So XXL, which may as well be The Source at this point, released its annual list of rookie rappers they believe are worth looking for, dubbed the "Freshmen Class of 2012". I've never really paid much attention to these things, since all they seemed designed to do is to incite riots on all of the other hip hop blogs, but now's as good a time as any to discover if hip hop will actually die at the hands of the ten names present on the list. Oh, and it may be a conversation starter, too. I'll do anything to not review an actual album, apparently.
In true Max fashion, I'm not familiar with most of the names on here, so I thought it would be best that I actually listen to one of each artists's songs before I pass any judgment. What follows is a quickie review on each of the ten artists based on my gut reactions to whatever the one song is that I chose. Inevitably I will choose the wrong song, and the one I actually hear will not be representative of what the artist is capable of, but hey, that's what your role in the comments section will be.
MACHINE GUN KELLY
Song I listened to: "Invincible" (featuring Ester Dean)
The first of two new members of the Bad Boy roster to appear on this list is Machine Gun Kelly, the unimaginatively-named emcee who has gained quick fame thanks to the mixtape scene and a commercial for an HTC phone that featured his "Invincible", which is how I was familiar with this track before today. (Some of you two who are into professional wrestling may be familiar with his work through those channels, but I don't watch that shit anymore, so I can't really vouch for that.) The beat itself probably helps tremendously, as it fucking rocks, but MGK doesn't sound all that bad...until he starts to speed-rap, which turns everything he says into word soup, which I tend to avoid due to the high sodium content. In a way, the guy reminds me of Yelawolf, except the instrumental on "Invincible" is much better than anything from Radioactive. He may actually be worth paying attention to, but I have a feeling that his future collaborators will all be coldly calculated to appeal to every possible demographic in our chosen genre: I imagine his eventual Bad Boy debut will feature the likes of Rick Ross, someone in the vein of Talib Kweli to grab the attention of the backpackers, probably Eminem, and about two-thirds of the artists on this very list.
Song I listened to: "Black and Brown" (featuring Black Milk)
Okay, I'm cheating here, since I'm actually familiar with Detroit emcee Danny Brown's work. On one hand, it's kind of interesting to see the skinny jean-wearing, asymmetrically-hairdo'd Fools Gold signee on a magazine cover that isn't for Complex or Paste (wait, that example makes no sense, since the print version of Paste has been defunct for quite a while now, so let's just say Fader or something), but I fear that most of the people who actually read the cover story will be too terrified of Danny's image to actually seek out any of his not-really-shocking, oftentimes-hilarious music. If that describes you, I urge you to seek out my review for his collaborative EP with producer Black Milk, Black & Brown!, and its best track, "Black and Brown", which is also probably its most accessible.
Song I listened to: "I Just Want It All"
This seems to be representative of the truly awful direction hip hop has taken as of late: I didn't think it was possible to hear someone sound like A$AP Rocky but sound more like a pussy, but here we are. I'm probably too old to ever give a fuck about Kid Ink, so that motherfucker needs to get off my lawn, but just listen to "I Just Want It All" and tell me that it's good. You'll be met with me spitting in your goddamn lying whore face, but at least your opinion will be heard.
Song I listened to: "Tony Montana"
This guy sucks. Which means he'll become the belle of the ball, I know.
Song I listened to: "Good Good Night"
While researching Roscoe Dash, I discovered that he had a mild hit two years ago with a song that featured fucking Soulja Boy. Although that embarrassment to the culture isn't really much of a factor anymore, Roscoe Dash seems to have slid directly into his wheelhouse, albeit in a more club-friendly, radio-ready way. One thing I'm not noticing on this year's list is the concept of longevity: I can't see any of these artists lasting beyond a year or two, and I'm including Danny Brown on that list (he needs to impress me over non-Black Milk beats is all). I can't imagine this song being on the playlist of any of you two, but that's never stopped any rappers before.
Song I listened to: "Sag My Pants"
Kind of sounds like a more mainstream Tyler, the Creator, artificial shock value and all, except without the annoying press backing him up. I understand that he's actually been around for a while, having once been signed (and then dropped) by Ruthless Records, of all the labels on Earth, but I'm more impressed with the fact that he apparently once guest-starred on That's So Raven, which is a most hardcore thing to do, right up there with Fredro Starr on Moesha or MC Ren's frequent cameos on Gimme A Break. He doesn't sound terrible behind the mic, and I appreciate the fact that he apparently directs his own shit, but there wasn't much on here that I found impressive. Besides, attacking the likes of Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and Lupe Fiasco is more my territory.
Song I listened to: "The Town"
If this is the type of song Macklemore specializes in, then he'll probably become a critical darling that I won't be able to suffer. He isn't without skill, though his flow was kind of dull on "The Town". I'll have to hear more of his work before I can pass judgment,
Song I listened to: "Letter To My Son" (featuring Cee-Lo)
I didn't realize this before, but I've actually caught snippets of this song on the radio. Don Trip (man, these rap names are just getting lazier, aren't they?) deserves credit for sticking with the theme (albeit in a fairly cheesy manner), and snagging hip hop royalty Cee-Lo to sing on the chorus speaks for a matter of clout that a lot of today's artists simply don't have. But would I want to ever listen to an entire album from this guy? It's hard to say. Still, that thing I wrote earlier about sticking to a theme? That counts for a lot in our chosen genre, in which a short attention span is king.
Song I listened to: "My World"
Every since the advent of Kreayshawn and her weed carrier V-Nasty, female white rappers have been the hipster accessory of choice, which is ironic, since most of them who aren't named Eternia suck. Iggy Azalea, ridiculous name and all, doesn't change my mind. It's kind of sad how pretty much every female rapper in existence feels the need to push their sexuality to the forefront in an effort to sell records; one of the other choices I found for Iggy was her single "Pu$$y", which is probably about the socioeconomic void filled by the feline population. This song gave me a headache, but to Iggy's credit, any-fucking-body could have spit over this beat and it would have had the same result.
Song I listened to: "Shot Caller" (Featuring Charlie Rock)
The other new guy on Bad Boy Records closes out this list with a boring song (about calling shots or some shit, I don't know) and a boring flow that all gets overshadowed by the fantastic Harry Fraud beat that uses the same minute, classic sample (from the Thomas Bell Orchestra's "A Theme For LA's Team") that the Lords of the Underground rocked over on "Funky Child" way back in the day. But that's praise for the producer, not the rapper who actually made XXL's list, so let me backtrack here. French Montana has already popped up a couple of times on HHID, as a guest on both Pusha T's and Fat Joe's latest projects, and the latter makes sense, since Frenchy sounds like one of the worse members of Large Joesph's former Terror Squad clique. Which makes him a perfect fit for Puff Daddy's Bad Boy empire, much more so than Machine Gun Kelly.