XXL magazine announced its annual Freshman Class, a series meant to alert readers to on-the-verge rappers that could make a move to the big time during the respective year. Back in the day, this list used to be a great tool for those not heavily invested in the hip-hop game: 2009's issue correctly predicted that B.o.B. would be huge, and 2012's cover featured Macklemore long before "Thrift Shop" hit the airwaves. The 2014 version is less informative, however.
Take, for instance, the biggest name on the list: Chance The Rapper. True, Chance has not put out a debut album yet, but his Acid Rap mixtape went beyond the limited recognition that similar releases normally receive. The album made best of the year lists for publications ranging from Spin to NPR, and yes, XXL. So the magazine is crazy if they think rap fans still exist that haven't heard of this guy.
Other examples of performers who have already gained noteworthy recognition and will still be "introduced" by XXL: Kevin Gates, who was also praised by various publications for his Stranger Than Fiction, and Rich Homie Quan, who had the honor of being included on Music Times staffer Caitlin Carter's "Playlist of 2013." August Alsina debuted in the Top 10 just two weeks ago.
We'll give XXL a break for including Isaiah Rashad on the list. Although it seems obvious that everybody on the Top Dawg imprint will go huge in the wake of Kendrick Lamar's takeover, he only debuted at no. 40 with his debut album in January.
The list does include some sleepers however. We were fortunate enough to catch Jarren Benton opening for Tech N9ne over the weekend, and he's as worthy as anyone on the underground right now.