When it comes to social media, the pendulum can swing many different ways. I’ve tried to limit my time on Twitter lately but, I’m a writer — I live on the internet for music-related news, tweets that hit home, and the everlasting shits and giggles. But there are those occasional moments where a sole topic can takeover your timeline in an instant. It’s only Tuesday, but already there’s talk of Keke Palmer, the tragic mass shooting in Orlando (prayers out to the families affected), and the focus of this piece — the 2016 XXL Freshman Class.
Now, if you’re reading this, maybe you grew up in the era of Biggie, Tupac, Jay Z, Nas, and the list goes on and on. And if you did, there’s been a time in recent years where you feel Hip-Hop has taken a turn for the worse. You’d be lying if you said you haven’t had that moment — it’s natural. Your parents surely have said the same to you about music when you were growing up. Example: My mom refuses to listen to rap when she rides with me and/or my siblings in the car. The moment an old R&B/Soul cut comes on, she says, “Y’all don’t know nothing about that. You be listening to that dumb stuff about taking other people’s girlfriends/boyfriends and doing drugs.”
As if the music of her younger days didn’t address similar topics.
Before I heard Goldlink’s ‘The God Complex’ a couple years back, my musical taste consisted of pure lyricism and cold production. That’s not to say Goldlink can’t rap, so let’s not get that confused. It’ll further lead to my point and a question that we all may essentially have to ask ourselves in the long run. So, during my usual scroll through Twitter, I noticed the XXL Freshman Class cover and I immediately thought, “Why is Mick Jenkins still not on here?!” Once that moment faded, I looked at it again and realized what might have been the qualification(s) for the final selections.
That may be one thing and one thing only: The artists’ wave — or impact in simpler terms.
Now, XXL hasn’t missed in the past few years — maybe late to some artists or snubbed a few, but they haven’t completely dropped the ball. This year’s class is no different, yet everyone will have something to say, just like I did. The headline of the cover is simple — ‘The New Wave’ — because, let’s be honest, this class is the new wave. We’re all aware of the guys in Hip-Hop who can rap circles around most, but then there’s the other side of the spectrum. And that other side is the Yang to the lyrical Yin when it comes to rap. Besides Anderson .Paak and Dave East, who are solid at their crafts, the rest of the 2016 class aren’t artists who will wow you with their ability to rhyme like Hip-Hop’s legends, and that’s because they can’t.
But in the midst of it all, they’re necessary for where Hip-Hop is shifting. Sucks to say it, but it’s true. To refer back to the Yin and Yang analogy, balance is important and preference is the inevitable, especially when it comes to music. So, while you have the Kendrick Lamars, the J. Coles, the Big K.R.I.Ts, it’s difficult to ignore Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, and Desiigner on the other end. Let’s face it: Hip-Hop isn’t about lyrics as much anymore — it’s about the feeling.
Sure, I know I’m not the only one who gets upset from time to time when an internet troll takes a jab at our best MCs in regards to aux cord play. But, once again, it all falls back on preference. A good portion of this XXL Freshman Class serves its purpose — to make people feel — when they’re in the car, in the club, at the house party, etc. Hip-Hop needs balance and that’s where it stands. The music that may be bad to you, may not be bad to someone else. Hey, even Lil Yachty has fans (sorry, not sorry). It depends on what you consider to be real Hip-Hop, because this is the music we have today. We don’t have to listen, but we have to live with it.
Change is bittersweet, and a lot of us hate to embrace it, but it happens before our very eyes. Our beloved genre, a home to some of the greatest musicians that will ever live, is becoming something that most have seen before but, this time, with a different sound. When there’s one artist who prides him or herself on lyrical content, there’s another who wants to make people dance. We may hate the rappers who refuse to make an effort in their lyrics, but, in the end, they all find a way to keep the conversation going and making us dab endlessly. For that, there should be some appreciation. I’ll admit, that was tough to say, but the 2016 XXL Freshman Class deserves some credit.
Hip-Hop is far from dead — it’s evolving. But, ask yourself this: Are you ready to accept the new wave? Let us know how you feel.