Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and it’s FRESHMAAAAAN SEEEAAAASOOOOOON…sorry, I get a bit excited about it.
Some brief background: XXL is a hip-hop publication made in 1997, but became most popular for their freshman lists, which started in 2007, which has since been an annual occurrence (excluding 2008). For these lists, XXL picks 10–this year 11–up-and-coming artists in the hip-hop scene to be in their magazine, and they do interviews, freestyles, and cyphers for XXL’s online outlets. These freshman lists have become a huge part of the rap community, as many people, including myself, love to see some new artists get recognition and see their performances in the freestyles and cyphers.
This ranking is a little bit different than most other XXL rankings, so I will go over it here. I made three separate lists (which you can see at the bottom of this post) each ranking the artists based individually on their discographies, their XXL freestyles, and their cypher performances. I took the average for each artist based on their placements in these lists to give them a score, which I then used to place them in a comprehensive list that I based this ranking off of. As an example, if an artist earned a 7 for their discography, 3 for their freestyle, and 4 for their cypher performance, their score would be 4.67. This number determines their place on the overall ranking compared to what scores the other artists receive. The lower the score, the better.
Now, before I reveal this ranking, there are a couple logistical rules I had to make this year, so I will reveal those to clear confusion. This year, one artist–Gunna–did not perform in a cypher, so I just ranked him the lowest on the cypher performance list. However, three artists–Gunna, Tierra Whack, and Blueface–did not perform a freestyle. So, I just ranked them as a tie for the lowest spot on the freestyle list, meaning they each scored a 9 in the freestyle category (as I’ll get into, this greatly affected the overall placements of these artists). Finally, I had multiple instances this year where two artists received the same overall, averaged score, so to solve this, I just ranked the artist whose discography I liked better over the other. For example, YK Osiris and Lil Mosey both received a 9 for their overall score, but I put Lil Mosey over YK Osiris since he ranked better in the discography list (spoiler alert, I guess?). But, this rule crap has gone on for way too long. To the rankings!
Is anyone really surprised to see Gunna this low on the list? I would say that I hope I don’t tick people off by putting him this low, but I don’t think anyone likes Gunna enough to care that much.
Born Sergio Kitchens (this guy’s last name is literally a room?), Gunna is arguably one of the biggest stars on this list, with songs like “Drip Too Hard”, “Never Recover”, and “Sold Out Dates” under his belt. However, he easily has one of the worst discographies seen on this list. Gunna mostly does trippy, melodic rap that is ideal for getting high to, but frankly, he sucks. I’ll give him this: there are a FEW songs in his discography that I like, and he has a better voice for melodic rap than Lil Baby does. Besides that, though, his music is boring beyond belief. Occasionally, he works over a beat that has actual quality to it (“Never Recover”), or he uses a flow and inflection that is actually interesting (“Drip Too Hard”, “Rockstar Status”), but most of the time, he uses a tiresome, uninspired flow over a tiresome, uninspired beat. And most of the time, when he does have a good beat, he doesn’t use a good flow to back it up, and vice versa. Like I said, there are only a few songs I would even reconsider going back to in his discography (“Sold Out Dates”, “Drip Too Hard”, and a couple of features), and that’s it. He also has a tendency to make his projects WAAAAAY too long for the kind of music he is making. This makes him one of the worst artists on this list.
As I stated earlier, Gunna refused to do the freestyle AND cypher, so I’m going to use the space where I WOULD be talking about his freestyle/cypher to rant about something in these lists that seems to be coming a trend: not performing the freestyle and/or cypher for XXL. It seems pointless to be on the list and not do these performances because these are undeniably the most popular parts of the list. It almost seems disrespectful to XXL. It’s not just me that thinks this either; look at any of the comments under the XXL interviews for Gunna, Tierra Whack, or Blueface. All of the top comments are expressing their hatred towards why these artists did not perform a freestyle. Refusing to do the freestyle/cypher is bad for both parties. XXL loses the views (and therefore money) they would have earned from these videos, and they lose respect for not making the artists do these performances. It is also detrimental to the artist because people lose respect for the artist as well. It’s an almost unanimous assumption at this point that if a freshman doesn’t perform in a freestyle and/or cypher, then they don’t have the talent to do so, which is not always the case. Also, if the artist does become irrelevant in the future, doing the freestyle and cypher is a surefire way to get at least a little bit of attention every year around this time. Not performing these makes you lose out on this opportunity, and if you become an obscure act, you’ll stay obscure forever.
