Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and I’m happy. All of the cyphers of the XXL 2017 Freshman class came out, meaning that I can make an article ranking all the freshmen of this year!
For those who don’t know, XXL is a hip hop magazine that originated in 1997. It has become a mogul for hip hop news and has a very successful online website that rap videos, reviews, and interviews. However, it is probably most popular now for its Freshmen List, which had been released every year since 2007 (making this list the 10th one). These lists compile a group of ten up-and-coming rappers who people should be on the lookout for. Due to these lists’ major success over the years, these lists are usually regarded as the rappers who will be the leaders of the next generation. Some of the rappers, of course, fade into obscurity over time, but many have grown to become huge names, such as Logic, Chance The Rapper, and even Kendrick Lamar.
Personally, I love the Freshman Lists. I find it very interesting to see which rappers people think will be the next big names and hear what type of work they can do together. The lists are usually very versatile, as well, which makes looking at all of these a fun experience. I have been heavily following the Freshman List this year and have tried to listen to the members’ music to make a comprehensive opinion about all of them. So, I am here to share those opinions with you all.
In preparation for this, I made three separate lists to rank each artists’ music, their XXL freestyles, and their cypher verses (I am not sure how many reading this follow XXL, so I will tell you that the freestyles are a small verse each artist spits without a beat, and the cyphers are three individual videos where they pair the rappers into different groups and they all rap over a beat). I then took the average of each person’s rankings and put them into a final list. This article will be me sharing my opinions on each facets of these artists and, of course, I have them ranked from worst to best.
To clear from confusion, since there are three different cyphers and none of them really have names, I will refer to them as Cypher 1 (which had Kyle, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Amine on it), Cypher 2 (which had Playboi Carti, MadeinTYO, Ugly God, and XXXTentacion), and Cypher 3 (with PnB Rock, Kap G, and Kamaiyah). I would suggest that, if you have not seen them already, at least watch these cyphers and, if you have time, the freestyles before reading on. Also, if you want to see the original three lists, I have put them at the bottom of this article.
But, enough with the chit-chat. Nobody like logistics and introductions. Let’s get into this!
#10: Playboi Carti
Born Jordan Carter, Playboi Carti is a mumble rapper from Atlanta who I think greatly deserves this spot as the worst in his class. I have never been able to sit through an entire Playboi Carti song due to how insufferable he is. His flow is the exact same on every song, even his freestyle and cypher. His lyrics are bland and frequently full of stupidity. I can understand why some like mumble rap because of the beats, but this guy does not even have good beats. In “Magnolia”, the bass is way too overbearing, and the synths in “Woke Up Like This” sound like a synthesized fart combined with an increasingly loud lawn mower.
His freestyle was no better than his songs. He has the same flow, and his voice without autotune just sounds like he is just learning how to talk for the first time. I’m pretty sure there were also some lyrics that are stolen from “Magnolia”. I’m not the only one that thinks this freestyle stinks like a garbage compactor either. The like:dislike ratio of it on YouTube is nearly 1:2!
Now, after hearing this, guess how I’m going to say his freestyle is…Go ahead, I’ll wait…Do you have your answer? Good, because the correct answer is: it was bad! It basically just sounded like his freestyle with a beat over it. I feel like this guy could have definitely been substituted with someone better for the Freshman List.
Born Malcolm Davis, MadeinTYO is another rapper from Atlanta who is most know for his singles “Uber Everywhere” and “Skateboard P”. However, I do not think these singles are very good at all. In my opinion, MadeinTYO is a pretty bland rapper, and these singles prove it. He is basically a mumble rapper besides for the fact that he doesn’t mumble. You may be scratching your head at that statement and thinking “Has MusiCommentator gone crazy?”, but hear me out. He uses robotic amounts of autotune, he raps about the same topics a mumble rapper would, and he is always over bland trap beats. See what I mean about that mumble rapper statement now? No need to call the Nut House.
MadeinTYO’s freestyle was just plain awful. If Playboi Carti’s freestyle wasn’t so horrific, I’d be glad putting MadeinTYO’s freestyle in the last place spot. It starts somewhat decent, with rhymes I would expect out of him, but then he starts rapping “Mumble rap, Mumble rap, Old heads really want none of that” for about half of the entire thing. And I’m not exaggerating when I say half. The whole freestyle is about 32 seconds long (not including the XXL outro) and he says that line for about 13 seconds of the entire thing. And he isn’t even mumbling in the freestyle either, so the line is nonsensical.
I won’t talk about his cypher verse for long becasue I’d be saying pretty much the same things. His verse is surprisingly short and doesn’t contain any good lines. Well, if he was made in Tokyo like his name says, I would like to formally not thank Japan for giving us this rapper (but I will thank you for Nintendo).
