Back in April, XXL Magazine introduced the cover for its 2014 Freshmen Class issue. Since then, the twelve hip hop artists have participated in video profiles, individual freestyles and group cyphers. All of these releases give the audience a better picture on who they are as artists and their overall potential for success.
The first step in the introduction process has been to make a video clip on the artist answering questions very casually to the camera. These questions give a picture on the artists musical influence, where they are from and what they want to do with this exposure and music career.
The profile videos are then accompanied with a individual freestyle. The word freestyle, which overall means rapping off the top of the head with no preparation, can be used loosely. The individual 'freestyles' are more like prepared verses from the rappers performed acapella, without any musical accompaniment.
All of the video profiles and individual freestyles can be found on the XXL website. The freestyles gives a clear view of the style of the artist and shows their sound. Out of all the freestyles there are some clear front runners that leave you speechless once they stop rhyming. Jon Conner, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave and Chance The Rapper are exceptional freestyles that show originality, confidence and an ease with the delivery.
Some summaries on the other freestyles... Jarren Benton sounds like his fellow label-mate Hopsin with his gruesome imagery and theatrical movements. August Alsina sounds like the next singer to sing the next chart topping hooks. Ty Dolla $ign shows that he is an O.G. in writing popular hip hop music. Isaiah makes it clear why T.D.E. signed him. Rich Homie Quan has a dope rhythm but doesn't say much. Lil Bibby and Lil Durk have the cool, calm and collected style of a gangster rapper. And Vic Mensa awkwardly keeps answer an imaginary cell phone call.
After all the individual freestyles and profile videos are released, XXL then releases what is called a cypher. A cypher is a group of rappers coming together on one instrumental and each taking turns rhyming on that instrumental. XXL divided the Freshmen into three separate cypher groups this year. The first cypher was August Alsina, Chance The Rapper, Kevin Gates, Vic Mensa and Isaiah Rashad. The second cypher consisted of Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan and Lil Durk. Lastly, the third cypher was performed by Jon Conner, Lil Bibby, Jarren Benton and Troy Ave.
The first cypher was the stand out of all the cyphers with all artists, besides one, spitting good verses that made the cypher listenable. The rapper that didn't spit so well was Vic Mensa who once again decided to answer a pretend phone call at the beginning of his rap. The first cypher can be seen attached to this article. The other cyphers had some good verses. The two others that need to mentioned are the verses from Lil Durk in the second cypher and Troy Ave in the third cypher.
So what is next to come from these Freshmen? XXL will soon release group interviews with the Freshmen that will act as a group discussion about the state of hip hop and their opinions. Also, there will be a XXL Freshmen Mixtape released with a song by each one of the Freshmen. Lastly, there will also be a tour. The Freshmen's first appearance is actually this Monday in New York City at the Best Buy Theatre.
All of the Freshmen this year have clear and distinctive styles that show promise in fitting into a niche in the already established hip hop community. The two rappers that bring new styles to the table are Kevin Gates and Chance The Rapper. With these new styles, they will be big. Just think of past Freshmen who brought new styles to the table like Mackelmore, Kendrick Lamar and even Iggy Azalea. The future is looking promising for all the Freshmen, but it is exciting to see where, when and how these artists will reach their potential.
Check out all additional information on the artists at the XXL website.