Various Artists: XXL 2013’s Freshmen Class
The Mixtape (hosted by DJ Drama)

Each year, XXL taps rap’s biggest up-and-comers for their Freshmen class — essentially, the genre’s version of first-round draft picks. The first class graduated in 2008, with Lupe Fiasco the undisputed valedictorian in a roster that included the likes of Papoose, Lil Boosie, and Young Dro. Since then, XXL has successfully projected many rappers’ ascent to fame: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and even ~Based God~ were Freshmen one year or another.

The Freshman class of 2013 is the most diverse yet, geographically and stylistically. This year, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q finally join the ranks of their fellow Black Hippy members and XXL alumnae, Jay Rock (Class of 2010) Kendrick Lamar (Class of 2011). Their classmates include the expected rising stars (Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James), the much-buzzed-about (Angel Haze, Chief Keef), the culinarily-blessed (Action Bronson), and more.

XXL released the official Freshman mixtape recently, and it features a collection of tracks from this year’s honorees. Collaboration is common: here, Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ team up for “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” a jazzy, Chuck Stranger-produced cruiser cut; there, Travi$ Scott struts around with T.I. and 2 Chainz on the bombastic “Upper Echelon.” The solo tracks fare well, too. Angel Haze dishes up some veritable Tumblr-core with a freestyle over Purity Ring’s “Lofticries,” an out-there choice that contrasts with bangers like Trinidad James and Gucci Mane’s “No Hook” and Schoolboy Q’s “Yay Yay.”

All in all, a pretty decent set of tracks, especially if you’re not thrilled by the prospect of sifting through the imposing 55-tack Funkmaster Flex tape that dropped recently.

• XXL Magazine:

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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