Born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, XXXTentacion is an underground rapper that has probably been the most famous out of everyone on this list. His hit single “Look At Me” gave him a lot of recognition and a huge, crazily loyal fanbase. Personally, I am not a huge fan of all his songs. If I said Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia” had an overbearing bass, than XXXTentacion has bass in his songs that are MONSTROUSLY CATASTROPHIC! I have never heard a bass so domineering in a mainstream song than in some of his songs. There are also some songs he has where he tones it down and gets “deeper”, per se, but he covers his voice with so many filters in these songs that it makes it impossible to hear him. Still, he gained enough popularity to make it on this list without even giving XXL a pitch, so he must be doing something right.
After having my solid opinion on his music, it was needless to say that I was shocked when he came with a genuinely good freestyle! It gets surprisingly conscious and talks about how the government controls a lot of the media. He came with a very fast flow which I was impressed by and he had some valid points. There are many that believe he is being “fake conscious”, and I can agree with them on a certain level, but I believe it was true enough to put him high up on the freestyles list.
So, after this freestyle, I was expecting an even better cypher verse out of him. Unfortunately, he shocked me again and gave me the worst cypher verse of the bunch. Yes, his cypher verse was even worse than Playboi Carti’s which takes some skill to do. First of all, he turned off the beat when he gave his verse, which is the exact opposite of what you should do in a cypher. The point of the cypher is to see how well you work on a random beat, and he failed at this. For as bad as Cypher 2 was, I will say that the first three rappers on it had amazing chemistry…which XXXTenaciousD destroyed by turning off the beat like this. After watching the freestyle, I thought he would have spit something conscious, too, but I was very wrong. He basically just talked about how he wants to kill everyone. He did not do this in a slick, gangster/thug way either, but in the most emo/falsely edgy verse I’ve heard from any rapper. I mean, you can’t hear the lines “And if the world ever has an apocalypse/I will kill all of you f***ers/Fear will be plentiful, death will be bountiful/I will spare none of you peasants” and think that it isn’t from an emo band song or something. XXXTentaclePorn’s freestyle could have brought him up the list, but this cypher verse brought him back down.
#7: A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
Now we are getting to some OK rappers. Born Artist Dubose, A Boogie is a rapper from New York who has gained popularity due to his song “Drowning” with Kodak Black. The lyrics are not really great, but the dark, brooding beat is really good. There are some other songs I really like by him, such as his new song “Wild Thots” with Fabolous, and I especially enjoy “Still Think About You”, which taps into his deeper side about love. This guy isn’t a rapper to call home to your mother about, but he is decent enough to jam to every once in a while.
Usually when one uses autotune, it means that their singing voice isn’t the greatest. This isn’t true with all cases, but it is true in A Boogie’s case. One can see this in his freestyle, where we get to hear his endearing vocal range talk about girls. Not really that great of a freestyle.
After hearing this, then, you could probably only imagine my surprise when A Boogie’s cypher verse was really good. And by “really good”, I mean “my second favorite cypher verse this year”! He talks about his upbringing in the rap world and how things have changed for him. He had a really nice flow, and he comes with some strong lines like “Damn, but we couldn’t go to Philippe’s/I had to be on that corner until it was morning so me and my niggas could eat/I be the one with the sauce, I never thought it was sweet” and “It’s sad, but I had to curve ’em the same day/I treated them bad/I wouldn’t be mad if I was to get treated the same way/So treat me the same way”. His mediocre singing voice is seen at some parts in this verse, but the lyrics are good enough to block out the terribleness of it. Even though this verse landed high on my cypher list, it still was not enough to counterbalance his freestyle, putting him in 7th place.
#6: Kap G
Born George Ramirez, Kap G is a Mexican rapper from Long Beach who was one of the two rappers I had not heard of when the Freshman List came out (the other one being Kamaiyah, but I’ll talk about her later). Interested, I looked him up and found out why I had not heard of him before. I was pretty underwhelmed while listening to him. He basically just sounds like Future without the mumbling or the occasional raspy voice crack. He had fine enough lyrics, but he was no rapper that I would go out of my way to listen to.
Just like XXXTemptation, though, I found myself surprised while listening to his freestyle. Besides for the incessant “I’m wanna get me a Wraith” part at the beginning, he spit some really good lyrics. He had really great rhyme schemes and a nice, steady flow. I am definitely a fan of his freestyle. My favorite line was probably “Master Splinter when they a**es spit it/I pad the finish, the cash I get it/In labs I’m chemist, the bag ascended/The crack is in it
His cypher verse was the same way. It had good flow, good rhyme schemes and good lyrics. Some of the better lines were “Coulda went and been a doctor/Instead I chose to be a author/I can read ’em by their posture” and “Lotta people rockin’ fake diamonds/Lotta people they be fake smilin’/Went behind your back, they be hatin’ on you”. I found it hard to hear his lyrics at some points, but the rest of it was good enough to land him the #6 spot on this list.
