November 24, 2015

So I'm Still Doing This: Max Checks In With XXL's 2012 Freshman Class

XXL dropped their annual Freshman Class list later than usual this year, and as such, I have followed suit with my ongoing series, which looks at the class of 2012 and what they have or haven't yet accomplished.  At least that's the excuse I'm running with: I debated internally for quite some time as to whether I should even bother, and when I finally decided to do it, laziness took a hold of me, so I suppose now's as good a time as ever to check in on the ten artists featured that particular year.

Insert your standard disclaimer about how I don't know if the series will proceed beyond this year here.

MGK (formerly MACHINE GUN KELLY, formerly MGK, formerly MACHINE GUN KELLY)

What I wrote before: “The man just doesn't stand out: his flow is a variation of Southern swag that immediately informs the audience of what his influences were, and let's just say the man doesn't have the best taste...”

Song I listened to this time around: “Oz.”

Earlier this year, I watched Beyond The Lights, a pretty decent flick starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a starlet who gets caught up in her own hype and has to reclaim herself.  Rapper Machine Gun Kelly plays a featured role as her ex-boyfriend named Kid Culprit, and I realized two things: (1) He wasn't awful (his character was, but it's not like MGK wrote the script or anything), and (2) Kid Culprit is a much better rap name than Machine Gun Kelly.  But I digress.  "Oz." is a Jim Jonsin-produced effort that essentially lifts the beat from Crucial Conflict's ode to weed "Hay", a fact that, unless I completely missed it, MGK never references at all, although Nelly receives an obtuse shout-out of sorts, as does his label boss Puff Daddy.  I know that most of the kids aren't going to know what the fuck a Crucial Conflict is, but not even bothering to respect the history of this shit?  Kind of not a great look.  Also, Kid Culprit's performance on here stays on the verge of "alright"; certainly not something I would ever want to throw a record contract at.  But maybe if I had Puffy's millions, I'd use less discretion, I don't know.  Anyway, this was a dull throbbing headache of a song.


What I wrote before: “...Danny Brown is still probably the only artist you give a shit about on this list, so at least XXL picked a winner, right?

Song I listened to this time around: “Attak" (Rustie featuring Danny Brown)

I still haven't listened to Danny Brown's Old beyond the first track, but for the purposes of today's post, I don't have to: since Rustie is a producer that had also contributed to Old, I figured I'd run with what Brown could come up with when not forced to adhere to the structure of a full album.  I've always gotten the feeling that hip hop bores the shit out of Danny Brown, and "Attak" doesn't do much to disprove that theory, as Daniel spits over electronic beeps and bloops as filtered through a trap house's security system, comparing growing up in Detroit to the book and movie Battle Royale, which, honestly, probably isn't that far off.  I've heard Danny spit over more conventional instrumentals, and he does fine enough, but it's the more experimental stuff that seems to get his rocks off.  I can't blame him: most hip hop sucks these days.  "Attak" isn't as catchy as "Side A (Old)" for me, but it still works.


What I wrote before: “...when the best comparison one can make of you as an artist is that you remind them of Chris goddamn motherfucking Brown, it's time to throw in the towel, son. You're done here...”

Song I listened to this time around: “Worth It" (Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink)

Yeah, this time I couldn't even be bothered to find an actual Kid Ink song, which should give you two an idea of just how little I think of the man's body of work.  I understand that his contribution to girl group Fifth Harmony's monster hit (relatively speaking: they're not a quintet of Adeles, people) was lifted from a different song of his called "Wit It", so this collaboration never even really took place, which is just the way the music industry works today, but his "verses" on here (really the same performance played twice) is still pretty goddamn pathetic.  If the original song really does feature Ink spouting dumb shit such as, "What you actin' shy for?" and, "Wit it, wit it, wit it, wit it, wit it, wit it", then I feel comfortable in knowing that I just dodged a goddamn bullet.  Fuck this guy.


What I wrote before: “...Future has quietly become a force within our chosen genre, which is amazing for a dude who gets outclassed on every goddamn fucking song I've ever heard him rhyme on...

