On To The Next One(s)? – An Overview of XXL’s Freshmen Class of 2010

As Hip Hop annually welcomes freshers to its Halls of Hard Knocks, there’s always a clutch of talent whose verses, storytelling or swagger pushes them to the forefront of superstars in the making. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the good folk at XXL Magazine annually sift through the masses to choose ten artists who stand a chance of cracking into the elite bracket of Hip Hop’s kingpins.

Whether it’s the ‘hood superstar, club hero or the backpack rapper who make up the ten, each artist is asked to record a freestyle which “should” be enough to convince us of their reason for making it into the list. The only talking point left afterwards is whether or not the selected ten should be even considered as viable contenders.

XXL named this year’s top class as “Roc Nation’s first signee J. Cole, gangsta rap up-and-comer Nipsey Hu$$le, newly-minted Asylum lyricist Pill, 1017 Brick Squad member OJ Da Juiceman, indie-sensation Wiz Khalifa, G.O.O.D. Music’s own Big Sean, underground favorite Fashawn, Gary, Indiana rep Freddie Gibbs, West Coast phenom Jay Rock and the latest addition to the Atlantic roster, Donnis.”

Let’s take a look at the New Breed of Hustlas – XXL’s Freshmen 10 for 2010…


In Short: The Lyrical ‘Ying’ to South’s Crunk ‘Yang’

Brief Synopsis: The presumptions of Southern rappers being less lyrical than their regional counterparts gets dumped on with every crop of new artists from the Dirty Dirty. Pill’s no nonsense raps stand strong; with a controlled flow and pungent wordplay on offer, the realest side of the South will definitely be on show for 2010 thanks to him.

Freestyle Props: 7/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

Wiz Khalifa

In Short: A skinny, tatted up artist with a growing following (sound familiar…?)

Brief Synopsis: Take some commercially credible tracks, a steady cult status, a clothing line and a passable XXL freestyle and you have a potential money maker in Wiz Khalifa. Whilst a number of names may edge Wiz out on lyricism, here you have an artist who could find a balance between rugged Hipster and a name which sits firmly in the upper echelons of the billboard charts across America.

Freestyle Props: 6/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

Nipsey Hu$$le

In Short: The new face of West Coast Gangsta Rap

Brief Synopsis: Gangbangin’ lowridin’ music just hasn’t been the same for a few years but its resurgence looks to be set for 2010 thanks to Nip’s unadulterated hood chronicles. With his Bullets Ain’t Got No Name mixtape series drawing major props, Nipsey Hu$$le remains a strong contender for the title of ‘Hottest In The Hood’ in 2010, if his freestyle is anything to go by!

Freestyle Props: 7/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes


In Short: A future leader in the ‘underground’ Hip Hop movement

Brief Synopsis: An emcee familiar to fans of Little Brother, Talib Kweli and 2009 Freshman Blu. Fashawn’s presence on the Freshmen ’10 will bring relief to those judging the list on lyrical material. Building up a rep without the help of any of Hip Hop’s current frontrunners (as his freestyle suggests), Fashawn has all the makings to leave a huge impression on the Hip Hop purists this year, if his Boy Meets World release has anything to go by. So will that result in an anonymity with the mainstream public?

Freestyle Props: 8/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

J. Cole

In Short: The Next Jay-Z/Nas/Drake etc,etc

Brief Synopsis: If ’09 was the “warm up” then 2010 will be the first start in the major’s for J.Cole. Possessing a grit-laced flow which should instantly distance him from claims to being a new “Drake”, J. Cole’s Warm Up mixtape showed signs on an emcee ready to fill the void as the new hero of rap minus bling, autotune and R&B vocalists. But the questions remain: can a hardened rapper from the ‘ville become a mainstream success and will the burden of “Jay Z’s protégé” prove too much for the Carolina native?

Freestyle Props: 8/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

Big Sean

In Short: The newest scholar from the School of Kanye “Cool”

Brief Synopsis: Possessing swagger which many dire artists are in need of, not to mention a flow which is rapidly being bitten, its no wonder Big Sean has landed in the big league of Def Jam. Being co-signed by Kanye and having the Neptunes and Chicago’s No I.D providing production for his debut album, Big Sean’s chances of appeasing to both the Hip Hop and wider music crowds are as great as anyone else’s.

Freestyle Props: 6/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

Freddie Gibbs

In Short: Slept On Double time South Spitter

Brief Synopsis: Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs takes it back to the 90’s with a throwback flow and lines akin to the UGK of old. Another Southerner going in the opposite direction of faze dances and party anthems, Gibbs may very well go unnoticed due to this, but could make a bigger impact amongst those looking for a little more substance in their stuff.

Freestyle Props: 6/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes

OJ The Juiceman

In Short: The artist most likely to be the ‘Gucci Mane’ for 2010

Brief Synopsis: A title which fans will either dread or anticipate in equal measure, make no mistake that OJ’s presence in Southern rap’s circuit has risen in rapid succession. Prepare for the Juice to usher in his crunkard rap, which, as evident from Gucci, has the potential to cross over to some mainstream success. But considering the length and depth of his “freestyle”, expect his offerings to be minimal in lyricism.

Freestyle Props: 3/10

Should They Have Made The List: No


In Short: ATL Stunna hoping to creep in through the back door

Brief Synopsis: Probably the least known of the Freshman ’10 going into this feature, in comes Atlanta’s La’Donnis Crump. Listening to tracks such as Gone and the impressive Underdog, Donnis’ swagger clearly makes up the majority of his persona and brings forth a more accessible Hip Hop formula to others on the list. His XXL Freestyle however is comparably weak in terms of delivery and punchlines.

Freestyle Props: 5/10

Should They Have Made The List: No

Jay Rock

In Short: Another name to add to the leaders of the New West Revolution

Brief Synopsis: Having much to do with the West’s recent upheaval, Jay Rock’s intense flow and surprisingly in-depth lyricism have certainly caught the attention of more those in the ‘hoods across the nation. Not one to identify with imminent chart appeal however, Jay Rock’s uncompromising life bars should result in a cult following of sticking it to mainstream and keeping it gangsta for the foreseeable future.

Freestyle Props: 7/10

Should They Have Made The List: Yes


One of the few lists not to have been made up of overly hyped artists, this year’s Freshmen ’10 are a fitting bunch who definitely have the potential to make a name for themselves in 2010. Considering a majority of the acts are getting their first break through the list, most of them sound like they can rock a mic or two, whilst there were a few exceptions whose appearance on the list is questionable. One drawback of XXL’s Freshmen ’10 is the fact that all artists have to drop a freestyle even if they were seemingly picked not just for their mic skills. But come 31st December 2010, let’s see which of the ten are still dominant in their respective fields of Hip Hop.

Absentees Who Could/Should Have Made The List

  • Jay Electronica
  • Nicki Minaj
  • XV
  • Chiddy Bang
  • Drake
  • The Cool Kids

XXL 2010 Freshmen Class: www.xxlmag.com/freshmen10

DOWNLOAD: The 1o Freshmen For ’10 Mixtape by DJ Whoo Kid, a compilation featuring 17 brand new tracks by this year’s Freshmen 10—Pill, Jay Rock, Nipsey Hussle, Big Sean, Fashawn, Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, OJ Da Juiceman and Donnis.

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