Not A Strong Year For XXL Freshmen Cyphers

Admin note: This is a hater article.

Tonight, bored, I scrolled YouTube aimlessly — like I’m wont to do — and stumbled across the latest installment of the XXL Freshman Cypher series, a compendium of new artists in their first year on the scene. (Hence, “freshmen”.)

Anyway, every year I really enjoy these, because it’s not a mixup of them playing the character they usually perform as. Instead it’s a different style, as “cypher” implies; it’s really just a bunch of hip-hop artists applying creative ways of saying the same thing, which is basically: “Yo, I’m the coolest mutherfucker who has ever lived.”

This year, however, the class wasn’t up to snuff compared to past groups, but it’s not even that. They just didn’t rap as well as they have in the past. I’m a fan of hip-hop more so than other genres, because I thoroughly appreciate the me-first aspect of it all. I was part of the Eminem generation, back when Eminem was good and gave a shit, and he single-handedly made me a fan of the culture, as I’m sure he did millions of other white kids who came from conservative suburban households.

Anyway, below is what I’m talking about:

The first guy, Kevin Gates, just sounds real congested, like he has a stuffy nose or something. What really gets me is when he says: Nigga killed my brother so I took him from his family / went and got some tears on my face now I’m branded. Now, I understand he’s from New Orleans (after a quick Wiki search), so anything is possible, I guess, but, dude, I SEE YOU HAVE TEARS ON YOUR FACE. I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. He had a finite amount of bars for this XXL jam, so did he really need to remind everyone what they already see? I don’t know. It just seemed like a waste of time. Also I don’t know why he ripped off Lil Wayne by getting tattooed on his lower forehead between the brows. Credibility-wise, I give him like a 10% chance of being capable of murdering someone, but if he did, would he really be mentioning it on a track?

Also featured on this record are Chance The Rapper — who made a song with Justin Bieber — and August Alsina, who is really the only member of the set worth listening to.

I’m so tepid on the first rapper, Jon Connor, that there isn’t much to hate on. He isn’t hate-worthy, which is really to say he’s just good enough not to suck, but not good enough to commend. Part of me wishes he would just calm the fuck down.

Coming in second is Jarren Benter, who I’ve (a) never heard of and (b) probably had the best verse. His best line: I put a man in the desert sand that’s no mirage / I go gambit on niggas and pull your poker cards. Cool shit, bro.

Third is Lil Bibby; his style is slower; just from observing him in the background he comes off as the guy who never said a word in my high school classes that probably lost his virginity when he was 12 and pulled more girls than anyone else in the building. He didn’t say anything I haven’t already heard before, but I’ll give him this: I would never mess with him in the streets. I wish he was one of my friends.

Lastly, Troy Ave. He’s definitely the most well-known of the group, definitely my favorite of the group, but when it comes to his bars on this track I can’t help but feel disappointed. He sounds like he’s aware that he’s already done a bunch of awesome songs, which is why this is such a letdown. He sounds lazy. I wish he’d brought something to separate himself from what was a pretty weak group.

Representing the “trap” movement, I present to you Lil Durk, Rich Homie Quan and Ty Dolla $ign. If this was the first hip-hop song you ever heard in your life, I could understand why you would never even consider listening to another song in your life. But, hey, this is the style!

This was by far my favorite of the Freshmen Cyphers, because the whole song just looks like three dudes hanging out. I mean, just look, homeboy is smoking a joint! And loving life! When these guys talk about shooting people, I believe them. When they talk about doing time, I believe them. I like this one the most because the artists in it are aware that their lives are made and they’re playing with house money and, hey, who really gives a fuck? We’re already popular and we get to make complete garbage whenever we want and we’re still getting paid!

I love these guys.

On the whole, though, goddamn. What happened? Not good, XXL. Shame on you guys. Do better next year.

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