May 14, 2018

Max Continues To Waste Time Exploring XXL's 2012 Freshman Class: Part VI

As of this writing, XXL’s 2018 Freshman Class list hasn’t yet been fully released, but if history serves, it’ll consist of a bunch of rappers whose names I’ll have seen before, but whose music will be lost on me.  Ever since I made the horrible decision to maintain a 7-Up-esque series following the rappers chosen for this accolade in 2012, keeping tabs on each of the ten artists and their respective careers since gracing the magazine’s cover, I’ve found myself struggling to both (a) still care, in most cases, and (b) find music representative of the growth one would assume each man (and one woman) had undertaken in order to organically prolong their professional lifespans.

What follows are my thoughts on each of the ten recipients of this prize based on music released in the calendar year 2017 only. I realized that last year’s entry was actually my then-unpublished thoughts on their 2016 output, so what I guess I’m saying is that there will likely be another entry in this dumbass exercise before 2018 takes itself out, so I hope you’re looking forward to reading that, because I am not.

Let’s get this look at where the 2012 class is now over with.

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

What I wrote before: “...maybe Machine Gun Kelly is just a passive player in his own rap career?”

Song I listened to this time around: "Trap Paris" (featuring Quavo and Ty Dolla $ign)

In between movies, the artist whose rap moniker I can never keep track of so I’m just going to call him Machine Gun Kelly still releases music of his own. The Sonny Digital-produced “Trap Paris”, a title so ridiculous I had to choose it, appears on his 2017 project Bloom and is, true to its title, a trap song about Paris or something. Sort of. Kelly, who is still signed to Bad Boy Records, a designation that means nothing these days, has always come across as a chaser of trends, mimicking what he likes about our chosen genre while not adding anything to the conversation, and “Trap Paris” is no outlier, as his opening verse apes the braggadocio of most everyone else on the radio currently, except Kelly appears to have a fetish for being watched while mid-fuck, a fact he throws in because that somehow makes him sound more manly or some shit. Speaking of everyone else on the radio, Quavo (of the how-have-they-not-burned-out-yet group Migos) gives us the second verse, a performance that sorely lacks the energy of some of his own tracks. Ty Dolla $ign fares the best, with a catchy hook that exists only to justify the song title. (It is kind of fun how Kelly repeats the phrase “bad bitch” during the chorus, I will admit.) The dude likely has about three more years in the rap game before Hollywood takes over fully, but at least he’ll go out trying to create entertaining crappy rap music such as “Trap Paris”. I’ve heard much worse, anyway.


What I wrote before: “...yeah, Danny Brown definitely has the best song on this list...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Grandma Hips" (Your Old Droog featuring Danny Brown)

The last time Detroit’s polarizing Danny Brown graced the pages of HHID, it was for his guest appearance on a Run The Jewels track, one which I couldn’t fucking stand. While I normally like the dude enough, his tendency to conflate artistic integrity with crawling up his own asshole and screaming from within is well-documented throughout his musical career, and his cameo on Your Old Droog’s “Grandma Hips” (from Droog’s 2017 release PACKS) absolutely falls into the latter category, his high-pitched, nasally vocals over this RTNC production reaching the necessary register for dogs to begin blogging about how much they can’t stand the guy’s voice. I’m still holding out hope for his upcoming mystery collaborative project with an as-yet-unnamed A-list hip hop producer: I’m betting on Pete Rock for some reason. Daniel surely is talented and has a clutch of great tracks under his belt already, but he’s dangerously close to running out the clock on the goodwill he’s received thus far, and Fresh Off The Boat, the ABC sitcom Brown provides the theme song for, could easily be cancelled, thereby shutting off one revenue stream. (Although this review isn’t about him, I will say that Droog’s Nas-by-way-of-MF DOOM flow sounded pretty good over the beat, even though the sum total of what he actually says is less than nothing. But again, not about him.)


What I wrote before: “...for a guy only making music in order to finance his tattoo addiction, this sure does sound boring...”

Song I listened to this time around: “F With U” (featuring Ty Dolla $ign)

At first I thought I had just chosen the wrong song, one not representative of whatever the fuck Kid Ink is known for. But I quickly came to my senses: this poor man’s poor man’s Chris Brown still brings nothing to the table, coasting on bullshit generic clichés and come-ons in lieu of writing something, anything original. Case in point: the DJ Mustard-produced “F With U”, on which both the hook (performed by Ty Dolla $ign, who seems to be very popular amongst the rappers I don’t give a shit about) and the beat itself seemingly go out of their way to Xerox the Fabolous and Ashanti (or Tamia, depending) track “Into You”. There may be a finite number of ways that one can actually hit on a possible fuck buddy, but Kid Ink hasn’t been around long enough to have burned through them all just yet, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t at least try. Ugh.


