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.