#5: PnB Rock
Born Rakim Hasheem Allen, PnB Rock is a rapper from Philedelphia who has gained fame with his features on the “Fast And Furious 8” Soundtrack and his recently released mixtape “GTTM: Going Through The Motions”. I am a big fan of PnB’s chorus on the song “Gang Up” from the F&F8 soundtrack. I would find myself singing along to it frequently. In many of his songs, he has a deep, autotuned voice that sounds very suave. Much of the autotune helps add to this sound. I ended up taking a listen to his “GTTM” mixtape and found a few of the songs to be very good. “Attention” is one that I see myself going back to often. However, there were a lot of love/girls songs on there, and I find that these are his weaker songs. His voice gets higher at some points, making him sound less charming, and the lyrics are just the basic “thugs need love” drivel. In shorter terms, I like some of his songs, but I find a lot of what he does unappealing as well.
I was not sure how to feel going into his freestyle, but I luckily found myself not let down (I feel like we should have a term for “not let down”. Maybe we should use “let up” instead). It was about the struggles he personally faced in real life. I found myself connecting to his story because of the many personal lines he put in it, including “My mama have five boys/Three baby daddies, two of ’em got killed/The other one was a deadbeat/Might as well say that n***a got killed” and “My mama went and got a boyfriend that beat her a**/I remember feelin’ helpless/Swear, I wish I could f***ing catch him/Swear, man, I would f***in’ wet him”. It really makes you feel sorry for him. Even though the freestyle was approximately two minutes long, it had enough interesting details to keep you roped in.
His cypher verse I found less interesting, but not entirely bad. It was about how he had this girl he was indifferent about until she started offering three-ways to him. It shows that he is a good storyteller, but it does not really contain many standout lyrics. I was not as impressed with this as I was with his freestyle.
#4: Ugly God
Born Royce Davidson, Ugly God is a rapper born in Indiana who is known at this point as a living meme. He is pretty much a comedy rapper, but the quips and jokes he makes in his song are funny in the same way common internet memes are. That’s right: memes have gone so far that we now have living embodiments of them. I was not a fan of his breakout hit, “Water”. No disrespect to his meme status, I just wasn’t a fan of it. However, I found great comedy in his later songs “Beat My Meat”, which is exactly what you think it is about, and “F*** Ugly God”, which is literally a diss track against himself.
For being, you know, Ugly God, I was thoroughly shocked by his freestyle. He had a surprisingly great flow and an amazing rhyme scheme. Plus, he did not forget to leave out some lines of low-key comedy that got him where he is today, such as “I hit your crib malicious, charge your b**** just for an entrance fee” and “Young Obama, b****, I kick it with your b**** in Tahiti/And I’ll be beatin’ my meat until they impeach me”. I knew that if his cypher verse was as good as this, he would be at one of the top spots.
However, it was not. I don’t know what happened, but he gave some treacherously basic lyrics and flow. Cypher 2 was pretty bad in general and I was hoping that he would make it better, but he let me down. However, this is Ugly God, so I can’t help but think that he did it kind of like satire, because these lyrics are insanely dumb. I cannot rate this verse on the basis that it might be a satire, though, so I had to give it a lower score.
Born Adam Daniel, Amine (whose name I still don’t know how to correctly pronounce) is a rapper from Portland, Oregon who gained popularity with his hit single “Caroline”. When I first listened to it, I was not a big fan, but the more I listen to it, the more I start to find myself becoming a casual fan of it. It is not like I think it is the greatest song ever, but it is one I do not mind listening to. This made me listen to some of his other songs, and my favorite from him right now is probably “Turf (Stripped)”.
His freestyle was pretty decent. Again, not one I’m crying over because it’s so great, but good enough. It gives some vivid imagery about his life growing up compared to how it is now. There are no standout lyrics, but the part that stuck out to me was his singing section at the end. I was unaware of how good of a voice he really had.
Even though the freestyle was enjoyable, I found myself liking his cypher verse a lot more. How his freestyle talked about the differences in his life now to how life was when he was young, this verse talked about how people saw him differently because of his newfound fame, specifically in his hometown. There are some notable lines out of this one, such as “My girl said she wanted change and then she got a quarterback/Well, damn/I ain’t no football player, but I hit it harder than a football player” and “Honeymoon to yo’ hometown/B****, you broke now/Your mama ask about me almost every week”. The more I listen to it, the more I find myself enjoying this verse. I also like the line at the end “Girl, I could have been yo’ Pap/And you be my Remy Ma”, mainly because I like both of those rappers.
