XXL Presents… Top 10 Albums By An XXL Freshman

1 of 11
  • Freshmen_Albums_620x400
    <em>XXL</em> Presents... Top 10 Albums By An <em>XXL</em> Freshman
    <em>XXL</em> Freshmen have produced their share of standout albums over the years. The album's impact has taken many forms. Some—despite generating underwhelming sales—were praised by critics. While, others, found a perfect balance between commercial and critical acclaim. In celebration of the Freshman classes’ fifth year anniversary, <em>XXL</em> Presents the Top 10 Albums by an <em>XXL </em>Freshman.—<em>XXL Staff </em>
  • Below-The-Heavens
    10. Blu, <em>Below the Heavens</em> (2007)
    Blu’s <em>Below the Heavens</em> album is a critically-acclaimed project that tells the story of man’s struggle through rousing production solely handled by Exile and cunning lyricism by the West Coast MC. Beginning with “My World Is..,” the album displays Blu’s penchant for wearing his heart on his sleeve. Containing a number of gems, including "First Things First" and "No Greater Love," this is one album that shouldn’t be slept on.
  • pilot talks
    9. Curren$y, <em>Pilot Talk</em> (2010)
    Curren$y’s major label LP showcased the rapper’s ability to take chances that worked in the end. Featuring guest spots by Jay Electronica, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Devin the Dude, Big K.R.I.T., among others, the Ski Beatz-produced project (also featuring production by Nesby Phips) was a sonically cohesively offering. With repeat-friendly tracks like the spacey “King Kong” and the breezy “Breakfast,” this is one album from Spitta’s catalog that’s nothing to sneeze at.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.31.10 AM
    8. Big Sean, <em>Finally Famous</em> (2011)
    Big Sean proved he’s here to stay on his 2011 ‘toast to the good life’ debut, <em>Finally Famous</em>. Bringing No I.D. along to anchor the album's soundbeds, Sean's made a mark on the charts. Topping<em>Billboard</em>'s Rap Albums charts, the album saw the G.O.O.D. MC’s stock rise as high-charting singles such as the Chris Brown-assisted “My Last” and the Kanye West and Roscoe Dash-featured “Marvin & Chardonnay” each earned a gold certification by the RIAA, while the tantalizing “Dance (A$$)” went double-platinum. Whatever Sean's LP lacked in substance, he more than made up for in bangers.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.33.42 AM
    7. Kid Cudi, <em>Man on the Moon: The End of Day</em> (2009)
    Narrated by Common, Cudi's psychedelic tale of a man —struggling with inner-demons ("Soundtrack to My Life," "Mr. Solo Dolo") while attempting to piece his life back together (“Heart of a Lion,” “Sky Might Fall”)— on the "Pursuit of Happiness (Happiness)" is a soundtrack like no other. Sporting his grief-stricken heart on his sleeve, Cudi succeeds in that he isn't afraid to pour out his feelings and even sing a song or two. He isn't rapper nor singer, he's a kid named Cudi, which is effectively presented throughout the album’s five acts. Receiving commercial appeal in singles like the smoker’s anthem "Day ‘N’ Nite (Nightmare)," the hypnotic "Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" and the lighthearted "Make Her Say," Scott Mescudi's out of this world debut was named Best Hip Hop Album of 2009 by <em>Entertainment Weekly</em> and garnered two Grammy nods for aforementioned singles “Day ‘N’ Nite” and “Make Her Say.”
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.32.27 AM
    6. Wale, <em>Attention Deficit</em> (2009)
    Wale's debut may have initially been the dud that haunted the D.C. MC, but it's artistically superior to its follow up—the commercially successful, <em>Ambition</em>. The project showcased Mr. Folarin’s diversity as he dishes out club floor-fillers in “Pretty Girls” and “Let It Loose,” social commentary within tracks like “90210” and “TV in the Radio,” inspirational cuts (“Beautiful Bliss”) and lyrical gems (“Prescription”). Though it didn't make much of a dent on the charts, the Lady Gaga-featured "Chillin'"—the only rap song to feature the pop icon—is a welcomed bonus.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.32.50 AM
