The annual XXL Freshman List was released yesterday, and as over the years, waiting for the cover’s release has become a tradition, so has complaining about it. Being named is an honor bestowed upon the who’s who of the moment’s up and coming rappers, and previous alums like Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar have gone on to become the biggest names in hip-hop. The furor around who’s included and who’s snubbed is inevitable.
Trippie Redd, Smokepurpp, and Lil Pump are some of the bigger names to make the list this year. But, it’s important we remember what the best part of all of this is. Over the course of a few weeks following the cover’s release, the magazine rolls out videos of each artist performing a short freestyle to show off their chops. A few are good, but they’re mostly bad, and one from 2010 stands above the rest.
I’m talking about the 2010 freestyle by the profound, the affecting, the masterful OJ da Juiceman. At that time, the list didn’t make as big of a splash, and included rappers like Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa who had had bigger followings than Juiceman. But in only 15 seconds, the Atlanta rapper says so much, with so little. He rhymes basketball player with basketball player. He lets us know that he’s not going anywhere. And the “aye” at the end is so loaded. It’s an affirmation. It’s a question. It’s a statement of identity. While we await this year’s freestyles, here are the lyrics of that masterwork.