Alright, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the rankings for the freshman! Let’s move on.
#10: YK Osiris
As mentioned before, YK Osiris and Lil Mosey both got the same score for the overall rankings, but Mosey beat out YK because his discography was better, knocking YK down to this place. But, I don’t think many people were expecting YK to even rank this high.
YK Osiris is, without a doubt, the most unknown member of this list. He was the only artist I had never heard of when this list was announced, and those who read my blog know I’m pretty up to date with every semi-famous hip-hop artist out there. So, not knowing any of this guy’s music, I was happy to hear what he had in store…this was a mistake. YK Osiris is actually supposed to be the “singer” of the list. I put “singer” in quotes because this guy couldn’t sing if his life depended on it. He sounds like if Lil Twist or Diggy Simmons (remember those guys?) tried to start a singing career. I’ll admit, he sings with a lot of passion. There are some times in his songs where he hits a note really well or with a lot of great rasp and I think “hey, maybe this guy has potential”, but he immediately proves me wrong by sounding like a prepubescent goat on the next note. The subject matter he chooses to sing on doesn’t help either: he’s a crooner. It’s hard to believe that someone with the voice of a young woodchipper would be able to sing Chris-Brown-style love tracks, but YK Osiris sure tries his damnedest. It’s really hard to take his lovey-dovey lyrics seriously, though, when he sounds like a 7 year old trying to sing with laryngitis.
YK Osiris’s freestyle contains a bit more depth than most of his songs do. He talks about his struggle coming up and how someone unsaid, most likely an old friend, “changed up” on him. It’s nice to hear him sing about something other than trying to get into a girl’s panties, but the lyrics and situation are pretty stereotypical. It’s not like he does anything lyrically to change it up either. What I was really surprised by is that his singing was better than on most of his tracks. I thought this guy would be doomed without autotune, and while he stills sounds like a rabbit mid-orgasm, his voice is not AS bad as it usually is, so I’ll give him some credit for that.
His cypher performance sees him going back to his usual subject matter: talking to a girl that he wants to have sex with. But, I would rather listen to this cypher performance than most of his official tracks. I’m a sucker for someone that can sing and ride smoothly over a hard, banging trap beat with little-to-no autotune (I know, that’s very specific), and YK is able to accomplish this at some points in the cypher. Of course, a lot of the time he still sounds like a sickly donkey trying to yell at other animals, and there are parts where his lyrics are actually indecipherable, but it’s better than he usually is, so I’ll give him props for that.
#9: Lil Mosey
Unlike YK Osiris, Lil Mosey is an artist I was familiar with but had never listened to, so I was interested to hear what he had to offer. After listening to everything he had on Apple Music, I can definitively say that his best asset is his beat selection. He usually picks beats that have grand, lush melodies, usually provided by synths or slick samples, over some crisp trap drums and 808s. The best example of these are easily “Kamikaze” and “K for Christmas”. “Kamikaze” utilizes an absolutely beautiful choral sample, and “K for Christmas” takes advantage of festive instruments to make a unique beat. So, Lil Mosey’s beats are amazing, but as a rapper, he’s pretty bland. His voice is incredibly nondescript, and his lyrics are unidentifiable. I’m certain that if you gave me a list of Lil Mosey lyrics to match with his songs, I would get none of them right, even if the name of the song is in the lyric. The only time I really liked his lyrics was in “K for Christmas”, but that’s only because it was fun to hear him incorporate Christmas stereotypes with hip-hop tropes. Other than that, he is lyrically and vocally void of any originality.
This is especially apparent in his freestyle. Without a slick beat to back him up, Lil Mosey sounds lost. The flows he use might have sounded good if they had a beat over them, but the point of a freestyle is to not have to use a beat, so he sounds pretty bad. Without autotune, he uses a voice that sounds more suited for regular rapping, but his laidback flow and voice just make him sound boring and bland. Maybe if he put a bit of energy in his voice, or if he stuck with a more melodic tone, he would have sounded better, but as it is, Lil Mosey has the worst freestyle of the bunch.
