Now that all the 2017 XXL Freshman individual freestyles are out I’ve had a good listen to them all. As expected it’s nothing special in the slightest. Pretty much everyone in this year’s XXL Freshman Freestyle series tried to bend the rules one way or another. More than half of the candidates incorporate singing into their rap freestyle. So I’ve had to consider the amount of singing in each freestyle (and disregard the singing portions applicably) as I ranked this. The less singing the higher you were up on this list, but the level of lyricism, flow and delivery are more significant factors.
Here’s the ten 2017 XXL Freestyles, worst to best:
10. Playboi Carti
9. A Boogie wit da Hoodie
I know I shitted on A Boogie in my Worst to Best, but he really isn’t helping his case. He single handedly secured the worst start to a XXL Freestyle ever. He starts off singing – as most of these Freshmen do – but the shit is so, so, so off-key that it makes my ears bleed. And if you’re gonna sing in your freestyle I’m gonna cut points off anyway, especially if the singing ain’t good. In the middle of the freestyle he picks up the pace. If the performance remained consistent like at this point Boogie could have been at least two spaces higher. But he switches it up to poor results; “Rapping with a melody, got em like na-nana na-na.” Cool story bro.
Kamaiyah was one of the few rappers on the list to rap start to finish and not sing. But at the same time she made it evident how basic her bars are: “I drop hip hop hits / Yous a flip flop bitch.” From the quality of bars and the way she structured her delivery it actually sounded like it was off-the-top – but that’s very unlikely because every freestyle is written these days. Besides a small selection of bars it’s one of the most forgettable freestyles of the lot, particularly because of her uninteresting delivery and flow.
This freestyle started quite well: “Probably in Japan, chopsticks in my hand, / With that ’05 Bape, Rick Ownes on my pants / All my tracks slick, oh, need a track fit.” Not bad, it’s standard level. But for the second half of the freestyle he changes tactic by repeating the same line: “This that mumble rap, mumble rap, old heads don’t want nunna that / Oo, they want none of that.” I get the point of it, it’s on purpose so he can show he’s claiming the style and won’t rap well if he doesn’t want to. Cool, but it’s a bit of an unnecessary message to get across, especially in a freestyle where you’re supposed to be showing off your lyrical ability, so he cuts his points in half. Before this point it was a solid freestyle.
Aminé you bitch, why are you singing for two-thirds of your FREESTYLE? By doing so he spoiled his chances of hitting the top 5, maybe top 3, because the rapping middle section is very decent; “Peanut butter jelly, cousin bumping Makaveli, sippin’ Stellas with my fellas / Bumping nothin’ but Fela Kuti / Groupies say they wanna do me.” There’s also a few hints of good wordplay too (“I bench press my problems, like add another weight”). Shame that he had to ruin it with all the fucking singing.
5. PnB Rock
PnB Rock, the official singer-rapper of the list, provides not just the longest freestyle but also the most personal; “Growing up without a dad, always had it bad, we was in and out of shelters / Crazy how we had family all around the world and really ain’t nobody really help us / My mama went and got a boyfriend that beat her ass, I remember feeling helpless.” These bars are mostly rap-sung, becoming the highest performer up in the ranking who sung and rap. However there’s substance here that not many rappers have shown so far in the list. Yet again, there’s nothing lyrically amazing going on here, but Rock showcases passion and thought into what he’s composed.
Kyle sounds like the type of guy that would bread you in school. Approach you like “Hi! My name is Kyle! What’s your name?!” That makes him sound annoying and if it wasn’t for that he’d have ended up 2nd. Voice aside he starts off weak and has some corny moments (“I don’t think he planned to fail, he just failed the plan”), but then he remains lyrically consistent throughout; “Jeezy, it was easy to sing like R Kelly on an empty belly / Like Helen Keller ain’t nobody could tell me nothing.” It’s nothing mindblowing, in fact it’s actually very basic bars, but no one on this list was able to provide a mindblowing freestyle. Kyle’s brief skipping flow at certain moments enhances his performance. And he doesn’t sing.
3. Kap G
“I wanna get me a Wraaaiith, I wanna get me a Wraith.” Okay man we get it. You want a Wraith. Yes he begins the freestyle singing, but I’ve found myself repeating it so at least it’s the best (and shortest) singing part out of all the freestyles. Kap G shouldn’t have been on the XXL Freshman list, but at least he holds down his freestyle by spitting way better than I expected, securing the most surprising offering: “I pad the finish, the cash I get it / In labs I’m chemist, the bag ascended / The crack is in it.” I see that flow Kap, I see that flow. There’s a mixture of short bars with a focus on fitting in internal rhymes. Plus out of everyone he probably secured the best flow and delivery. Big surprise.
XXL purposely left X’s freestyle till last, and it ends up being the most topical one. X takes an attention-grabbing approach by being the only one on the list to consistently stick to a lyrical topic. Of course, that’s not what a freestyle is supposed to do (‘free of style’) but it ends up being the most interesting offering, touching on conspiracy topics like government control, the race of Jesus and the ownership of America; “And hell is just a government creation / And all the information they solicit isn’t nearly close to truth, it’s clear to see alteration.” Lyrically it’s nothing special but by comparison to the other freestyles X varies his flow, fluctuating his delivery from a slow pace to a fast pace. And he doesn’t sing.
1. Ugly God
You know there’s a problem in the game when the rapper who doesn’t take rap seriously ends up having the best freestyle of the list – and it’s not even close. Ugly God showcases the most lyrical talent out of everyone, weaving his way through internal rhymes and impressive cadence; “It’s the Booty Gang captain, talkin’ shit to me is history / I hit your crib maliciously / Charge your bitch just for an entrance fee / Ugly God finesse the booty live on MTV / And slide up in your bitch just like a missing piece.” This level of performance remains consistent start to finish and although there’s a lack of substance and wordplay we’re gonna have to settle for it. And. He. Doesn’t. Sing.
Outside of Ugly God, there were nine average freestyles, some of which had some moments of brilliance (Aminé, Kap G). Ultimately the reliance of singing brought down most of these freestyles. Now it’s all about the cyphers.