It’s been three years since XXL Magazine profiled a strong freshman class – 2014 – but not all of the early 2010s classes were supremely talented. After going back and taking a peek at the 2012 group, only two rappers have really elevated their careers in the five years since the nomination – Future and Danny Brown. You may have completely forgot about a couple of rappers on the list because they’ve fallen off so much, but part of the blame should go to XXL for nominating a few undeserving rappers.
Below is a list of the class, with their albums since the summer of 2012 along with a grade of their careers since. Grading will be decided on talent and popularity, and nothing else. I’ll also be deciding whether they were deserving of the initial bid – based on if their career work up to 2012 was worthy of being named one of the nine-best up and coming rappers in the game.
Albums Since XXL: Haywire, Knock Madness, Pound Syndrome
Good Albums Since 2012: None
Originally Deserving of Bid? Yes
Career Grade: D+
Hopsin, who was a founder of rap label FunkVolume, was making waves on YouTube in the early 2010s, with some hugely popular tracks such as all of his ‘Ill Mind of Hopsin’ joints, ‘Sag My Pants’ and ‘Nocturnal Rainbows’. At the time, they were okay lyrically and the latter, Nocturnal Rainbows, I actually still enjoy.
To his credit, Hopsin has released content since 2012 that his fans and stans surely are obsessed with. However, to the unbiased observer, that content has been corny, mostly uninteresting and without direction.
Nobody questions Hopsin’s flow and sometimes his wordplay, but his music isn’t compelling. He talks about serious subjects, but I personally don’t understand the point of most of his tracks other than to rant about problems teenagers deal with. I can’t talk about his albums too much, as I haven’t listened to any of the trio more than once because of the pure corniness of most of his tracks. “I’m the shit like I slithered in poo,” is literally a line in one of his most popular tracks, ‘Hop is Back’. Professional rappers should not be dropping likes like that.
Albums Since: 2.0, Can’t Catch the Lambo, Demolition 2020, Dash Effect, Glitch
Good Albums Since: None
Career Grade: D-
The Lexington, KY, born rapper thrust onto the map with his feature on Waka Flocka’s 2009 banger ‘No Hands’, and had another chart-topping hit in 2010 with ‘All The Way Turnt Up’.
Unfortunately, his career isn’t much deeper than that. Again, I can’t speak too much on the albums, but after listening to a handful of tracks on each one, it’s not good. It’s mostly listenable, yet a lot of the tracks clearly are trying to duplicate No Hands and just don’t pass the test. Peep ‘Ttu’ off his album Demolition 2020 for a perfect example of that.
Machine Gun Kelly
Albums Since: General Admission, Bloom
Good Albums Since: None
Career Grade: C-
‘MGK’ peaked early in his career. His 2012 album Lace Up was okay, containing a number of his biggest hits, including his biggest – ‘Wild Boy’. The Cleveland MC has pretty legit flow and delivery, but he’s failed to utilize his talents to the fullest by releasing a strong album or group of tracks that shows his skill.
He’s actually provided a couple worldwide hits with the tracks ‘Til I Die’ and ‘Bad Things’ just recently, but I don’t think either song is anything special. Lyrically, his two recent albums were incredible cringeworthy lyrically and were just as much pop albums as rap – which isn’t always a bad thing – but didn’t make for very worthwhile projects. MGK has been a strange mix of hard, trap rap and pop tracks with female vocalists and it’s awkward to listen to when listening to more than just the single.
Albums Since: Future 3D, Honest, DS2, What A Time To Be Alive, EVOL, Beast Mode, FUTURE, HNDRXX
Good Albums Since: DS2, WATTBA
Career Grade: B
In terms of popularity, yes, Future warrants an A+ as he’s one of the world’s five-biggest names in the rap game right now. Yet, as mentioned I’m grading by talent as well, and Future simply isn’t extraordinary talented. He knows how to make hits, but he swings and misses a lot.
Future’s ability to make a vast amount of music at a non-stop pace is impressive, and he definitely deserves credit for being unique and one of the first and ‘best’ mumble rappers in the game. He’s made a lot of good music – a lot of bangers – and he deserves to be a well-known figure. Then again, look at those albums… most of those are pretty bad projects.
Future is a very polarizing figure and every rap fan enjoys AT LEAST a handful of tracks starring, or featuring, Future. He’s clearly one of the three-best and successful rappers from this class.
Albums Since: Old, Atrocity Exhibition
Good Albums Since: Old, Atrocity Exhibition
Career Grade: A
Danny Brown to the rest of the 2012 class is LeBron to the rest of the 2007 Cavs. Talent-wise, this class was an absolute joke and arguably the worst of all-time, but Danny is one of the best of the 2010s.
With insane production, some of the wildest and energetic delivery we’ve ever seen and creative and hilarious lyrics, Danny Brown is a blessing to the rap game. The 36-year-old Detroit native dropped one of the five-best albums of 2016 with Atrocity Exhibition, following his fantastic 2013 album, Old. He’s failed to really make it big in terms of radio-play, but a few of his tracks such as ‘Grown Up’, ‘Ain’t It Funny’ and ‘Really Doe’ have garnered attention from casual rap and even casual music fans.
It’s interesting because I’m sure at the time he was one of the more unknown and controversial of the class because of his style, but you never know with these classes who will shine and who will fade.
Albums Since: My Own Lane, Full Speed, Summer in the Winter, RSS2, 7 Series
Good Albums Since: None
Career Grade: C
I feel like Kid Ink is a huge question mark. He’s responsible for a lot of upbeat and well-known tracks including ‘Hell and Back’, ‘Be Real’, ‘No Promise’, ‘Body Language’ and ‘Show Me’, but he really doesn’t get much recognition for that. Most of his tracks that don’t blow up are trash and his flow is crazy repetitive, but to be fair those radio hits are catchy and are appealing sonically.
With no albums better-than-average and failing to release anything impressive in the past two years, Kid Ink’s decent run seems to be nearing an end.
Albums Since: The Heist, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, GEMINI
Good Albums Since: The Heist
Career Grade: C
This grade is heavily, heavily boosted by The Heist, which was a pretty good album (even though it should never have come close to album of the year). In addition, producer Ryan Lewis deserves just as much if not more credit for that album’s success than Macklemore.
Since 2013, his music has continuously regressed. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made was not enjoyable, although the production was unique, and his most recent project GEMINI wasn’t even listenable. What made Macklemore somewhat likable and an intriguing character was his creativity and energy he brought with tracks like ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Downtown’ and ‘Wings’, however that has steadily disappeared into trying to be all political and shit, when nobody really cares what he has to say besides his stans. Like, good for him for trying to stand up and attempt to give his music meaning, but he’s bland and corny in doing so.
He tried to go back to the poppy-side with GEMINI, but the absence of Ryan Lewis really showed as the production was ass and Macklemore sounded so awful.
Albums Since: Step Brothers Two, Godspeed, The Hood That Wears the Crown, 2 Clip Trip, Step Brothers THREE, Free Roy and Free Fletch.
Good Albums Since: Idk, None probably
Career Since: F
I forgot this person existed, listened to five of his tracks on Spotify and now understand why nobody knows who this guy is. Don Trip may be the most forgettable freshmen of all-time.
Albums Since: The New Classic, Reclassified
Good Albums Since: no.
Career Since: F