And of course, for continuity’s sake, he also has the worst cypher performance. I thought he might have performed better for XXL with a beat, but he turned out to be just as uninspired and boring. I mean, when the first lines you give–the lines that introduce yourself into the cypher and possibly hundreds of new fans–are “G*ddamn, I look like the man/Freshman of the year, I woke up like the man”, you know you aren’t in for a lyrical masterpiece. I will say that he sounds better with a beat than he does without a beat, because at least he is given some structure to work with, and he does come with one nice lyrics (“Chasin’ blues like DaBaby”). But, this one great lyric is surrounded by some of the most stereotypical and stupid rap lyircs I’ve heard, like “Never poppin’ xans cuz they killin’ me, damn” and “Walk up on yo b*tch, my d*ck eight feet deep”. Also, don’t act like you totally didn’t rip that “This a lame ass beat” line from Kodak Black’s 2016 XXL cypher. How do you rip off one of the worst rappers around and sound even worse? Anyway, this is easily the worst cypher performance of the year.
Despite his low ranking (and my “Thotiana” review), Blueface isn’t an artist whose discography I hate. I feel that his offbeat flows and energetic vocal inflections are very fun and enjoyable to listen to. Songs like “Bleed It” and “Respect My Cryppin'” display a lot of that potential I was referring to in my review of “Thotiana”. I mean, how could you not love his high-octane voice and over-the-top lyrics on “F*cced Em”? But, not all of these songs live up to this potential. Tracks where he seems more laidback with his vocals (“Thotiana”) or he just isn’t trying at all (All of his contributions to “We over Famous”) make him sound amateurish and remove the charm his other tracks have. His biggest downfall, though, is his repetitiveness. He only seems to use West Coast style beats with a piano-driven melody and an occasional aggressive drum hit. This is fine for a couple of songs, but trying to listen to a whole Blueface project becomes a chore due to this. His lyrics also get repetitive. There is only so many times you can use metaphors about slipping and meat before it becomes annoying. So, Blueface isn’t as awful as the critics seem to say, but he isn’t a great artist I like to listen to all the time.
Blueface was one of the three artists that didn’t do a freestyle, so this really affected his score, negatively. This is probably why he is 8th place on this list.
Regarding his cypher performance, he actually impressed me a lot. He stayed on beat the whole time, which is a miracle in itself for Blueface, but he also had some clever, funny lyrics. “I need a Kim Possible to play with my Rufus”, “I get paid to preach the word like a priest”, and “I ain’t text her back, but she still got the message” are just a few of the witty lyrics Blueface presents in this performance. He still gives some good inflections, but isn’t over the top with them, which I think works in his favor because it gives him more chemistry with the other artists on his cypher. So yeah, he did a much better job than I thought he would, and I hope to hear more of this witty charm in his future songs.
#7: Roddy Ricch
Roddy Ricch is this year’s “inner-city rapper” pick, which I defined in my “Pop Out” review as a large-city-based rapper who mainly raps about the gangster lifestyle, usually with autotune. Roddy Ricch had a little bit of an evolution between his two projects “Feed tha Streets” and “Feed tha Streets II”. I’ll start with “Feed tha Streets II”, because I feel like it will help describe my feelings on the previous project better. Roddy has a unique voice, but it’s one I’m not really a fan of. It kind of sounds like YK Osiris went through puberty and became a little less annoying. The way he emphasizes some of his words feels really weird and unnatural. There are also times where it feels like he is almost going off beat, and it kind of makes me anxious while listening to some of his songs. On the positive side, though, he is able to come up with some incredibly catchy melodies. And in a way, the strange way he pronounces a his words leads to some of these of these melodies being even catchier, as it makes you focus more on the flow of the melody than what he is saying. I can definitely give him credit for this. On the other hand, the original “Feed tha Streets” has the opposite problem. His voice is not as annoying or pronounced, but this in turn makes him sound bland and generic. Considering that “Feed tha Streets” is considerably longer than its sequel, it makes this project a bit of a struggle to get through.
