The hip-hop magazine XXL published its annual Freshman Class list of rap’s rising stars today and, as usual, many MC aficionados are none too happy about it. The list is meant to give much-needed exposure to up-and-coming rappers, and has helped launch the careers of stars like Lupe Fiasco (in 2007), Kid Cudi (in 2009), and Kendrick Lamar (in 2011). Though it’s meant to shine a spotlight on the talents of these assorted youngsters, every year the Internet masses seethe with Eminem-levels of rage over who is (and is not) included.
This year’s controversy centers on the inclusion of Kidd Kidd, who many feel has had too long of a career to really be considered a “freshman”; in other words, he’s the Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School of freshmans.
The man formerly known as Curtis Stewart was discovered rapping on a street corner in his native New Orleans by none other than Lil Wayne, who snapped him up as one of the first members of Weezy’s record label Young Money. An alleged dispute between Wayne and Kidd Kidd led to the nascent rapper leaving Wayne’s label in 2004—only to reunite with Wayne in 2008 on his hit single “Mrs. Officer.”
In June 2011, weeks after meeting in New York City with 50 Cent, two masked men ambushed Kidd Kidd’s vehicle in New Orleans, firing 36 shots into the car. He was shot six times (three less than 50), and, just one month later, signed to 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records. He has appeared on quite a few 50 Cent albums, and in 2014, became anointed as the newest member of the hip-hop squad G-Unit. On Monday, he released a new mixtape called Rapper's Worst Nitemare. Despite his considerable body of work spanning over a decade, however, he was voted onto the “XXL Freshman” list this year as the fan favorite in a contest that ran from March 16 to March 22.
Yet judging by the overwhelming amount of people tweet-screaming about his selection right now, it’s not entirely clear how he drummed up the support:
XXL has run the Freshman list since 2007 (skipping 2008), and its questionable decision-making in compiling it has, like most lists, led to plenty of disagreement over the years. Below is a brief history of the biggest snubs, fights, and outright injustices that the list has provoked:
2010: Nicki Minaj and Drake both declined to participate in the Freshman list as they had already achieved a good degree of success, and were a little peeved that they had not been included the year before. As Minaj put it to MTV, “We felt like we kinda had graduated from the freshman class.”
2012: This was the year of what was perhaps the most famous disagreement, when Iggy Azalea became the first female rapper to be named to the list—much to the chagrin of Azealia Banks. Banks took to Twitter to renounce the slight, which she considered particularly offensive because of Iggy Azalea’s lyrics in the track “D.R.U.G.S”: “When the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave master.”
The cover marked the beginning of a long, bitter feud between the two femcees.
2013: This was a remarkably calm year for the list, which included Logic, Trinidad James, and Dizzy Wright. Indeed, right now many on Twitter are nostalgic about it. Yet, it wouldn’t be the Freshman list if somebody wasn’t angry about being excluded. The Chicago rapper King Louie, best known for popularizing the “drill sound,” tweeted in response to his exclusion, “On L’$ I knew I wasn’t gone make dat XXL Freshmen list #Fuckem.”
2014: After featuring Azalea in 2012, XXL seemed to be granting at least one slot on the coveted list to a female performer (Angel Haze was featured in 2013). After XXL included Rapsody on a list of the best female rappers of all time, there was a significant amount of disappointment and confusion when she wasn’t included on the Freshman list (which contained zero female rappers). Vanessa Satten, editor-in-chief of XXL, addressed Rapsody’s exclusion in an interview she did with HipHopDX, saying, “We aren't trying to fill any quotas. We are trying to pick who we believe in that’s gonna blow up in the next couple of years that are hot right now.”