Without a doubt, the XXL freshman class of 2014 gets it. The last of the group cyphers have been uploaded onto the XXL Freshman coverage site—finally—allowing us to grab a an idea of some style and skills stacked against their co-coverers. We can see XXL is stepping their game up, giving us some looser dynamics within the groups allowing the emcees to mesh together and vibe off of each other—must be the white room, or DJ Drama’s instrumental cunning. Even though its tough to top face-manglers like 2011’s Yelawolf, Kendrick Lamar, Based God, and Cyhi Da Prince, or last year’s Joe Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Action Bronson, and Travi$ Scott, 2014’s freshman seem to have an alternative understanding about how united they are despite the competition.
Straightforwardly everyone has bars; they wouldn’t have made the cover if there were absolutely nothing each one of them had to offer. But watch how eclectic meets unconventional in cypher one featuring Baton Rouge’s Kevin Gates, Vic Mensa, T.D.E’s Isaiah Rashad, Chance the Rapper, and glued together with vocal hook by August Alsina. Mostly being A3C Alumni, lacking Chance and Isaiah Rashad, we were glad to see them representing themselves and holding each other at a higher standard simultaneously. Vic Mensa, Isaiah Rashad, and Chance even position themselves as hype-men for their counterparts, Chance even referencing those coming after him as independent artists as his sons, while Gates flaunts his belligerence.
Lil Durk and Rich Homie Quan laid some standard street credible bars over Drama’s trap/drill instrumental in cypher number two. Ty Dolla $ign, joint-in-hand, playfully comes off top referencing everyone in the room (going back to the shared idea of unification among them).
Arguably the best installment of all three cyphers was the final, uploaded on the 6th, featuring Jon Connor, Jarren Benton, Lil Bibby, and Troy Ave. The dedication to illustrate the story of each of their background hometowns was apparent, especially so in Connor’s Flint bars and matching crew neck. Benton stood out with colorful and imaginative metaphors and observations that brought him to the top 4 verses of the entire series. Lil Bibby’s comfortability within himself and his ability gives him an edge within any room and among any emcee, while Troy Ave anchors with no hesitation.
As we come near the end of the XXL Freshman coverage, we have a lot to look forward to with the careers of each rapper. Clearly some will have more success than others, as there are only a few spots for examples within conversations of the best newcomers and indicated by past XXL showcases. It seems as though, however, that the collectiveness among them will set this group apart from previous freshman. This will bring forth competition that can consequently result in future collaborations that can play to everyone's advantage.