XXL Freshman 10: 2010

Although still a big fan of rap music, I haven’t opened a new rap magazine in ages. I am old enough to remember when The Source was actually worth a shit, so to see the fall from grace in hip-hop reporting in general has definitely turned me off of the current magazines.

I guess the real reason is because…they suck.  They suck really bad.  I always see people arguing about The Source and XXL – which one is better.  Well that would be like a playoff series between the Leafs and Blue Jays – who cares who would win, there is no reason to even watch.

One saving grace for XXL is their Freshman 10 they do each year.  It is basically a cover and issue dedicated to the new up and coming rappers.  Although I have never agreed with their whole top ten list (and who would, different styles for different people) but this year is a particularly strong cover IMO.

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I will break down the people I believe belong on this list while I will ignore the people that I don’t know about and/or think they blow.  So don’t get offended if your favourite doesn’t make my list…it probably means I just don’t know about him. (except in the case of OJ Da Juiceman – he fucking sucks and you know it!)

I will go in order of the magazine list (not in order of my faves):


J.Cole – born in North Carolina and moved to NY to pursue rap as well as higher education.  He is the first artists signed to Jay-Z’s new label – let’s hope his album actually gets released.  he has dropped a couple sick mixtapes already.  The Come Up and The Warm Up are must listens IMO.  The Warm Up was probably my favourite album period from last year (besides Drakes – So Far Gone).

Dude is nice – simple as that.  He also does a great job as coming off as a real person, with real conflicts in his life.  He balances being a socially conscious rapper, with being a normal dude who goes to the clubs to pick up women.

This track is absolutely sick and I have featured it on the blog before, this is a nice unplugged version:


This is another guy who dropped a great mixtape last year: The Refill.  I don’t know a ton about him except that he can rip a track.  He is an MC based out of Atlanta who has been cosigned by Atlanta’s greatest MC (and top 5 dead or alive) Andre 3000.

“To have his stamp of approval, me being from the A and idolizing them — him and Big [Boi] — for him to hit you and quote your lines on the tape, I was like, ‘Oh!’ ” Pill said. “I was like, ‘For real? That’s what’s up! I appreciate it.’ He’s top-five to me. … I was like, ‘I might know how to rap a little bit.’ ” Pill is a former protégé of onetime Outkast affiliate Killer Mike but has since ventured out on his own. While handing out copies of his mixtape earlier this year, he bumped into Three Stacks and gave him a tape. Andre called the next day with compliments.

“I didn’t think he’d ever listen to it or ever say nothing about it,” Pill said. “That gave me some more fuel to keep going. I was like, ‘OK, yeah, maybe I need to actually keep on going.’ “

Wiz Khalifa

I am pretty sure this dude is from Pittsburgh but I know very little about him.  I have downloaded a couple tapes of his and while I don’t like him as much as the other guys on this list, I still think he is worth a mention.  He had a song last year that was on steady rotation for me – I am surprised it wasn’t a huge hit in fact. (editor note: I was gonna put Say Yeah here, but then I remembered although it didn’t get the exposure This Plane is much better):

Freddie Gibbs

Gangsta Gibbs!  Maybe my favourite “freshman” on the list.  Gibbs is from the tranquil and scenic…Gary, Indiana.  So you know he is rapping about flowers, suburbs and SUVs.  Obviously I am being facetious, he is rapping about Gary fucking Indiana…do a Google image search on it. Looking at the pictures will let you know exactly how he raps.  Although this could be considered “gangsta rap”, Gibbs does an amazing job at telling stories AND painting a picture of real life struggle.  I don’t know if Gibbs blows up – but he should and rap would be in a better place if he did.

You want a view of Gary Indiana?  Check out his video “What It B Like”


I may be wrong but Fashawn might be the least recognizable person on the list.  He shouldn’t be slept on though because he put out a great mixtape last year.  It was produced by Exile (who also provided the backdrop for former Freshman 10 stand out Blu).  Fashawn is a west coast underground rapper – and his mixtape Boy Meets World is a must listen.

Here is a sample:


This Freshman list is easily the best in ages, and if people take the time to check out the artists I mentioned they will be much more happy with the state of rap.

One weird note – no New York MC on my list 🙁  The bithplace of Hip-Hop was shut out…although J Cole is a New York transplant and raps much more “east coast” than “southern”.

Check these dudes out!

  • I haven't try purchasing a Hip Hop magazine yet, but I actually appreciate hip hop. Actually any genre in particular, whats important for me is the song it self. Nice to see newbies breaking out to the music world, I would totally check their songs. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Lot of nice cats on this list. Would add George Reefah to this list of people who are def gonna make noise in 2010!

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