Song I listened to this time around: “I Serve The Base"

I realize that Future just released an album-slash-mixtape-slash-whatever the fuck with Drake a few weeks ago (and with that sentence, I just noticed that I'm now two projects behind in Aubrey's catalog, all thanks to my West Coast focus that's dominated 2015), but since I still don't understand the appeal of the man born Navaydius Wilburn, I chose to go with a solo track, one that I've heard once or twice on Shade 45, which means that I'm not sure if "I Serve The Bass" was ever released as a single.  And I will admit this: I actually liked it.  The Metro Boomin instrumental is pretty freaking sinister in scope: it effectively sounds like one of those nightmares Future doesn't-really-describes-but-at-least-mentions in one of the verses.  Speaking of Future, this is probably the first time I've ever heard the man actively try to rap, and although his mumbled, Auto-Tuned flow makes for a weird listen, when combined with the beat, it all clicks.  Not bad for a dude whose gimmick is thisclose to implosion.  I also got a chuckle out of the line, "I'm full of so much chronic, need a detox", so.


What I wrote before: “ least ["Work"] was a marked improvement over whatever the fuck I listened to last year...

Song I listened to this time around: “Jet Lag"

I'm not entirely sure that Roscoe Dash even still has a viable career at this point: I had to dig pretty heavily to find "Jet Lag", which was the most recent song I could find from the dude, and it's only featured on a mixtape.  Still, it actually could have been much worse: for the kids reading this who like rap songs whose only reason for existing is to help you get turnt at the club, you can find better, but you could also do worse.  Dash is not a prophet with a pen or anything ("My ego is stupid like Steve-O", he proclaims proudly at one point), but he's much closer to having built up the confidence behind the microphone that it takes to pull dumb-ass lines such as that off.  And yet I wouldn't be surprised to find no new material from him next year, since I'm sure the lure of a steady paycheck will have him running back to the Hardee's from which he came before winter ends.


What I wrote before: “...He would probably be the most improved of this class, which I'm sure he will somehow take offense to, but fuck him...

Song I listened to this time around: “No Words”

Perhaps this is a cheat, since "No Words" is a song parody and in no way represents what the rest of Hopsin's catalog sounds like, but it's my article, I don't give a fuck, and it was short, alright?  Throughout this series, I've made it known that I don't believe Hopsin to be any kind of standout artist in our overcrowded chosen genre: he's technically proficient, and at times much more so than that, but the guy's antics bore me to tears.  The key word there is "antics", since he's spent quite a bit of time in his career trying to take the piss out your favorite rappers, and "No Words" is more of the same, except this time around he goes after the likes of Fetty Wap and fellow Freshman Future, among others, taking them to task for not really saying anything over trap beats (and I mean that literally: the song isn't called "No Words" by accident).  This territory is much more suited for the likes of The Lonely Island than a guy who normally doesn't record parodies, so even though Hopsin has a point that I actually agree with (today's hip hop fans probably seriously wonder why heads like myself care so much about lyrics when words don't matter, which, by the way, is not my standard argument: for everyone who has twisted my ideas in the past, my stance is that the lyrics are not more important than the music, in that the music has to be on point for the lyricism to shine, otherwise you may as well be performing your slam poetry at a fucking coffee shop, but in no way does that mean that I don't find lyrics to be important).  That was a long tangent, I know.  Anyway, "No Words" was simultaneously decent and shitty, which was the point, but I could, and will, say the same thing about Hopsin.  Sigh.


What I wrote before: “...a purely pedestrian rapper who has managed to make lightning strike three times...
Song I listened to this time around: “Downtown" (featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz)

That guest list smacks of Macklemore, still the owner of the most punchable face in hip hop, beating his critics to the punch by proclaiming his love for the old school.  And sure, those names don't really see regular employment these days: when the fuck was the last time you heard Kool Moe Dee do something new?  But it's not like any of them spit a verse or anything: "Downtown" is Macklemore (and producer Ryan Lewis, by proxy) rapping about...mopeds.  That wasn't a joke: this song is literally about the guy purchasing and then tooling around on a moped.  Which, well, there are dumber topics he could be touching on, I guess.  This second single from whatever the fuck Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have brewing for next year is an appeal to the fanbase they won over with their goofy "Thrift Shop", except given the guest list, it's presented as a serious attempt to snag some of the older heads that read this blog, and honestly, we all see right through that shit.  The beat isn't bad: in fact, it is kind of catchy.  But the less said about "Downtown", the better.  At least Macklemore's attitude toward methods of transportation isn't as obnoxious as his "I support same-sex marriage, but oh no, I'm not gay" rhetoric from "Same Love".


What I wrote before: “...Dude has moved well past apathy and has firmly planted himself in outright hatred and disgust for our chosen genre...”

Song I listened to this time around: “I'ma Quit”

If only that titular statement referred to his rap career (which, granted, doesn't seem to have gotten anywhere) and not, as "I'ma Quit" explains, to his drug dealing.  Don Trip manages to string together rhymes decently enough, but hip hop is a crowded field, and it's difficult to stay relevant in this fickle genre when you create music that sounds like the epitome of not giving a shit.