Knowing how I felt about his voice on “Feed tha Streets II”, I was apprehensive about his freestyle, but he really pulled through with a great performance. He uses a melodic flow like he usually does, but he actually sings very well. He tones down his inflections to let him sing in a voice that is 100 times better than YK Osiris’s (which is odd considering YK is supposed to be the singer of the list, but I digress). He also shakes his watch as a makeshift metronome, which was an incredibly cool and unique thing to implement. His lyrics focus mainly about the struggles of street life, which is what most of his regular music focuses on. Hearing this same topic like this for a whole project of his gets tiresome, but on one freestyle like this, it makes it an enjoyable experience.
His cypher verse was also pretty good. Instead of going with his usual melodic style, he opts to use a more typical rap flow, but I think it works well for him. His lyrics are nothing impressive, worse than the ones he presented on the freestyle, but I feel if he were to use this style of rap flow on more of his songs, the quality of his music would improve. There are a couple times he adds a melodic flair, which gives his performance some variety (and again, he sounds a lot better than YK). I really feel like there isn’t much I can say about his performance here, but I will say he did the best out of the three people in his cypher group.
#6: Tierra Whack
Tierra Whack is one of the weirder voices XXL has featured on their freshman list, considering she is an incredibly artsy rapper. Her debut album consisted of 15 songs, each one clocking in at just under a minute. This isn’t something that sounds like it would work very well, but Tierra pulls it off. She uses clever extended metaphors and symbolism to make colorful songs that have critical merit and can be quite catchy. The variety of styles she uses on this project showcases her impressive versatility. This same versatility can be found in her singles, which I argue are even better than the tracks found on her “Whack World” project. Songs like “Toe Jam” and “CLONES” display her impressive lyricism, with lines like “Call me God, yeah he kneelin'” and “I’m too big for these n*ggas like dad’s clothes” displaying her keen sense for witty punchlines. She also has some great singing songs, some of these being “Only Child” and “Wasteland”, which prove she isn’t here just to spit some bars. She’s one of the most creative artists on this list, and easily has one of the best discographies of the artists featured here.
“If her music is so impressive, then why is she ranked at #6 on the list?” you might ask about this post. First of all, stop talking to your phone screen. That makes you look insane. Secondly, she didn’t provide a freestyle for XXL, which heavily impacted her score.
Now, if she was able to give a cypher performance with the same lyricism some of her best rap songs have, she could have helped her score, and she did give a verse with some great lyrics. However, she committed one of my worst pet peeves when it comes to the XXL cyphers: she cut the beat off. The point is that you’re SUPPOSED to rap on the beat, so cutting off the beat in a cypher is pointless! At least when it happened in that past, there was some kind of excuse or alternate intention. For XXXTENTACION’s cypher, the subject matter he presented was much grimmer and different from the others in the cypher, so the beat cutoff kind of made sense as it was a change in aesthetic. Ski Mask was a best friend of X before he died, so him cutting the beat off as homage to him made sense. Tierra Whack’s cutoff? It makes no sense! She was lyrically flexing, which isn’t much different from what the others on the cypher were doing, and she didn’t have any connection to X for an homage to make sense. She even says before her verse “The queen of my city I prove it in this freestyle”. Like, GIRL THIS ISN’T A FREESTYLE, IT’S A CYPHER! IF YOU WANTED TO DO A FREESTYLE THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU GIVE ONE WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE?! Alright, calm down, MusiCommentator. It’s just a cypher. So, Tierra’s music is great, but her fumbles with the freestyle and cypher really affected her score.
