Can someone tell XXL that gangster rap died in 1996?
Have a look at the cover above. This is the list of rappers which XXL declares to be the future of hip-hop. Not that we should care, but as it's the best-selling hip hop magazine it makes you wonder what the new generation of readers will try to emulate. Instead of progression, the selection is a depressing glorification of ignorance. There is little understanding of lyricism, creativity, artist development and ability to inspire.
Of the ten selected ‘freshman’ only two show any real promise, J. Cole and Fashawn. Nipsey Hussle, Pill, OJ Da Juiceman, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock and Donnis make up the rest. XXL declares these to be a 'new breed of hustlers' which clearly focus's on the larger than life personality of the act's, rather than the music. The list's saving grace is twenty-one year old Fashawn. A young emcee showing lyrical ability far beyond his years. Particularly eye-catching are his lyrics on “Stars”;
“When I was young, I figured if I became the stars
Maybe they wouldn't seem as far
Maybe I wouldn't dream as hard.
Wanna stop, but all I hear is that applause
I'm addicted to the energy it causes
I wanna relive it every minute, that star-dom
Know I'm a shine despite all of my hardships
I consider them lessons instead of losses.
My old Nikes wouldn't fit, so I tossed 'em
They wasn't fit for the fire I had to walk through
A lot of disappointments, a lot of promises
A lot of niggas fell off, they lack confidence.
They had a dream but didn't know how to conquer it
It's not your accomplishments, it's what's inside of us
A star is a star and it shines regardless
Of the money and the fame, it's what's in your heart
So many stars”
The limited rappers selected should learn to write lyrics with meaning like Fashawn. Bar him and J. Cole the cover promotes artists which are simplistic and void of imagination. When I first heard “O.J. Da Juiceman” I taught it was a parody of garbage rap music. Unfortunately, he’s for real. Surely declaring someone to be the future of hip-hop should require skills? Yet OJ is the lyrical equivalent of a whinging toddler proclaiming to be richer and more successful than his competitors.
So who should have made the list? Dom Kennedy and XV are emcees who although not perfect, deserve recognition ahead of talentless loud mouths. All we can do as fans is support new acts like Homecut and choose to ignore the 'stuck in the past' selections of magazines such as XXL. No wonder Pack FM hates rappers. Hip-hop should have a bar of quality set high. We should honour timeless creations which expand the mind, forget a bunch of actors trying to sell you an image.