Thursday, 11 April 2013

Pick of the XXLFreshman '13 Class

Thank God for the Freshman editions of XXL magazine. The last time I ventured on to Hip Hop DX, the most popular single was a new Tyga track featuring 2Pac. It was so bad that I had to clean my teeth afterwards. Lil Wayne has a new album out. The lead single is charmingly titled 'Rich as Fuck' and it is simply lamentable, as has been virtually all of Wayne's output since   Tha Carter III. Mainstream hip hop is currently in a terrible state, with an ever expanding pool of mediocrity and copy-cat content destroying all semblance of originality.
It is a desperate situation, but then the Freshman awards come and make everything bearable again. Though there are often missteps (Future?), the list always provides a decent selection of new artists to explore. Here are my top 3 picks of this year's contestants:

1. Action Bronson

A New York native of Albanian descent, Action Bronson has been steadily gaining a mixtape buzz over the last few years. His voice and flow is eerily similar to Ghostface Killah, something Bronson both acknowledges and embraces. Scratch below the surface, however, and clear differences can be found between the two artists. Influenced by the fact he is a professional chef, his rhymes frequently feature metaphors and imagery based around food, utilising soulful and melodious instrumentals to lull the eardrums. Conversely  the relaxing backdrop frequently gives way to dark and perverse imagery, a grimy contrast that creates a unique impression on the listener.
With a steady catalogue of releases behind him, it is unlikely that Action Bronson will remain a hidden gem for much longer.

2. Angel Haze


In a hip hop world sorely lacking female talent, Angel Haze stands out as an entirely different proposition to the pop drenched output of Nikki Minaj and her contemporaries. An abusive, extremely religious upbringing gives Haze's music an entirely different perspective, her brutally frank remix of Eminem's 'Cleanin' Out My Closet' being a case in point. Mixtape Reservation showcases a range of styles and subject matter; close introspection often giving way to an unflinching, ferocious flow.
Gracing the XXL cover as the 'People's Choice' Freshman is a timely award, giving the young MC the exposure that she clearly deserves.

Download: Angel Haze - Reservation

3. Joey Bada$$

Acclaimed mixtape 1999 has meant Joey has had a meteoric year. The project is notable for introducing both the confident rhymesmith and his Pro Era rap crew, founder member Capital Steez tragically committing suicide in December 2012. Trading complex, thought provoking bars over intricate instrumentals, 1999 is reminiscent in parts of Illmatic, heady praise for an artist finding his voice in the turbulent arena of modern hip hop. Taking listeners back to the golden era, Bada$$ has stated that his debut album is almost finished for release. With his music picking up critical and commercial attention, Joey is a decent bet to be the most successful of this year's freshmen.

Download: Joey Bada$$ - 1999

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