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Grading XXL’s Top 10 Freshman List

Posted by Nathan S. on 03/01/10 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, XXL Freshmen
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It's happened again. XXL's Freshman Class of 2009 has been released, and the interwebs are aflame with hip-hop nation fiercely debating the merits of the respective artists; but here's the thing. Like the Heisman awards (Erik Crouch? Troy Smith?), an examination of XXL's past selections reveal that while the magazine is good at generating short-term interest, they're poor at predicting future success. Just what grade does XXL deserve? Let's look back at the past year's classes and find out.

Before people start blasting me like they are XXL, these grades are not based on solely on the rapper's abilities. We're trying to figure out how good XXL is at predicting future success, so we need to measure three factors: artistic respect, national prominence and commercial success.

Grading System
A: Has achieved commercial success, everyone knows their name, widely respected.
B: Is widely respected but has yet to achieve large scale national prominence, nationally prominent but not widely respected, etc.
C: Incomplete - either hasn't released enough material to accurately judge, or has, but the response has been lukewarm.
D: Album flopped, or things just generally fell apart.
F: Gone, unheard from.

Class of 2009
XXL Freshman Cover 2010

J. Cole: B
Nipsey Hu$$le: C
Pill: C
OJ Da Juiceman: C
Wiz Khalifa: C
Big Sean: C
Fashawn: C
Freddie Gibbs: B
Jay Rock: C
Donnis: C

Most Likely to Succeed: J. Cole. Dude's got talent, and he's back by Roc Nation. There's no way Hova's letting him fail.
Most Talented: Freddie Gibbs.
Most Likely to Flop: It's an obvious pick, but OJ Da Juiceman. People love talking about him (no such thing as bad press?) but the gimmick can only last so long.

Class of 2008
XXL Freshman Class of 2008 Cover

Ace Hood - C
Curren$y - C
Kid Cudi - A
Cory Gunz - C
Mickey Factz - C
Blu - D
Wale - A minus
Charles Hamilton - D
Asher Roth - B
B.o.B. - B

Most Successful: Toss up between Cudi and Wale, with Wale the more commercially successful and Cudi hailed as a "genius" from some corner.
Most Likely to Blow in 2010: His camp's been playing the slow and steady card. So far a good move, but will it ultimately work? We'll find out soon.
Biggest Flop (so far): Blu. I really like the man's work, but he's easily the least well know out of this bunch. He's definitely got time to recover, but for now....

Class of 2007 (a.k.a. Leaders of the New School)
XXL Leaders of the New School Cover

Saigon - D
Plies - C
Rich Boy - D
Lupe Fiasco - A (plus)
Lil Boosie - C
Gorilla Zoe - D
Joell Ortiz - B
Crooked I - B
Papoose - C
Young Dro - D

Most Successful: Lupe, easily the best call XXL's made.
Most Likely to Blow in 2010: Joell Ortiz. Other than Lupe, he's the most widely respected emcee here and while he may never blow nationally, he's going just fine for himself, thank you.
Biggest Flop (so far): Um, take your fu**king pick. Saigon fell apart, Papoose failed to launch, Young Dro's faded to the background and Rich Boy is, so far, a one-hit wonder. It's as if XXL was picking a "most likely to fall short of expectations" list.

The Final Grade: C (minus)

As we can see, XXL's track record of picking the next best emcees is shaky at best. And, considering we have the most conclusive data, we have to weight the grade most heavily towards the class of 2007, a class that has to be considered, at best, disappointing. The lesson? You could spend the rest of today debating about the class of 2009, or you could just assume that half the people we're talking about today will be essentially gone by 2012. Your choice.

See Also: The Definitive Breakdown of XXL’s 2011 Freshman List
See Also: The Great Debate: Does XXL’s 2012 Freshman List Even Matter?

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