Kevin Gates “Weight”
If there’s one thing that magazines and online music websites like XXL, Complex, and Spin still seem to do a decent job of it’s creating online debate around the lists that they publish. That said, there’s one list in particular that garners a ton of attention on an annual basis, partially because it is perceived to be a stepping stone to big things to come in the careers of rappers. The reality of the annual XXL Freshman 10 is that it’s become one of the safest lists in rap music. The artists they choose to hold this honor on an annual basis at this point, have usually already reach a modicum of hype, success, and have an engine behind them that ensures that they will – at the very least – continue to maintain the relevance that they had in the year prior, which combined with the increased spotlight they will receive for being on the XXL list, and the label support that they already have (if you think that any artist who makes the XXL Freshman list in 2013 isn’t signed to a label – even if it’s not “official” yet – you’re out of touch with the way things work in the rap industry in this decade). While not without merit for it’s role as an annual recognition process, the reality is that most of the artists who make the Freshman of 2013 list, will have actually been the freshmen of 2010, 2011, or 2012. Just taking a look at their list you see a number of great artists, who have been building a rep, and in some cases releasing music on an independent level – or even mainstream level – for a number of years:
The artists who make up the XXL Nominees in 2013:
Would’ve been a great – visionary – nominee in 2012. To nominate Keef for a Freshman list in 2013 is basically akin to nominating Jay-Z for a freshman list in ’97 or Biggie in ’95 (not that Keef is Jigga or B.I.G. by any estimation, but he sits atop the game in 2013 – undoubtedly one of rap’s biggest stars at this point). Keef took the rap world by storm in 2012 and had a much hyped 4th quarter release on a major label by year end, he’s a sophomore if there’s ever been a sophomore.
Again, a great pick if it was 2006 or 2007. Look I get XXL’s desire to include him in a list like this since Gunplay will finally drop his solo major label debut in 2013, but the reality is that the guy has had half a decade of appearances on major label releases and well promoted mixtapes to build his buzz. To use an NBA reference Gunplay is kind of like the NBA player who doesn’t get drafted, but makes cameo appearances on 1o day contracts with NBA teams on an annual basis – showcasing his skills – and eventually latches on to a viable roster. However, anybody who had a major label group album in 2009 that was promoted by one of the three biggest rap artists of the last 10 years does not qualify as a Freshman.
He shows potential, but to be honest I think his appeal is limited and the whole A$ap Mob thing fell pretty darn flat after that abortion of a mixtape they put out in 2012. There’s definitely room for him to continue to approve and he has a solid skill set, but he doesn’t have the appeal that Rocky does, and it seems to me that A$ap Yam has these guys under his thumb a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE proponent of quality control, but if that’s what Yams provides then he did a piss poor job on the A$ap mixtape in 2012. Maybe the Mob really will shift their attention toward other artists in the collective in 2013, but it remains to be seen whether that attention will achieve the desired results.