If this is your first time seeing any of the artists mentioned, on behalf on the rest of the TSS Crew, I’d like to give you all a warm welcome to The Smoking Section. Because every last one of these rooks have been featured heavily on the site. None of these rappers are actually “new” or “freshman” in the traditional sense. Now before any of you knowitalls try to pick apart the list on who should be added or omitted, look on the bright side. As our culture’s most visible platform, XXL has offered these newjacks the chance to further their career to an even higher level. You may laugh at the thought, but somewhere out there, somebody will pick up this issue without a clue in the world who J. Cole is–despite him being featured on the most lauded Hip-Hop album of 2009.
It’s just another step in helping Hip-Hop get back to the throne it once held. And the not for nothing, the list is pretty diversified with the gangsta being the alleged heir-apparent. So if you know ’em fine. If not, get familiar because these are the faces and names that will buzzing about the industry in Twenty Ten.
You May Have Seen Him…: Draped in the latest fashion in a desolate Detroit suburb while claiming Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music Imprint.
Reminds You Of: The Cool Kids.
Strengths: Punchlines galore. (Clever ones at that.)
Weakness: A flow lazier than Biggie’s eye.
Best-Case Scenario: Whether or not the G.O.O.D. Music co-sign helps or hurts him is yet to be seen, but Big Sean’s stylistic approach resonates with the trendy youth in a major way. Look for him to blaze through the trail paved by KiD CuDi where fashion and flows meet each other halfway.
You May Have Seen Him…: Lavishing in ATL’s Clermount Lounge, surrounded by dimepieces.
Strengths: A flat-out, well rounded skill set.
Weakness: Leaving a lasting impression.
Best-Case Scenario: Although there has yet to be a definite “Donnis song,” the Magic City mayor has spent most of his come-up convincing listeners he can rap on the commercial front without being gimmicky. Don’t be surprised if he holds a couple of summers under his belt before it’s all said & done.
Recommended Listening: 10 Deep Presents Donnis – Diary Of An Atlanta Brave | “Superman High” Freestyle
You May Have Seen Him…: Breathing life through Hip-Hop from Fresno.
Reminds You Of: Pre-Illmatic Nas.
Strengths: No one will ever accuse this Cali agent of not having skills.
Weakness: Shaking the dirt of the underground.
Best-Case Scenario: While he probably has been floating under your radar undetected, Fashawn’s placement on the list still gives hope that MCs can thrive in an industry without a glitzy club single to market. Hip-Hop’s basic essentials are beats, rhymes and life and The Phenom has plenty of each. With strides like this, the MC shall once more rule the galaxy.
You May Have Seen Him…: Rolling thru the streets of Gary, IN in a smoke-filled Cadillac.
Reminds You Of: 2Pac meets Krayzie Bone.
Strengths: Can switch the flow from 0-to-60 in seconds; doesn’t sugarcoat shit.
Weakness: Ain’t no sunshine in this cloud.
Best-Case Scenario: Although even his interviews need parental advisory stickers slapped on ’em, there hasn’t been a such a widely accepted gangsta rapper since Young Jeezy crash landed on the scene. His Midwestern roots keep him centered enough to master the sounds of any region as well as maintaining his own angle. With things continuing the way they’re going, it may just be a Thug Life world order all over again.
You May Have Seen Him…: Wooing a Fayetteville, NC college crowd with his metaphors while dreams of the limelight twinkle in his eyes.
Reminds You Of: Lupe Fiasco meets your little brother.
Strengths: Hasn’t met a beat he can’t flow to yet.
Weakness: Lyrics can be a bit juvenile at times.
Best-Case Scenario: If co-signs sold, Jermaine Cole would be platinum out the gate. An opportunist moment landed him in the scope of an one Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and eventually on last year’s big-seller, The Blueprint 3. Already displaying understanding of a respectable musical background, wouldn’t it be something if Hova actually got to put his feet up while the Carolina Panther ran the Roc (Nation)?
Recommended Listening: The Warm Up | Reflection Eternal Feat. Jay Electronica, J. Cole & Mos Def – “Just Begun”
You May Have Seen Him…: Posted up in Pala, CA as your hood tour guide.
Reminds You Of: The Game.
Strengths: Distinctive vocals; genuine messages conveyed in the message.
Weakness: Nothing that you haven’t heard before.
Best-Case Scenario: While there’s an endless pool of tough-talking rappers all claiming a set, Jay Rock stood out because he was able to marry believable and enjoyable in gangsta matrimony. That being said, he’ll have to score some mega-producers to help to distance himself from just being another red bandanna in the crowd. But if everything goes according to plan, Game won’t be able to perform “One Blood” too much longer.
You May Have Seen Him…: Bangin’ on Slauson Ave. Cuz.
Reminds You Of: Snoop Dogg
Strengths: Poetic, yet still gangsta.
Weaknesses: Craccin’ the Top 40.
Best-Case Scenario: Your Neighborhood Nip has all the elements a grassroots upstart should possess. Even with the opportunity to ride the coattails of some of his more famous friends, he went for delf and proved he could be true blue on his merit. It may take some more creative kush in the studio to assist in churning out a hit, but once he finds the formula, he could easily nestle into Snoop’s old dogghouse.
Recommended Listening: Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 3 | We Are The World (25 For Haiti) Snoop Dogg Feat. Nipsey Hussle & Problem – “Upside Down”
You May Have Seen Him…: Making the trap say aye! with Gucci Mane & Co.
Reminds You Of: The lost member of D4L…(but that would make it D5L, right?)
Strengths: The reigning Prince of Ad-libs.
Best-Case Scenario: Young Jewman’s inclusion on this list is a puzzling one, seeing that XXL already featured him on a cover. Which should disqualify him from being considered a Freshman in any scenario. Regardless, when he’s coasting, critics have a field day on his simplicities, but when he’s in the zone, he can be an entertaining mofo. He’ll have a much easier time going Pop with a hood pass than Gucci could ever dream of.
Recommended Listening: “Make The Trap Say Aye!” | Twista Feat. Gucci Mane & OJ Da Juiceman – “Walking On Ice”
You May Have Seen Him…: Making the trap go ham in your residential Atlanta neighborhood.
Reminds You Of: T.I.
Strengths: Can paint a picture of the city better than the U.S. Census.
Weakness: Only the uphill battle of becoming a household name.
Best-Case Scenario: Volatile yet sincere, Pill may very well be the most primed for musical excellence on this list, boasting a sound that’s mastered and ready to be packaged for the masses. Rappers from the slums generally do well on a nationwide debut (see Jeezy, Gucci, Master P.) and P-Double-L can out-rap each of them in a minute long skit. In due time, the world will have their next media darling that can teach them how to be “down.”
Recommended Listening: The Empire & DJ Skee Present Pill – 4075: The Refill | YelaWolf Feat. Prynce CyHi & Pill – “I Wish”
You May Have Seen Him…: Spitting verses from a Pittsburgh tattoo parlor, getting inked for the millionth time.
Reminds You Of: Wiz Khalifa!
Strengths: Energy so high, you’ll catch a contact.
Weakness: Depth isn’t exactly his strong point.
Best-Case Scenario: Generally stoners are too lazy to put the cap back on the toothpaste but Wiz’s hustle has gotten him to the big stage without the hype of mainstream attention. A good eight mixtapes deep, watch his energy shift to churning out albums for the smokers to ride to in the near future. In between a million smoke breaks of course.
Keep it locked to see how this studious bunch thrives in the new school year.
Previously Posted — XXL Magazine’s Freshmen 2010: A New Breed Of Hustlers Freestyle Quiz