There were so many buzzing MCs in 2011 that XXL made an exception and selected 11 freshmen that year. Here, XXL takes a look at what its '11 Freshmen alumni have been up to.—Carl Chery (@cchery)
The Alabama rhyme slinger’s year got off to a slow start, but he made a noteworthy appearance in the show-stopping “Shady 2.0 Cipher” at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Yela’s stellar Shady/Interscope Records debut, Radioactive, hit stores in November and debuted at No. 27 on the Billboard 200 chart. The record had sold a little over 100,000 units when this mag went to print.
The Philly-bred MC had a big year, signing to Rick Ross’ MMG and then contributing two breakout hits to the crew’s Warner Bros. Records compilation Self Made, Vol. 1 with the Rozay-assisted “I’ma Boss” and “Tupac Back.” Meek’s Dreamchasers mixtape, helmed by DJ Drama, was critically acclaimed and produced another hit, “House Party.” His highly anticipated Warner/MMG debut is due out later this year.
He’s more than a YouTube sensation, even though his “Donald Trump” single became a viral hit with 47 million views and counting. The Pittsburgh rapper appeared on VH1’s hit sitcom Single Ladies and Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger (Remix).” Mac’s debut, Blue Slide Park, topped the Billboard 200 chart—becoming the first independent LP to debut at No. 1 since Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food in 1995.
His indie release Section.80 didn’t chart high, but it was critically heralded as one of the best albums of 2011. Compton’s K.Dot opened for Drake on the Club Paradise Tour, dropped noteworthy verses on Drizzy’s and Game’s LPs and has spent time in the studio with Dr. Dre and The Neptunes. Lamar is rumored to drop his buzzed-about major-label debut this year.
K.R.I.T.’s Return of 4Eva was one of the year’s most celebrated mixtapes. He also produced and appeared on T.I.’s first post-prison single, “I’m Flexin’,” and on The Roots’ Undun. There’s still no major-label release in sight for the Mississippi rapper/producer, but his next mixtape, 4evaNaDay, is sure to keep his momentum going until his anticipated Def Jam Recordings debut.
Lil B’s cooking dance became a popular end-zone celebration during NFL football games, but the California native’s buzz died down a bit over the year. He appeared on Lil Wayne’s Sorry 4 the Wait, but his controversial indie album I’m Gay (I’m Happy) was underwhelming. The BasedGod still has an exemplary work ethic, releasing mixtape after mixtape, but he appears to be doing so aimlessly.
Young Money Entertain- ment’s teen MC has been a bit slow turning up the heat. The Weezy-assisted “Love Affair” earned a worthy buzz and the video got love on BET, but Lil Twist’s two follow-up singles haven’t had as much impact. A Young Money/Universal Republic debut album is still in the works for this Dallas representer.
He teased fans with his well-received “Copy Paste” single and a guest appearance on R&B quartet Mindless Behavior’s “Mrs. Right.” Dig’s latest single, “Do It Like You,” has been a favorite on BET’s 106 & Park countdown—just in time for his Atlantic Records debut, Unexpected Arrival.
In addition to releasing two mixtapes, Royal Flush 2 and Jack of All Trades, Atlanta’s CyHi the Prynce appeared on Maybach Music Group’s Self Made, Vol. 1 compilation and YC’s star-studded “Racks (Remix).” The G.O.O.D. Music artist has yet to lock in on a release date for his debut album, but he’s set to appear on the label’s compilation this spring.
YG followed up his first mixtape effort, The Real 4Fingaz, with another tape, Just Re’d Up. He also showed up on New Boyz’s Too Cool to Care LP. Though he’s been garnering spins on the West Coast, the Compton rapper has been flying under the radar outside of his region. No word on when his Def Jam Recordings debut will drop.
The Bronx Bomber has been releasing music at a steady pace, but his City of God: Gangsta Grillz mixtape with DJ Drama and songs with Diddy, Jadakiss, Raekwon and Erick Sermon haven’t done much to raise his profile. Still unsigned at press time, Fred the Godson’s prepping a joint mixtape with Olivia titled Beauty & The Beast.