Remember when I said in my “Suge” review that I would never have to talk about this rapper again because he seemed so nonessential. Yeah…about that…
Because of this list, I had to listen to this guy’s whole discography and…he’s alright. He isn’t the best thing to happen to rap, but I can’t imagine many scenarios where I go back to this guy’s music. DaBaby is part of the new wave of gangsta rap, and I will say he has some great qualities about him. He is able to come with some great flows. “Suge” proved this, and so do songs like “Itch” and “Walker Texas Ranger”. He is also a very charismatic performer. He always has a special kind of energy when performing that makes him a magnetic personality, and it makes you believe everything he says. But, he is not without fault. Much like Blueface, his discography is repetitive. Not only do the sparse, bass-drum-heavy beats get old, but once DaBaby finds a good flow, he seems to use it for a whole song. This isn’t bad all the time, but by the time you get to the end of his songs, you’re just begging for something else. Plus, the first half of his discography is, well…it’s pretty bad. These compliments I said about him mostly apply to his more recent projects. Mixtapes like “God’s Work Resurrected” and “Billion Dollar Baby” show DaBaby at his worst. He was a fan of autotune back then, which did not work well with his voice, but he also had a tendency to make more romantic tracks, which didn’t fit his style AT ALL. I just hope his future endeavors follow in the footsteps of “Baby On Baby” rather than “Back On My Baby Jesus Sh!t”.
DaBaby’s freestyle is pretty reminiscent of his modern works. He’s got the same charisma and lyrics as he does in his more current songs, which suits his style, but I’m not a fan of his flow here. Not only does the flow seem to get lost in parts of the freestyle, especially in the hook (yes, he added a hook in a freestyle), but it really isn’t as impressive as some of the other flows he has given. Also, the fact that he has to stay a bit quieter for the freestyle dampens his personality a little. He might have a couple clever lines, but these don’t stop this freestyle from being mediocre.
What really improved DaBaby’s score the most was his cypher performance. His verse takes up about half of the cypher, and while I have expressed a bit of dislike for long cyphers during my breakdown of Kamaiyah in 2017, I think DaBaby uses the length to his advantage. He uses one of his fastest, best flows yet to really impress the audience. There are also little change-ups in it that happen throughout that keep the listener on their toes. It really doesn’t get to be too boring until the end, but by then, he is almost done, so it’s not too big of an issue. He also comes through with some great lines, such as “The next n*gga that come play with me/I’ma send him to go ask 2Pac for a pic” and “Yeah, I’m comin’ like Blade in this b*tch/F*ck around, and walked down in a trenchcoat”. He also has great chemistry with the beat, which makes the performance that better. DaBaby easily gave one of the best cypher performances of the year.
When I first listened to Comethazine’s music, I didn’t like it, but when I gave it a second try, I came around to it. It’s not something that everyone will like–I didn’t at first–but if you find any kind of value in his songs, you’ll probably love him. He has one of the most unique styles on this list. He uses a pretty aggressive style that really appeals to me, as I’m a fan of in-your-face music. While his voice doesn’t always sound aggressive, his restrained, raspy flow conveys enough anger to match his beats. His beats, as one could probably tell, help boost his intended aesthetic, as they contain dark trap drums and eerie synth melodies which compliment his voice. His lyrics are not very versatile, as almost all of his songs are about guns, loving guns, and using guns on other people. However, this never seems to get old because most of his songs usually don’t pass the 2-minute threshold. If his songs were longer, he would be a repetitive artist, but his tracks are the perfect length so as to not let a song get stale before it’s over. Like I stated, he is an acquired taste, but if you can get into his music, you are sure in for a treat.
Considering how short his songs are, it’s no surprise that his freestyle is barely thirty seconds long. Much like his songs, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, which increases its quality. Lyrically, it is much like his regular songs, but what I love about it most is the aggression he brings with his voice. He sounds more aggressive than he does on any of his other songs, which I really like! Comethazine is definitely an artist that could have floundered without a beat, but his added anger makes up for the lack of a backing instrumental. I hope he brings some of this aggression to future tracks, because that would make his music even better!
Based on his previous discography and freestyle, I was expecting to like his cypher, but I feel like his performance on it was pretty weak. Firstly, the beat he was over was probably the most lively/happiest of all the cypher beats this year, so he was already at a disadvantage because the instrumental was going against his aesthetic. This made his usual energy and anger sound out of place and awkward. Of course, his lyrics were no different than usual, so that didn’t help his case (especially with *great, mastermind lyrics* such as “Have him sh*tting in his pants, n*gga pass him a Huggie). And to top it off, his flow was slower than usual, which made his voice and delivery sound even more stinted and awkward. In all, I feel Comethazine just wasn’t given the right material to give a great cypher, but that doesn’t excuse him from a poor cypher rating on my end.
