2017 XXL Freshman Issue: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Jasseim Obie

XXL Magazine recently released its 10th anniversary Freshman Issue featuring a variety of up-and-coming artists, and fans have been buzzing ever since.

This year’s XXL Freshman Issue got a mixture of different responses from fans everywhere. Overall, the list consists of many talented artists who each bring a different style to the rap game. Styles ranged from the highly energetic trap music of Playboi Carti to the funky to the more laid back trap style of A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. Many fans seem to think this year’s freshman list seems to be more talented than that of 2016, which consisted of artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty–who were more about having fun.

If you compare past years’ XXL freshman list with that of previous years, going as far back as 2007, you might notice that recent freshman lists have consisted of more mainstream rappers, as opposed to the lyrical/intellectual rappers that used to make up the lists.

One problem many fans seemed to have about this year’s freshman edition is the fact that there were so many artists that did not make it that are definitely talented enough. The fact is, only ten artists make the cover each year and, well, you can’t satisfy everyone.

Famous Dex is one of the rappers many fans would have liked to see on this year’s XXL freshman cover. XXL editor in chief, Vanessa Satten, has recently stated in an interview (video below) that Dex was left off the freshman list because of a video posted last year of him beating his then girlfriend.

Another similar topic discussed in the interview was that XXXTentacion was accused of punching and kicking his pregnant girlfriend last year. There are pictures online that show bruises to both of her eyes to the point they’re swollen shut. The reason XXXTentacion made the freshman list in spite of those accusations, according to Satten, is that he was not found guilty of his charges. As for Famous Dex, we actually saw footage of him beating up his ex.

If you compare past years’ XXL freshman list with that of previous years, going as far back as 2007, you might notice that recent freshman lists have consisted of more mainstream rappers, as opposed to the lyrical/intellectual rappers that used to make up the lists. For example, if you look at the 2009 XXL freshman class, you might not even recognize rappers like Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, Mickey Factz, and Blu.

As the years have gone by, there have been more and more mainstream rappers on freshman covers. 2010 gave us J Cole, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa. 2011 gave us Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and Mac Miller. 2012 gave us Future, 2013 gave us Joey Bada$$, Travis Scott and Schoolboy Q, and 2014 gave us Chance the Rapper.

It seems XXL is gravitating toward bigger names in the hip-hop industry, rather than promoting only lyrical rappers that fewer people are familiar with.

All those guys are relevant today in the industry, and all are extremely talented artists. 2016 seemed to be the start of a new wave of young “mumble rappers.” They’re less lyrically-inclined rappers that we are currently experiencing in the mainstream. It seems XXL is gravitating toward bigger names in the hip-hop industry, rather than promoting only lyrical rappers that fewer people are familiar with. This is probably because rappers that send a real message in their music get less publicity. Those who rap about sex, drugs and violence sell more music. But hey, you gotta get that money.

On the whole, it’s very apparent that music is changing.

If you’re an old head you might not like the direction that it’s going, though most of the young generation today would say it’s a change for the better. The reason why the 2017 XXL Freshman Issue is special. There’s a wide variety of styles present in these artists. You have a whole spectrum including Ugly God, Kamaiyah, Kap G, Amine, etc. All have their own unique sound, different from what you may have heard in the past.

That is the beauty of music: it’s always changing.

And every once in a while you have an artist that shifts the entirety of the culture (think Tupac and Biggie in the 90s, then Jay Z). In the 2000s Kanye West came along, then Lil Wayne and T-Pain changed the game too. Nowadays, there are artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future and Travis Scott who are geniuses in their own right. Even someone like Childish Gambino, who is talented in almost any genre of entertainment you can think of, changes the culture. Soon we’ll discover the next artist to take the game by storm and elevate music to another level.

Cover/Header Image Credit: XXL