What I wrote before: “...every single performance of his sounds like the chorus to a song, one that never ends, at least until the background music changes slightly...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Mask Off" (just as I promised last time)

The most prolific artist on this list by far, Navaydius Wilburn, the former Dungeon Family affiliate whose career would have likely flopped had he maintained the association because, come on, it’s not like Cool Breeze ever made it this far, has put his drug glorification to good use, mumbling incessant nonsense over some admittedly hot beats. One such instrumental is the Metro Boomin-produced “Mask Off”, Future’s biggest hit to date. Lyrically, one could refer to this as another one of those “started from the bottom, look at me now”-type of deals, although Future refuses to focus on that particular theme, choosing instead to spit whatever shit pops into his head, his non-sequiturs rivaling those of a high-as-shit Kool Keith. With the ten thousand hours he’s clearly put into the hundreds of songs in his catalog, he’s most definitely mastered the art of making himself sound good over whatever beat is presented to him, even if his actual words are problematic, whether due to the aforementioned drug glorification or his beliefs, which fall onto his tracks every so often. (Probably not the biggest fan of women, this dude.) “Mask Off” is still a song I happen to like, and not just because it sounds like he’s ad-libbing the phrase “beet farmer” during the hook after chanting “Percocet, molly, Percocet”. (I just finished rewatching the American version of The Office. Sue me.)


What I wrote before: “…I kind of wish he would abandon hip hop: there's plenty of also-rans who would kill for the space he's currently taking up on Soundcloud...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Rolling Stone"

Atlanta-based sing-songy rapper (and possible Lyft driver) Roscoe Dash is most definitely the loser of this bunch: his career since appearing in the XXL Freshman Class of 2012 is so spotty that it took me much longer than it should have to locate anything the motherfucker released in 2017. As far as I can tell, “Rolling Stone” is the only track he dropped last year, and its generic sound, along with the tepid response, will likely make it impossible for me to continue his segment of this series for the current year. It’s not that Dash’s delivery is even that bad: he’s on the same level as a lot of the artists forced upon you two by radio today, and at least there’s a hint of effort put into the melody of his otherwise shitty chorus. But the nail in this coffin is how indistinguishable he is from his peers: if you’re interchangeable within our chosen genre, you may as well take up Lyft driving as a full-time career move, because you’re pretty much done, especially when the kids have so clearly moved on to far more popular soundalikes, convicted child molesters, and other rappers with the word “Lil’” in their nicknames. Sorry, bro.


What I wrote before: “...Hopsin comes across as a man without a country, unsure of his place within hip hop, not because he refuses to be pigeonholed, but because he insists that one should check off all of the boxes...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Black Sheep" (featuring Eric Tucker)

Most, if not all, of the songs I’ve heard from Los Angeles-based rapper Hopsin were self-produced, so to switch things up a little bit, I opted for the lone track off of his last full-length project, No Shame, that he didn’t handle. “Black Sheep” is produced by Harry Fraud, but this song isn’t made up of the boasts-n-bullshit most rappers conjure up over his musical handiwork: instead, Hopsin runs with an overlong late-career-Eminem-esque reflection, obsessing about how he always feels as though he doesn’t belong anywhere, along with coping with the depression and mood swings that come with that territory. (I understand this song was written around the time Hopsin’s vanity label, Funk Volume, imploded, which may explain the shift in his overall demeanor, since everything else I’ve ever heard from the dude consisted of jokes and shock-value freak-outs.) This is exactly the type of non-trap rap music that tends to be popular among teenagers today: this is what they listen because they think they’re so deep, that their feelings are unique to only themselves. (Hopsin is also exactly the type of artist dumbass kids promote as a way to signal to their peers that their musical tastes run outside of the mainstream, which is why it’s even funnier to me that “Black Sheep” is the most accessible song I’ve ever heard from the man.) The reality of the situation is that Hopsin’s therapy-session-on-wax somehow makes him even less compelling as an artist. He’s certainly capable of writing decent verses, but not every rapper is special, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer for people to see that. Meh.