#3: Rico Nasty
Like Roddy Ricch, Rico Nasty is an artist where I have to divide my feelings on her discography into two seperate parts. The first half of her discography (“The Tales of Tacobella”, “Sugar Trap 2”, and all the singles surrounding them) is absolutely awful. The “Sugar Trap” era of her career–that’s what I’ll be calling it–was an era that didn’t fit her style at all. She used sugary, bubblegum-y pop instrumentals with trap drums to rap over. These beats sounded cheap and tacky, and Rico didn’t do them any favors. Her voice in this era was insufferable as well. Imagine a trashier, more ratchet version of Ke$ha that didn’t use autotune…that basically describes Rico Nasty’s voice. Luckily, this era of her career didn’t last, because once she started working with Kenny Beats, her style changed completely. The current era of her career contains “Nasty”, “Anger Management”, and all the singles surrounding it, and it’s SO much better than the Suagr Trap era. She embodied a much darker, sinister sound. Her voice became less annoying, and her lyrics became less vapid. To describe it simply, she basically became a more lyrical version of Comethazine (and she doesn’t focus on guns all the time). There are still some traces of Sugar Trap in her music (“Times Flies”, “Life Back”), but for the most part, she fits this new style a lot, lot, LOT better.
Rico Nasty’s freestyle is just as impressive as her current output. She comes through with a neat, multisyllabic rhyme scheme that she switches up throughout the verse. She keeps a contained yet combative flow that grows in aggression throughout until the last, explosive word. This really shows off her charismatic personality. She also presents some cutthroat lyrics that really hit the listener hard like “When they try and copy me, they do that sh*t so sloppily” and “I don’t move like I got nothing to prove ’cause I really do this sh*t”. This freestyle absolutely represents the best of her lyrical ability.
Her cypher performance was also pretty good. She worked well over the beat and came through with great lines like “If you don’t get the picture, we crop you out” and “Everything I do be goin’ up, I’m on my vertical”, but I don’t think it was as impressive as the freestyle. I say this mainly for one reason: her flow is too fast. I’m usually a fan of fast flows, so this might be a shock to some of my regular readers, but I think she goes so fast that her words kind of mush together. So, instead of sounding like a really good flow, it just becomes indecipherable and you wonder why she didn’t slow down a little. Still, the cypher was good enough to get her the third spot on this list, so she must be doing something right.
#2: Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion is probably the most sexually overt rapper on this list, but don’t mistake her as another “stripper rapper”. I’d dare say she’s got more talent than Cardi B, and is certainly less annoying than Nicki Minaj. Megan is very outward and unapologetic in her music, saying basically whatever the hell she wants. She uses the common dirty south style, complete with an authentic southern accent and grimy, bass heavy trap beats. She is best when she is brashly flex rapping and talking about her sexual prowess. Thankfully, she does this in most of her songs, which makes her almost always entertaining. She frequently comes out with fast flows, and is legible throughout the entirety of them. Sometimes, she experiments with different genres of rap, like the silky smooth, glossy “Good At”. You wouldn’t think she would be good on a track like this, but she turns out to be a perfect fit for it. While I could see people hating on her for seeing her as just another slutty female rapper, her great flows, unapologetic lyrics, and distinctly southern style separate her from her competition.
Megan also came through with what I would consider the best freestyle of the list this year. She delivers her usual, unabashed lyrics, including great lines like “They sayin’ I’m a freshman but I spit like I been here”, “If you was so f*ckin’ smart, you’d be standin’ where I stand”, and “Even in your best Nikes, b*tch, you know I run sh*t”. Her flow is also impeccable, providing a consistent flow while making sure you don’t miss any one of her ruthless lyrics.
As you could guess, Megan brings her A-game to her cypher performance as well. While I would say DaBaby did a little bit better in the cypher than her, I’d say she was a close second to him. Not only does she deliver one of the fastest flows I have ever heard her spit, but she continues to bring the stellar lines: “Speakin’ on my name only make it sound better/Your n*gga in my DM, and he write love-letters” and “I be in the gym, I’m your girls’ body-goals”. And she does it without losing any of her enunciation, which I find quite impressive. Megan brought her all to this cypher, and it shows!