    5. B.o.B, <em>B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray</em> (2010)
    B.o.B’s debut album <em>The Adventures of Bobby Ray</em> incorporated tracks like “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes (Part II),” both of which went multiplatinum, were nominated for a Grammy and made the top ten of <em>Billboard</em>’s Hot 100. Thanks to those bangers and others like the platinum single “Magic” that was used in B.o.B’s Adidas commercial and in spite of numerous pushbacks, <em>TAOBR</em> garnered much success, going gold and also topping both the <em>Billboard</em> 200 and Rap Albums chart. But, there's more to this album than smash singles. Songs like the Lupe Fiasco-featured, "Past My Shades" and "The Kids" featuring Janelle Monae made the album complete.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.33.55 AM
    4. Kendrick Lamar, <em>Section.80</em> (2011)
    Though released digitally, Kendrick Lamar's independent debut, <em>Section.80</em> stood tall among major-label releases last year. Equipped with jazzy production handled by in-house producers Sounwave, THC, Tommy Black, Tae Beast, Willie B, Wyldfyer, Kendrick left no subject untouched. “You wonder how I could talk about money, hoes, clothes, God and history all in the same sentence,” he mocked on "Ab-Souls Outro." The project's commercial shortcomings did nothing to prevent Lamar's stock from rising. <em>Section .80</em> received critical-acclaim and earned the Compton MC respect as a lyricist—thus resulting in collaborations with the likes of Game, Drake, Birdman and more.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.36.11 AM
    3. J. Cole, <em>Cole World: The Sideline Story</em> (2011)
    After a string of key guest spots and garnering praise for his well-received mixtapes (<em>The Warm Up</em>, <em>Friday Night Lights</em>), Roc Nation’s diamond in the rough J. Cole delivered a debut that effectively complimented the age-old saying, “good things come to those who wait.” Though it was a long time coming, <em>Cole World: The Sideline Story</em> succeeded in that it not only appeased long-time fans and critics, but also landed the Fayetteville, NC MC at No. 1 on the <em>Billboard</em> 200 after selling 218,000 copies its first week. An underdog tale that commences with the ambitious “Dollar and a Dream III” and ends with the compelling “Breakdown,” Cole’s debut shines and the sidelines are now a thing of the past.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.33.28 AM
    2. Lupe Fiasco, <em>Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor</em> (2006)
    Lupe Fiasco, a member of the inaugural Freshman class, kicked off his career in a big way with his debut album, <em>Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor</em> as it was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, charting at No. 8 on the <em>Billboard</em> 200, No. 1 on Rap Albums chart and No. 2 R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Its lead single, "Kick, Push" helped spearhead the album’s success, being Grammy-nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance and appearing on <em>Billboard</em>’s Hot 100. His Jill Scott-assisted “Daydreamin’” would win the coveted award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
  • Screen shot 2012-04-03 at 12.33.14 AM
    1. Lupe Fiasco, <em>Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool</em> (2007)
    Lupe Fiasco’s <em>The Cool<em /> did what </em><em>Food & Liquor</em> couldn’t. The vision is still ambitious, but easier to digest on Lupe Touche’s sophomore set—cramming standout after standout into 19-song player. Opening with a though-provoking spoken word piece by Iesha Jaco which later segues into the blitzing “Go Go Gadget Flow,” and on to other gems like the inspiring “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” and the serene “Intruder Alert.” The LP also produced Fiasco's highest-charting single to date, "Superstar" featuring Mathew Santos. With <em>The Cool,</em> the Chi-Town MC added another stellar piece of work to his catalog and collected his first of two gold plaques.
  • youngmoneyboi

