FEATURE:The Seminar

PHOT: Ben Watts

PHOTO: Ben Watts

[Editor's Note: This interview appears in the December 2008 issue of XXL Magazine.]

Forecasting the future can be tricky. Who can say they saw G.O.A.T. potential in Jay-Z back in the “Hawaiian Sophie” days? And when Canibus was touted as hip-hop’s savior, seemed like a sure thing, didn’t it? Still, despite the hits and misses, we look forward. And on this late-summer day, inside a white-walled photo studio nestled in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the future of rap looks awfully bright.

With so many fresh faces, even the most devout hip-hop head may need a program to discern who’s who. First there’s Ace Hood, draped in two platinum chains, one reading “We the Best,” a term coined by his mentor and label CEO DJ Khaled. Then there’s the guitar-toting B.o.B, who lights up the room with his Southern charm, and Asher Roth, the suburban White kid cracking jokes as he fiddles with his laptop. D.C.’s Wale and Cleveland’s Kid Cudi have a clear camaraderie, as they chop it up and find comfort in a room full of strangers. Charles Hamilton, Mickey Factz and Cory Gunz get into a zone, too, volleying rhymes back and forth for a gathering crowd of magazine editors, stylists and various industry folk. Curren$y nervously searches for last-minute wardrobe choices, as the mild-mannered Blu sits back and soaks it all in, rarely saying a word.

Musically, they’re all dope in different ways: Cory for his rapid-fire flow, Asher for his wordplay and Cudi for his infectious melodies and pop sensibilities. B.o.B is preternaturally creative, Blu intricately introspective, Ace straight gutter. Mickey’s a mastermind, Curren$y is refreshingly relatable, Charles is aggressively blunt, always speaking his mind. And Wale is just on some next shit. You may not be able to tell by looking at them, but these 10 MCs are rap’s next generation.

Places taken, the camera flashed, and the moment was set in film. After that, our newest leaders of the new school got down to business. There were questions to be answered and statements to be made. Did rap really die with Biggie and ’Pac? Is the Internet friend or enemy? And what exactly is hipster rap?

Yes, XXL’s crystal-ball picks may seem a bit obscure (some of them are still unsigned), but with hip-hop mired in industry sameness and lameness, these are the ones with the skills to change the game. You may not know their names, or their faces, but on this day, they become legendary. —ROB MARKMAN

PHOTO: Ben Watts

PHOTO: Ben Watts

XXL: So what do you guys think of being named XXL’s top 10 rappers to look out for in 2009? Did you see last year’s issue? What did you think of being part of this when you got the call?

Kid Cudi: Aw, man, shit is dope.

Wale: I think it’s very cutting-edge, and it’s very ahead of the curve for XXL to acknowledge the fact that there’s a new breed of MCs coming in. The ’90s was cool, but it’s like, for so long, people ain’t been able to let it go. Like, not letting go the fact that Jay-Z’s the greatest rapper of all time, but letting go, like, Yo, it’s been this wall and muthafuckas ain’t been able to push through it. ’Cause, you know what, everybody that’s come out after Biggie’s death is wack. If I didn’t know who you were before Biggie died, then you’re wack. Biggie died in, what, ’97? Eleven years ago. And it’s like nobody new that you just found out about—with a couple exceptions, like Kanye, T.I. But before those guys died, people could come out new, and it’d be like, “Wow, this dude is dope,” and people would embrace that rapper. Now it’s like, “Oh, Wale? Oh, who is he? Cudi, who the fuck is that? Ace Hood and Cory?” People are just not ready to accept anything new, because it’s all… I was on the Rock the Bells tour. You would see people go crazy for Wu-Tang. Crazy. And it hurt my heart, because why Wu-Tang drop an album now? All them people ain’t gon’ buy it. It’s like everything stopped after Biggie died. Everything stopped and slowly declined, with the exception of, like, Kanye, T.I. and a couple of other artists. But the megasuperstar is gone. It used to be seven, eight megasuperstars. It used to be groups—Tribe, Wu-Tang—and it’s all gone now. Now it’s just, like, Kanye, Lil Wayne and everyone else.

PHOTO: Ben Watts

PHOTO: Ben Watts

XXL: How do the rest of you feel about what Wale said?

