When it comes to traditional, organic Southern hip-hop, Big K.R.I.T. is definitely the best representative of that sound in this new, internet-generation of rappers. With his latest release, Cadillactica, K.R.I.T. literally creates a polished, wholesome world of his own where he flexes his experimental muscles as much as possible without stepping away from his hearty, Southern roots.
In 2012, K.R.I.T. found himself to be yet another victim of a fairly new dilemma plaguing artists that built a career on giving away free, album-quality music. As soon as these said artists sign a major deal and release a studio album, many factors including label pressure, lack of creative control, single-chasing, and ultimately exerting focus on mainstream appeal allow for a lacking, deteriorated, diluted product. K.R.I.T.’s debut, Live From the Underground, received notable amounts of critical acclaim, but seemed to suffer a similar fate. Although it was far from horrible as a standalone project, it seemed flat compared to K.R.I.T.’s near-perfect discography. Live found Big K.R.I.T. seemingly plucking the thematic highlights and messages of his mixtape and making it repetitive in an effort to be catchy, while beefing every track with scattered, radio-ready production that ended up not striking the hearts of his fans the same way his free projects did. K.R.I.T. himself expressed his own retrospective discontent with Live in regards to the lack of creative-control and production issues. Shoutout to sample clearances.
Yearly, hip-hop magazine XXL does a freshman cover, showcasing nearly a dozen rising stars. Sometimes, these lists are underwhelming, leaving obvious choices out (Drake, Young Thug, Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky, etc) but sometimes they can also be packed with to-be stars.
Now that a couple years have passed, it would definitely be interesting to observe how well some of 2011’s freshman have fared, because frankly, the gap between superstars and unknowns is huge.
At the time of the 2011 XXL Freshman cover, Meek Mill was just a young guy entering a game with a fierce voice, a record deal from Rick Ross and an allegiance with the promising producer Jahlil Beats. Mind you, the 2011 XXL Freshman cover was published before the release of Meek’s first singles through MMG (“Tupac Back”, “Ima Boss” respectively) so looking back now, you can see the hunger and charisma in the young MC. Since the cover, Meek has been one of the leaders of street music and while his authenticity has helped him, it has also harmed him- he’s currently in jail.
The mysterious, illusive and always positive figure known as Lil B (or the BasedGod) has survived what many expcected to be a short career. He still releases music regularly to entertain and inspire his fans, as well as becoming an omniscient figure to pop culture, even getting co-signs from Katy Perry, Wiz Khalifa and others.
Since 2011, Kendrick Lamar has definitely turned heads and leaped past his peers and competitors. In early 2011, Kendrick wasn’t really known to a large audience, besides a co-sign from Dr. Dre and a few features. The cover was issued before his independent album Section.80 was even released, but since then, K. Dot has built his fan base across the world, as well as dropping a phenomenal Interscope debut, earning 7 Grammy nominations and going Platinum in the U.S.
West coast MC YG has had his fair share of ups and downs, going from hit singles to jail time. While it seemed like he would forever just be looked at as a regional artist, YG, Rich Homie Quan and Jeezy challenged that notion with a worldwide hit- “My Nigga”. Soon enough, YG had another hit, with the help of superstar Drake-“Who Do You Love”. After doing well with both singles, the time seemed just right to execute his plan and drop his debut album My Krazy Life. With fellow Pusha Ink collaborators DJ Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign flourishing and his album recieving some of the best reviews for a rap album this year, YG is finally on top.
Mac Miller went through a real transformation since his appearance on the 2011 XXL Freshman cover. He sold 145,000 copies of his debut album Blue Slide Park in one week, making history-but that wasn’t enough for him. Mac went back to the drawing boards, moving to California, learning how to produce and linking up with LA based labels TDE and Odd Future, to find his sound and make the best music possible. Since then, we’ve got Macadelic, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Faces and countless EPs, beat tapes and one-off projects.