couple of blogs, then everything worked out.

This year they’re also giving fans the illusion of helping to choose the 2013 class. Some obvious choices this year include Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson, but seeing as how neither one will probably be copping any ads this year from a major album, I would be shocked if they made it. They need a white guy, so Action’s got the best chance, plus they’ll probably have him holding a spatula or some other kitchen utensil. If they pick both, it would be great for hip-hop and blow my whole theory to shreds.

In order for these lists to have credibility, a few things need to change. First, stop selecting so many. I’d say no more than four rappers and two producers. Second, don’t base it on major label affiliations or co-signs, but on actual talent. No one from G.O.O.D. Music has dropped an album I’d consider worth copping, yet every act Kanye signs gets the nod. Base the selections on actual talent and doing that will require them to do a little more homework and a little less catering to the major labels and relying on the safe options.

730 Column: The Hacking of Rick Ross’s Gmail

Breaking. Or not.

730 Column: Uh Oh


To say it’s been a minute since you’ve had a 730 Column to enjoy is an understatement to the same degree as calling Chris Brown and Drake tough is an overstatement. I know it’s a little late to bring that up, but what a sorry state the game is for an incident between those two to be considered news. And if you’re having a little beef, about what, I don’t know, maybe who got the worst case of scabies from some R&B sanger, at least handle it like a male is supposed to. Go outside, tell your overprotective flunkies to stand back, and knuckle up. Throwing bottles across the club is not tough. I don’t even think any of the Jersey Shore punks would go that low.

Anyone heard that Guard Forgives, I Don’t album yet? Gotta peep that. Or not.

I don’t know if I’m getting old or what it is, but the music that’s been coming out lately has been horrible. There are very few new artists who deserve the spotlight, namely Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., and I’d have to rack my brain for others. What blows my mind though is the process that determines how an artist blows up has gotten worse and worse. Back in the heyday of HipHopGame, which is a really depressing way for me to start a sentence since I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to that site for so long, but a spade’s a spade, if you were dope, you got played. If not, you went to the other sites, some of whom would take a little boost to the PayPal account for a song post. Whereas I always judged talent and not affiliations or the sender of the mp3, today blogs operate more out of fear than anything else – fear that if they don’t support someone, they’ll fall behind. Thus, if MC ButtPlug gets a joint posted on a major blog, you can almost guarantee that every other major blog will download the mp3 off of that site, probably rename it and upload it to their own file sharing service, and post it like they got it too, they just couldn’t post it at the same time because they were updating their Instagram when the exclusive dropped.

The whole process by which artists blow up today goes a little something like this:

  • Have about 80-100 quality songs in the stash. One wack song in there, and you’re done
  • Release a song every week or two to a mass email list that you’ll BCC most of the time, but probably forget once or twice and have to send out another mass email to a group of strangers apologizing
  • Finally realize that no one is giving a shit about your music
  • Pay a “promoter,” known in finer circles as spammers, to blast your music
  • Sites the “promoter” has a relationship with will automatically post your music, probably without listening to it, because of a prearranged deal already in place.
  • Other sites will hop on the tip
  • Keep paying the “promoter,” keep getting postings
  • Do this about 75 times
  • Eventually an offshoot label of an offshoot may notice and they’ll offer you a digital distribution deal, something you could have easily done on your own
  • You’ll take the deal
  • At some point, you’ll ask the person you’re dealing with at the label what their favorite song is that you’ve done. They’ll respond with “That one with Bun B or Currency.” Don’t tell them you don’t have songs with either one of those people. Just say, “Good lookin’” and stop asking so many damn questions.
  • Release your album
  • Take up a “promoter” on a deal to get thousands of new Twitter followers for $10, because fake accounts with no followers and no Tweets just scream legit
  • Create a few fake Twitter accounts yourself, using pictures of booty models and dudes with jail tats. Kids will be impressed.
  • You’ll be lucky to sell a hundred copies, realizing that when you downloaded your song thousands of times off of Hulkshare did little to boost your appeal with anyone
  • You’ll realize people who spend all day downloading free music aren’t trying to cop
  • Repeat the steps. Let’s face it, you’re ten grand in the hole and a few more free mp3s oughta do the trick.

The elephant in the room, my room, at least, is where I’ve been for so long with nothing but a few sarcastic tweets and contests that never seem to end. I’ve been busy with the nine to five, something I’m so glad I did. Going back to school was a bit of a pain, a pain I’m still paying off, but to not have to sit in front of a laptop all day waiting for an exclusive or listening to another rapper claim how his album was going to reinvent music has done wonders to my forehead. I’d rather try and rack my brain as to how I can help a kid learn how to read than listening to a publicist tell me why my site needs a ten minute interview with a rapper that has even less credibility than XXL’s Freshman lists do now. Sidenote, I’d be very curious who XXL would pick if their magazine and website weren’t dependent on the ads from the major labels whose artists just always get picked. For Vado, Meyhem Lauren, and Action Bronson to be looked over while Lil’ Twist and whoever else gets noticed is a hip-hop crime.

If I’m back for good or this column is just a flash in the pan is a daily battle, and here’s why:

  • Got a demanding regular job
  • I don’t care to talk to all rappers for interviews anymore. I only get excited for a select few, emphasis on “select.”
  • I’m really enjoying the beat game. I know my beats aren’t going to appear on any major albums, but I have amazing music in the works with Labba and Cashmere, and an EP that I released with Dutch New York that I love.
  • If a project isn’t inspiring, I’m not doing it. I’ve turned down more money than I’ve made because I can’t get into it. Hip-hop is a culture that was never intended to be about how many chips you’re stacking, and I refuse to evaluate my life based on my chip stack. I got enough to get to the next paycheck, going to Applebee’s is doable but I’m not paying for any appetizers, and I’m totally okay with that.
  • I’m working on an autobiography with N.O.R.E. He’s the longtime homie, he’s got an amazing story, and helping him tell his story has been amazing.

I also have no idea what’s going on with HipHopGame. I get asked that question and I have no response. If I ever hear back from someone I once considered a brother from another, that would be nice. Do I know what happened? Absolutely not. Do I know if the site is being relaunched? All I’ve heard is rumors that it is, but I’ve seen nothing that indicates something real is in the works. But really, I’m just grateful for WeGoinIN and the fact that I can run it with JPizzle, one of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met, not to mention a true hip-hop head.

If anything, what will keep the columns coming is the fact that hip-hop fans need more intelligent commentary and writing than the standard “New video from __, off the project __. It’s dope.”