Kid Cudi: I think that everybody here is the collection of what took so long to create. Like, when that shit was poppin’, like what Wale said, in that era, we was just young’ns listening to that shit. That’s what inspired us. And now it took us to grow and actually have that vision, and everybody in here has the same dream, and we all worked at it and got to this point. So it took that long. It took 11 years for some muthafuckas to come up and be like, bong, this is what you… Muthafuckas, kids—like a Nas, if that nigga had a son, his son would be on our shit. Like, Prodigy’s son. He’s one of my biggest fans. Prodigy’s son came up to me, like, “Yo, I like [your song] ‘Day ‘N’ Nite.’” I was like, “Word? You know your father is, like, one of the originators of gangsta rap?” [Group laughter]

That’s the illest shit in the world to me. So we speaking to the new generation. It’s a whole new breed of young kids. Girls, boys, all types of muthafuckas is coming up and just wanna hear something different. The kids that wasn’t around for the Biggies and the Tupacs and only see the reruns of the videos and weren’t actually watching the awards shows when muthafuckas was beefing and shit and got to see the East Coast/West Coast beef. We doing it to give our kids, our kids’ kids, something to talk about 20 years from now. Everybody in this room has the goal of longevity, and I hope everybody’s blessed enough to have that, because not everybody’s gon’ have that longevity. It’s a give and take. Some muthafuckas’ roles is different than the next. Soulja Boy… Who’s to say he’s gon’ be here 20 years from now? I mean, I like his shit. You gotta take it for what it is. He’s a young kid. He’s doing his thing. He played a role. His record is, like, the illest shit. It was on TV. It was in movies… Muthafuckas know who Soulja Boy is. He played his part in hip-hop, and that’s what hip-hop’s all about. In the beginning, it was just have fun. But, now, the new breed, like us, have shit to talk about. More than just talk about working a 9 to 5 and blue-collar shit.

PHOTO: Ben Watts

PHOTO: Ben Watts

Asher Roth: It’s still fresh.

Kid Cudi: Yeah, it’s still keeping it fun and refreshing.

Wale: And, at the same time, it’s, like, a lot of people represent something different. Me, personally, I’m from one of the roughest cities in America, which is also the nation’s capital. I grew up with straight gorillas… They drug dealers, they doing what they doing, but I’m representing something different. I can easily speak about something else, but this is what I choose to represent. Like Cory and Ace, they have a good rapper in them. Ace, he represent the South. He represent the struggle, he represent 305… Cudi grew up in Cleveland and New York, so he bring you that from his perspective. Everyone’s young’ns. At the end of the day, we’re all young’ns. We tryna show you that the shit is still alive, it’s still kickin’.

Kid Cudi: Yeah, it’s still keeping it fun and refreshing.

Wale: And, at the same time, it’s, like, a lot of people represent something different. Me, personally, I’m from one of the roughest cities in America, which is also the nation’s capital. I grew up with straight gorillas… They drug dealers, they doing what they doing, but I’m representing something different. I can easily speak about something else, but this is what I choose to represent. Like Cory and Ace, they have a good rapper in them. Ace, he represent the South. He represent the struggle, he represent 305… Cudi grew up in Cleveland and New York, so he bring you that from his perspective. Everyone’s young’ns. At the end of the day, we’re all young’ns. We tryna show you that the shit is still alive, it’s still kickin’.

Asher Roth: We’re children of hip-hop. We were raised on this stuff. If you were born in the last 25 years, you were raised on hip-hop -there’s no way around it. I think it’s about time for us to stop chasing ringtones and singles and bring back music. [Clapping, amens]

For more of The Seminar Interview make sure to pick up XXL’s December issue on newsstands nationwide November 4th.

  • Gerod

    I fucks wit Kid Cudi HEAVY…he got a dope fresh sound. I got no problem with anybody on this list. Cant wait for the mag.

  • http://hiphoponmymind.blogspot.com/ DJ Daddy Mack

    BEEN READING DIS ISH. IT IS FIRE.

  • Chris Mac

    IMA SAY IT ONE MORE TIME FUCK ASHER ROTH!Mofucka fake as bin ladins where abouts. Real talk.

  • Chris Mac

    Asher Roth`s as fake as Bin Ladins where abouts, step off homie.

  • Fly Ass Tj

    SPITTA!!

  • Mike

    Fly Society!

    XXL Cover by Christmas ..

    Curren$y man of his word ..

    I see You!!

  • SAMMY DA BEAST

    WHERE’S DRAKE, NA’GEE, NIPSEY, GLASSES MALONE ETC