    no charles hamilton pinklavalamp that album was the best one out of all of them

    • MadBlkMan

      Objectively speaking, Charles Hamilton’s “The Pink Lavalamp” should’ve made the cut…

      • matt

        wtf when was lupe a freshman this list started in 09 and he wasnt on it

        • BC

          he was on in 09 w/ wale, spitta, asher and that crew. do your research

          • cash

            Lupe was on the cover with Boosie, and Gorilla Zoe, and Joel Ortiz. Not with Wale and them. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

  • ant

    what? no asher? no yela? no jay rock? big krit? hmmmmm….

    • Lawrence

      Krit doesn’t have an album out yet. Live From the Underground is his debut

  • hmm

    think yall should have waited till Big krits Live From the Underground comes out. you guys should do best mixtapes by freshman if yall havint done it already.

  • In Your Fucking Face

    Yesss Lupe = Da Gawd

  • visionisclear

    yeah Charles Hamilton- Pink Lavalamp should be # 1

  • noushi_boi_uk

    lupe over j. cole and kedrick? are these guys dizzy fam?

    • Jakeemthunder

      you’re stupid….Section 80 should b #3 but they definitely got #1 and 2 correct..

      for once

      • noushi_boi_uk

        at the end of the day its opinion, but i have deffo listend to cole n kendricks album alot more than lupes….

  • real talk

    cole world!!!

  • BangEm

    food and liquor > the cool

    and how the fuck is Below the Heavens 10th? Should be worst at 3 IMO

    • Chris S

      Disagree with the first part. Definitely agree with Below the Heavens though. That album is incredible

  • b-minus

    Okay why isn’t Big’s album in the top three and it don’t matter if Wiz is in Tenth or First he needs to be there.

  • http://youtube.com/Louietrax Louietrax

    Where is Ambition? I’m glad they recognized Attention Deficit, but Wale was on the verge of make or break with Ambition, definitely Top 5 @LouieTrax

  • James

    Lupe getting his do’s

  • ripsta

    wheres YELAWOLF? his album was voted by xxl fans as the best album in 2011

  • wat

    Below the Heavens > Section.80

  • YoungBlood530

    FUCKING WACKK!!!

  • VoiceofReason

    How the FUCK is Cole world higher than Section.80? C’mon son

  • Ryan513

    Plies The Real Testament
    Plies The Definition of Real
    Young Dro Best Thang Smokin
    Yelawolf Radioactive
    on on & on… Yall Trippin!

  • http://www.hiphop4life.fr Hip-Hop 4 Life

    Glad that the list isn’t just based on commercial success, Lupe’s amazing gift finally recognized, two greats albums for a great artist.
    However, maybe Below The Heavens should be higher, amazing album too, Exile is incredible on the board.

  • Doozie

    Radioactive

  • Hall of Fame

    Yall LOVE Lupe!!!Cole or Wiz should hold the top 2 spots. Come on XXLmag.com

  • Chadfella_UK

    As much as I rate J Cole, i have a very hard time accepting that Sideline Story was better than Section.80. XXL, you guys have been flopping hard for a while now on your ratings and such and although there is a lot of comfort to be taken in the fact you recognise the skills of Lupe Fiasco, Lamar’s debut(ish) ethers any of the other young cats out at the moment..And YES that includes everyones favourite rapper, DRAKE and his fairly average TAKE CARE.
    pROPS where their due though, this list has given me at least 2 or 3 new albums to go back and check out, mucho gracias.

  • igotacos

    ummmmmm…….
    1. blu – below the heavans
    2. kendrick lamar – section.80
    thats it

  • Jaymoney1989

    I think Wale’s attention deficit was a well put together project from interscope. Songs like Beautiful bliss and Diary is what made the album great. Even though ambition was good too. But Lupe’s first 2 cd’s were masterpieces especially food and liquor.

  • wizrdsupreme

    the pinklavalamp was the only classic out of all the albums

  • Azup

    I’m expecting another classic from Blu and Exile. This is a great start, Exile is master on the boards.