Thoughts on XXL’s 2019 Freshman Class
This year, the XXL Freshman Class took fans for a pleasant turn. The 2019 list, released yesterday, has a bunch of names that hip-hop heads are familiar with. Instead of the hate that the list has received in recent years, it’s been met with praise from the Twittersphere.
East Saint Louis, Ill.’s Comethazine, Philadelphia’s Tierra Whack, Charlotte, North Carolina’s DaBaby, Seattle’s Lil Mosey, Compton’s Roddy Ricch, Suitland, Md.’s YBN Cordae, Jacksonville, Fla.’s YK Osiris, Largo, Md.’s Rico Nasty, Atlanta’s Gunna, Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion and the 10th Spot winner, Los Angeles’ Blueface.
But this reaction says more about fans than the rappers themselves. These are forward-looking lists that hip-hop fans judge in the present. Just because these artists are big now doesn’t mean that they will be big five years from now. Similarly, their quick rise could lead to short-lived runs.
It reminds me of how NBA draft classes are evaluated. The best ones in recent memory are 1996, 2003, and 2009. In ’03, the best player was the #1 pick. But in ’96 and ’09, that wasn’t the case. Late bloomers exist in every class. There are also a bunch of stars that fail to meet their potential for various reasons.
The same can be said about XXL’s 2010 Freshman Class, which had Nipsey Hussle, J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, and Jay Rock. It’s arguably the best class XXL has had since started this list 11 years ago. But that 2010 list would look very different if it was “ranked” back then and ranked again today.
Fans may be excited now, and XXL may have earned some points with ol’ heads that recognize these young rappers. But that doesn’t ensure long-term success.
EMPIRE signs Afrobeats artist Afro B
EMPIRE has signed Afrobeat sensation Afro B, Billboard can exclusively announce today (June 20). The singer has entered an exclusive global recording partnership with the independent label.
Under the agreement, EMPIRE will oversee the release and promotion of Afro B’s forthcoming music and projects. The announcement comes at an optimal time for the London-raised artist (who is of Ivorian heritage), as his massive “Drogba (Joanna)” single has now entered the American mainstream market after taking over the clubs and airwaves internationally.
Afrobeats continues to make waves across the globe. And EMPIRE continues to diversify its stable of artists. Both Sony and Universal have opened up offices in Lagos. The industry views the genre broader than a mere trend.
From a representation perspective, it’s dope to see West Africa get put on. It’s only a matter of time before other label and distribution services follow suit.
Virgil Abloh has a Las Vegas Residency
It’s not just the artists that can command a regular DJ set. One of the culture’s most well-known fashion designers will have his own residency at the Wynn in Las Vegas.
“Pushing the boundaries of where art, fashion and music collide has been a driving force behind our success, where every experience we present to guests first passes a litmus test for originality,” said Alex Cordova, Wynn Nightlife Managing Partner. “We are honored to be working with such a visionary who appreciates the impact of artistry, and applies it to everything he does.”
Virgil has done one-off events in Vegas here and there, but this event gives him an opportunity to show off product lines and closely follow the fashion trends in Sin City. It also extends his relevance and a cultural influencer.
Europe’s high fashion circles have often been criticized for being out-of-touch mentality (as discussed in my recent Rihanna-Fenty article). This appearance will benefit Louis Vuitton as much as it benefits Virgil.