What I wrote before: “...her vapid lyricism is perfect for background noise while you're trying to get drunk and get that hot girl to dance with you...

Song I listened to this time around: “Pretty Girls" (Britney Spears featuring Iggy Azalea)

For an explanation as to why I would seek out a Britney song instead of a proper Iggy track, please refer to the Kid Ink entry.  "Pretty Girls" was released with the intention of becoming the song of the summer, not unlike Iggy's own Charli XCX-featured "Fancy" from last year, but it failed miserably, so much so that I had somehow never actually heard even a single note of this shit until today.  I've come to accept that our chosen genre has room for people like Iggy Azalea, although I could absofuckinglutely do without the cultural appropriation that makes up her entire rapping career, but there will only be room for Iggy if Iggy bothers to respect the musical part of things: her shit on "Pretty Girls", albeit extremely limited in scope, is awful.  In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that her tour was cancelled and her new album was pushed to 2016: it seems as if nobody cares about her anymore.  She had her moment: let's allow her to languish in EDM hell for the rest of time, agreed?


What I wrote before: “...rappers like French Montana have a function in hip hop, even if that function is to annoy us with their various successes...

Song I listened to this time around: “Off The Rip” (featuring Chinx and N.O.R.E.)

I touched on "Off The Rip" briefly during my mixtape series earlier this year, having heard this song for the very first time the night before I found out that guest star Chinx had been murdered.  It was an odd coincidence, one that I allowed to cloud my perception of the track...well, that, and the fact that the instrumental lifts directly from Rampage the Last Boy Scout's finest song "Wild For Da Night", which made me want to hear that instead.  But satellite radio kept forcing "Off The Rip" upon my ears, and I eventually just gave in, and my takeaway is this: it's not bad.  It's obviously a French Montana song, down to the goofy boasts and the incessant need to repeat the titular phrase after nearly every bar (at least until his final verse).  Not as catchy as "Ain't Worried About Nothin'", but better than most of the latter-day output from Bad Boy Records, anyway.  Chinx mostly participates in the hook, which riffs on Capone-N-Noreaga's "Bloody Money", which still makes no sense to me, since the beat doesn't have fuck-all to do with the CNN joint, but Noreaga pops in anyway for a quick cameo that manages to drum up just the correct amount of nostalgia for heads like myself.  If Frenchy surrounds himself with the right players, and maybe steps away from the Rick Ross side of the equation (which is difficult, given his alliances), he might could extend his career by a couple more summers.



  1. Literally the only thing I even vaguely give a shit about in this entire piece (that isn't a reflection on you Max, but the appalling lack of quality in this group, which surely makes me think this is the least talented freshmen year ever) is why have you never got past Side A (Old) if you alluded that not only did you like that song, but appear to like Danny in general? I haven't listened either I just wondered, Danny can spit

    1. As I said last year, it's because I keep playing "Side A (Old)" on repeat. Hence, not getting further into the album.

  2. Don't even get me started on Same Love lol Macklemore pandered so hard just to make a few bucks.. I would like to hear your take on Danny Brown's Old though.. I think you'd enjoy the bulk of it.

  3. I was holding out on your proper reviews and awesome detours my intended question. However, since this freshmen class is neither proper nor awesome, I ask: Where Are My Motherfucking Documentary 2 & 2.5 Reviews?

  4. Listen to Old!!! It isn't as cohesive as XXX in my opinion, nor does it have a song as perfect as 30, but it is a very good album.

    Side B, Float On, and 25 Bucks are all still in my rotation on various playlists.

  5. Ehhh Macklemore didn't need to put those old school guys on his song, he did though, while no one else does. It puts money in their pocket and gives them exposure to a new generation, so let's be happy about that.

    1. Considering the amount of contribution from each of those guests, it's safe to say this was merely a publicity stunt and nothing more. I can almost guarantee that absolutely nobody listened to "Downtown" and thought, "Where can I find more from this Kool Moe Dee character?"

    2. Gee this Melle Mel dude can spit, hope he's in XXL's 2016 Freshmen Class!

    3. I want to Cold Crush Macklemore's face for that

  6. although freddie gibbs is from gary indiana he resides california! west coast review of piniata? album of 2015 in my opinion

  7. Don Trip and Starlito are great FYI

  8. Surprised to see you liked "I Serve the Base", didn't expect you to fuck with a Future song