What I wrote before: “...Although his face has only grown more punchable with time, [Macklemore] seems to have good intentions, even when his actions (and sometimes his own words) get in the way of the message...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Marmalade" (featuring Lil’ Yachty)

Ben Haggerty has been a Mackelmade man for a while now, having hit the highest highs of anyone on this list, so regardless of the fact that his career has already peaked and there’s nowhere for him to go but down, nobody will ever be able to take his success away from him. Having tapped into the pop culture zeitgeist with the humorous “Thrift Shop”, the pro-same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love” (although, as he would like to remind you, he isn’t gay), and whatever the fuck he thought he was accomplishing with “White Privilege II”, Macklemore brings his joke book back into the studio for “Marmalade”, a single from his latest project, Gemini, which is notable in that, unlike the three songs I just mentioned (let alone his last two full-length albums), it features no production from his partner-in-crime Ryan Lewis. With instrumental duties ceded to Budo and Tyler Dopps, Ben never fully gets his bearings over a happy-go-lucky trap-ish track, but some of the nonsensical lines throughout are kind of funny. Still, he could outright walk away from the rap game entirely at this point and have the exact same level of impact on our chosen genre. He’s had his moment, but to his credit, he’s fully aware of that fact, and still recording music in the first place seems to be cake to him, so while it isn’t translating to compelling music, it’s at least refreshing to see. Also, the best line of the track actually comes from guest star Lil’ Yachty, who manages to fit in, “Fuck Donald Trump”, for absolutely no reason except that’s probably just how he feels. (And because Macklemore appeared on YG’s “FDT” remix. Fully aware. But it does come out of left field.)


What I wrote before: “...wasn't enough to get me to check out the rest of his catalog, but at least now I can see his right to exist within our chosen genre...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Whistle Blowers" (Step Brothers)

Last time around I chose to listen to Don Trip rapping alongside his rhyme partner Starlito (together they form the duo Step Brothers) for this ridiculous exercise, and the change in scenery did wonders for both Trip and myself: Don sounded rejuvenated when in the presence of friendly competition, while I didn’t find him to be as boring behind the microphone as I usually do. I will concede that I likely picked the wrong song to listen to this time around, but on “Whistle Blowers”, he’s back to his insultingly dull self, spitting an uninspired verse with the worst flow of anyone in this entire article, and yes, I realize there are still two artists left I haven’t yet written about. My Lord does he need some fucking caffeine. “Whistle Blowers” itself is gimmicky as fuck, given that it swipes the beat from Rob Stone’s “Chill Bill”, itself heavily sampling from Bernard Herrmann’s “Twisted Nerve” (best known for its use in Kill Bill Vol. 1), but at least Starlito seems to recognize how silly the whole endeavor is, rapping as though he knows his life does not depend on it, because none of this matters. It’s probably not a good sign that I keep finding Don Trip to be upstaged by other contributors on his tracks, but at least the man keeps trying, I guess.


What I wrote before: “...If [she] didn't give you a headache before…”

Song I listened to this time around: “Switch" (featuring Anitta)

I won’t say that professional culture vulture Iggy Azalea will never release a follow-up to her inexplicable hit album The New Classic, but if whatever label she happens to be attached to right now (post-T.I. co-sign, which seems to have been rescinded at roughly the same time the man reinvented himself as a socially conscious trap rapper) is waiting on her to release a fire single first, well, she just might be over. “Switch” is yet another attempt by Iggy to locate the audience that took to her breakthrough song “Fancy”, which, and I’m only repeating this fact so as to flesh out this paragraph, was only a smash because of guest star Charli XCX’s catchy hook and not because of Azalea’s verses, and, as is the custom, it falters. Her so-called “ignorant” flow grows more and more offensive every time she gives an interview in her day-to-day voice, and her boasts-n-bullshit hit all of the same topics as before (including large swaths dedicated to various parts of her anatomy, meant to entice the straight male or lesbian contingents of her fan base that just don’t exist), but she’s forgotten how to sound engaging, or at the very least not as fucking boring. But maybe she never had those skills to begin with. Just officially take the Azealia Banks route and jump into EDM and club music full force, Amethyst.


What I wrote before: “...he's kind of like one of those supporting actors who never carries a film, but pops up in every third movie you own, a guy who knows when to cede the spotlight and when to run with it...”