Born Kamaiyah Johnson, Kamaiyah is a rapper from Oakland, California that, like a mentioned earlier, is one of the two rappers I had not heard of before this list came out. I know a lot of people don’t like her mainly because they wanted Young M.A. on the list (even though XXL asked Young M.A. and she rejected the spot) but I do not think her music is that bad. Some of the vocal layerings she puts on her voice are somewhat annoying, but she gives a recognizable west coast vibe and has some good bars. There are no certain songs I could say I like of hers, but her atmosphere and essence are good in itself.
I know a lot of people also hated her freestyle, but I really liked it. If you couldn’t guess by now, I am a sucker for rhyme schemes. If a song has an exceptional rhyme scheme, even if most other aspects in it are crummy, I will probably like the song a lot. Since she keeps the same rhyme scheme throughout the whole freestyle, I found it to be very good.
Her cypher verse is similar. It is very long, which is kind of a turn off, but she only has two rhymes schemes throughout the entire thing, which, compared to its length, is impressive. Like with her songs, there are no standout lines in it, but the whole thing is pretty decent. There was a line name dropping Nicki Minaj’s “No Frauds” song, but I only remember that because I knew that song from before.
And finally, the best XXL Freshman in the 2017 class is, without a doubt in my mind…
Born Kyle Harvey, Kyle is a rapper from Ventura, California whi is the only rapper here that made the top spot of all three lists I prepared to make this article. He was also the only rapper that I regularly listened to before the list came out. Sure, I listened to a few songs here and there from the other rappers on this list, but I had both of his mixtapes downloaded onto my phone before “ISpy” became as big of a hit as it was. I was recommended to his project “Smyle” by a friend, and I’m glad that I learned about him. He is a “happy vibe” rapper who mainly makes songs about pretty girls and the luxuries of life. That may sound like what most rappers make music about, but he does it in such a way that makes you smile when you hear him. He has good flow, good lyrics, he can sing well, and had beats that always have a joyful, spry ambiance to them.
Of course, his freestyle was excellent. It is about how he never puts his head down, no matter how many bad things come his way. He started off pretty slow, which made me unsure if I would like the rest of the freestyle, but he picks up the pace and makes it quite a good verse. Some of the standout lyrics were “I pray to God I never break your heart/And end up like my dad/I don’t think he ever planned to fail/He just failed to plan/So I don’t use the calendar/It’s not in my genetics though” and “I used to sound like Drake/Dude, tell me who f***ing doesn’t”. I feel like I might be a bit biased towards Kyle with this freestyle, though, because I was debating whether I should put Ugly God or Kyle as the best freestyle, but I picked Kyle anyways.
However, I have not a doubt in my mind that he had the best cypher verse. I’m sure I would put him on a top ten list of the best XXL Freshman cypher verses of all time, or at least give him an honorable mention. He had awesome flow, great inflection, and good lyrics. He had some laudable bars dissing mainstream rappers like “It’s amazing, speech impediment and they still feel what I’m sayin'” and, my favorite line from all the cyphers this year, “Shouldn’t you niggas be playing in traffic or buying Supreme?/Doing your thing? You know?/Saving up money for lean?”. He also had some good “nerdy” references that I understood because I used to be into the type of stuff he mentions. All of this gives Kyle the top spot on this list.
There’s my rankings! Hopefully I did not trigger anyone and maybe taught some people about the XXL Freshman Lists. I would say that this was a pretty good year. Sure, there were some duds like Playboi Carti, MadeinTYO, and XXXTitillating, but I found many more rappers that I will follow to see what type of music they make. I would surely say that it was better than last year’s list due to there being less mumble rappers. Now I can’t wait to see who will be put on the top for next year.
Thank you for reading my XXL 2017 Freshman Class Ranking. If you liked this article, make sure to follow my website, like this post, and be sure to check in to read my future posts. Also, if you have something you want to see me write about, tell me in the comments. Until then, keep listening to good music! I know I will.
BUT BEFORE YOU GO: I would like to cordially apologize for this being a longer post than usual. But, the list only comes around once a year, so I have to make the most of it. Also, here are the original lists I promised I would put down here earlier.
Based On The Artists’ Previous Music:
10. Playboi Carti (WORST)
7. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
6. Kap G
5. Ugly God
4. PnB Rock
Based On The Artists’ Freestyles:
10. Playboi Carti (WORST)
8. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
7. Kap G
5. PnB Rock
2. Ugly God
1. Kyle (BEST)
Based On The Artists’ Cypher Verses:
10. XXXTentacion (WORST)
9. Playboi Carti
7. Ugly God
6. PnB Rock
3. Kap G
2. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
1. Kyle (BEST)
Alright, that’s it. Good bye.
You’re still here?