And now, for the best freshman of the 2019 XXL class, we have…
#1: YBN Cordae
While his first mixtape is coming out at/around the time I will be posting this blog, I will not be including it. When I talk of his discohraphy, I will just be referring to the songs he had on Apple Music before this project’s release.
YBN Cordae is one of the more lyrical rappers on the list, and listening to any one of his songs is enough proof of this. He proves himself to be great at flex/brag rapping with “Kung Fu” and “Have Mercy”, where his multisyllabic flows are enough to impress anyone. These songs contain some witty wordplay, too–including “Guess I’m a bad guy, but I’m on my grind like a halfpipe” and “Cut some niggas off like a operation”–along with some intriguing trap beats. Despite these songs, he shouldn’t be seen as just a brag rapper, because he has incredible versatility. He shows his more introspective side on “Bad Idea” with Chance The Rapper, still managing to sustain his tight flows over a beautiful gospel beat. Still, one of my favorite songs of his has to be one of his earliest endeavors, “Old N*ggas”. The track is a retort to the hypocrisy of the age old “new-school vs. old-school” debate in hip-hop, and he displays a surprising amount of maturity for being so new to the rap game. He doesn’t have many songs out, but if his output stays this consistently good, then he will easily be one of the best new school rappers.
It’s no doubt, then, that his freestyle brought the same cleverness his songs have. It’s a little introspective, starting by reminiscing on his past and saying how grateful he is for his position now, but it doesn’t take him long for his confidence to build and start showing off what he has become (“I couldn’t afford a Trump/Tower, I will devour, a caterpillar on flower/Emerges to a butterfly embracing all his new power/Facing all of this sour”). The main issue I have with it is that it is pretty short. I think the only freestyle shorter than it is Comethazine’s. Unlike Comethazine, where its brevity works to its favor, YBN’s freestyle really doesn’t seem to have a chance to settle in before it’s over, but the lyrics contained in it are still great.
This leads us to his cypher, which again, was pretty damn good. He flows smoothly over the ’90s inspired beat, and his lyrical game is not slowing down. Some of the highlights were “Sippin’ Henny frozen, feelin’ spaced out like a semi-colon”, “Only hang with thoroughbreds, no broken horses”, and “F*ck a b*tch in luxury, she gave me plush brain”. My favorite part, though, was probably when he shouted out the other artists in the cypher with the lines “Now my new girl claimin’ that I’m too racist (What?)/’Cause I don’t really like green, only Bluefaces” and “Uh, they say that he so classy but I just wanna be poppin’ like Rico Nasty”. This is probably one of the best cypher performances of the year, and it’s partly what makes him the best XXL freshman of 2019!
And, there’s my rankings! Hopefully I didn’t trigger too many of you. Read until after the outro to see my original lists that I based these rankings off of.
Thank you for reading my 2019 XXL Freshman Class Ranking. If you liked this post, make sure to follow my website, Twitter, and Instagram, 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.
If you want to see them, these are the three lists I based my rankings on:
Based on Artists’ Previous Discography:
11. YK Osiris (WORST)
9. Lil Mosey
8. Roddy Ricch
5. Rico Nasty
3. Megan Thee Stallion
2. Tierra Whack
1. YBN Cordae (BEST)
Based on Artists’ Freestyles:
9. Gunna/Tierra Whack/Blueface (WORST)
8. Lil Mosey
7. YK Osiris
5. Roddy Ricch
3. YBN Cordae
2. Rico Nasty
1. Megan Thee Stallion (BEST)
Based on Artists’ Cypher Performances:
11. Gunna (WORST)
10. Lil Mosey
9. YK Osiris
8. Tierra Whack
6. Roddy Ricch
4. Rico Nasty
3. Megan Thee Stallion
1. YBN Cordae (BEST)
Alright, that’s it. Now get out of here! Freshman season is over, so like, I don’t know, do something else. Go for a bike ride, I guess.