Song I listened to this time around: "Bring Dem Things" (featuring Pharrell and The Kid Daytona)

I’ve written before of my preference for “Bring Dem Things” over that “Unforgettable” song that Bad Boy Records pushed to radio instead: isn’t Pharrell Williams a bigger star than Swae Lee? I suppose I’m in the minority, as “Unforgettable” was a pretty sizable hit for French Montana, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong in thinking that this is the better song. I’ll just quickly say that Harry Fraud’s instrumental is punchy as shit, The Kid Daytona’s hook is catchy and amusing (the Jodeci line made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it), and Skateboard P’s opening gangsta-ass salvo is so out of character for him that it can’t help but sound entertaining. But about Frenchy: I may still feel that the man should never release another solo album, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of churning out a fire verse for his own shit on occasion. He’s aided tremendously by the beat and his guest, obviously, but he’s not bad behind the mic, even if he never says anything of substance: he’s at least aware of his own limitations. With the right collaborators, he’s one of the most engaging artists in the game. Yeah, I know, and I’m the guy that said it. I don’t think he’s anything special: he’s signed to fucking Bad Boy Records, and that means nothing these days (see: Machine Gun Kelly). But this joint is a fucking keeper.



  1. AnonymousMay 14, 2018

    Gotta agree with you on French and Future. Don't really choose to listen to either of their projects, but compared to a lot of popular rappers now, they're not that bad.

    Strong disagree on Brown (not on the song, which I've never heard) being close to using up his good will. His last three full length projects are all incredible, and he's absolutely one of the best and most unique rappers out there today. If you still haven't listened to all of either Old or Atrocity Exhibition, you really should.

    1. Still haven't listened to Old aside from the first track, and as for Atrocity Exhibition, I'll just say I've heard a lot of it and I'm just going to leave it at that, since this post isn't about Atrocity Exhibition.

    2. AnonymousMay 15, 2018

      You can just say you think it sucks, dude. Pretty much expected of you at this point.

    3. AnonymousMay 16, 2018


      This is the OP. AE certainly isn't an album for everyone, and I can only listen to it in certain moods. I will say that I think XXX is actually Danny's best project to date, though the first half of Old is probably his strongest section of tracks, if taken by itself.

  2. AnonymousMay 14, 2018

    Why don't you bother with any of the other classes for a change? Seeing you talk about this class year in, year out gets boring; throw some hottakes at some other artists already.

    Also, who the hell seriously thinks Danny's goodwill is about to run out? I hope you're just referring to your own goodwill.

    1. Seems like someone doesn't understand the point of me calling this a "7-Up-esque series." You can't track one's progress without checking in on them on a semi-regular basis.

      I stand behind my Danny Brown comments, especially as everyone seems to have forgotten the praise I've dumped onto him during every other entry in this series. 2017 appears to have been an off year for him, which is what I'm measuring. I even wrote that I'm looking forward to a specific future project from the guy, so obviously I haven't given up on him yet.

      And you don't really need me wasting space with my thoughts on a lot of these newbies. I think even those of you two who only discovered the blog when I returned can figure out where I stand there.

      Also, "I hope you're just referring to your own goodwill?" Yikes. Some burn, bro.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. AnonymousMay 15, 2018

      You're welcome, jackass!

  3. Mr MidnightMay 15, 2018

    Danny Brown has a lot of skills and is capable of making quality music. But it's time for him to drop the emo schtick. It's a difference between bitching and going through tough times that are out of your control. His music isn't the same to me at 30 as it was at 25. Keep it up, Max. I don't put hip hop reviews in high as a regard as I used to, but this is some good ass reading. Sometimes I wish I havent read this blog, because I'd like to binge read again haha, but I've been checking HHID out for dang near nine years. Even though I dismiss you now and then lol, it's all good. Some of the best the internet has to offer. Peace.

    1. Thank you! At least someone gets it.

  4. AnonymousMay 15, 2018

    I can't listen to bring dem things without thinking of Organised Konfusion's Stress. After hearing Pharoahe Monch kill practically the same beat, hearing French Montana on it is just.. blehhh

  5. AnonymousMay 16, 2018

    Do you like "This Is America" by Childish Gambino?

    1. I like the video, but I'm not entirely sold on the song.

  6. AnonymousMay 17, 2018

    atrocity exhibition (and most, but not all) and Old are truly phenomenal albums. Danny's my favourite MC in the game for genuine innovation, second only to MC Ride for challenging hip hop vocally and instrumentally

  7. AnonymousMay 17, 2018

    what say you about the mask off remix, though?

    1. I don't believe it needed to exist, but it's nice to hear another artist over the flute.

  8. AnonymousMay 20, 2018

    it may've already been broached by another reader, I can't remember, but holy shit, you listened to Venom, Max? I just have, and low key have had my mind blown

    1. I haven't, but not because I'm avoiding U-God: I've actually heard from many folks that it's possibly his best work. I'll get around to it eventually.