XXL made a lotta noise when they started publishing their annual Freshmen 10 issue. Readers have since tuned in to gauge how the selected few have lived up to their hype, to see which of them would, could live up to the expectations. And as much as the newbies get the recognition and the fame, one thing we can’t ever forget about is the big dogs of this rap shit. Them dudes that’s been through all the fires, sophomore jinxes, industry shadiness, the digital revolution, age and most challenging of all, the fickleness of the rap fan, always ready to cast out the old for that crispy brand new. I decided to give props to the 10 rappers that continue standing today. Factors such as longevity (when they were first featured on a commercial release), and relevancy went into determining who sat at the Senior table for 2009. You young cats straighten the eff up when walking past these cat’s table. These rappers, whether you bump them or not, deserve all of your respect.
Q-Tip – The Abstract made his first appearance on the Jungle Brothers’ debut album “Straight Out The Jungle” which dropped back in 1988. Specifically on the cut entitled Black Is Black. Along with his legendary group A Tribe Called Quest, Tip dropped their first album “A Peoples’ Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythm“ in 1990. The group went on to ensuring their spot as one of hip hop’s greatest groups by dropping two certified back to back classic albums “The Low End Theory ” (1991) and “Midnight Marauders” (1993). Going separate ways, Q-Tip embarked on a solo career with his album “Amplified” in 2000. Last year Tip dropped one of 2008′s best hip hop albums with “The Renaissance”. This year he dropped “Kamaal The Abstract“, and even though it was met with mixed reviews, Q-Tip continues to stay relevant as he maintains his spot at the Senior table for ’09.
Doom -Having had one of the most unique runs in the game, Doom made his debut in the game as Zev Love X (part of the rap group KMD) on 3rd Bass’ 1989 single The Gasface from their debut “The Cactus Album”. KMD dropped their first album, “Mr. Hood” in 1991 featuring the single Peachfuzz. After his brother Subroc, a member of KMD, was killed in a car accident in 1993, plus having to go through label drama, Zev Love X dropped off the face of the map. Depressed and disillusioned, Zev left New York for Atlanta, swearing revenge on the industry that left him wounded and disfigured. Returning as MF Doom behind the metal faced mask, he dropped “Operation: Doomsday” in 1999 gaining new fans and fresh recognition. It took me a while to connect the dots between him and Zev Love. Since then Doom has been killing it as the villain of rap. Earlier this year he dropped the MF from his name and released “Born This Way“, an album guaranteed to be in many cats’ top ten lists for 2009. By not conforming to industry standards, Doom stays as one the most sought out seniors in rap. If only he stopped sending masked imposters to perform in his place.
De La Soul – Who spits harder than De La? Dropping their bomb classic debut “3 Feet High And Rising” in 1989, the trio from Long Island, NY changed the game, challenging the hard rock stereotypes that defined what a b-boy was. Since then, they’ve dropped several classics (“De La Soul Is Dead” (1991), “Buhloone Mindstate” (1993), “Stakes Is High” (1996)) and will continue to rock a live show. Earlier this year they dropped “Are You In? Nike + Original Run” an iTunes exclusive that was met with positive reviews. De La Soul has a strong live show following and as far as I’m concerned, as long as they continue to record in the studio, will always be worth the cost of their cds.
Jay-Z -This old head just wont quit. Coming in the game on Jaz-O’s back [||] and featured on singles The Originators in 1989 and Hawaiian Sophie in 1990, Jay-Z has been in the game longer than some of you have been alive. After almost every record label refused to give him a deal, Jay, along with Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, formed Roc-a-fella Records and “Reasonable Doubt” was released in 1996. The rest, as they say, is history. 2009 saw the release of “Blueprint 3″, Hov’s 11th studio album which broke Elvis Presly’s record as the solo act with the most No. 1 records. Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors and alumni in the game have been trying to get this senior to graduate, to finally move on so someone else could fill the top spot. With how Jay stayed the rapper in everyone’s mouth in 2009 [||], it’s apparent this super senior doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Valedictorian status even.
Nas – Nasty Nas set if off as a rebel to America on Main Source’s Live At The Barbeque back in 1991 on the album “Breaking Atoms“. Pegged then as that freshman to keep an eye on, he broke out with his debut album “Illmatic” in 1994. With “Illmatic” being a timeless classic, Nas shut it down as that next emcee not to be effed with. Compared from the start to Rakim Allah in lyrical greatness, Nas’ skills forced him into the position of being the rapper to beat for the crown, drawing fire even from late rap legends Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. Also responsible for bringing us arguably the greatest rap beef in Hip Hop history (vs. Jay-Z), Nas continues to stay relevant. Reportedly working on an album with Damian Marley, Nas sits comfortably at the Senior table, flicking cigar ashes down on the suckers.
Busta Rhymes – Given his name by rap icon Chuck D. of Public Enemy fame, Busta and his then crew Leaders Of The New School dropped their debut album “A Future Without A Past” back in 1991. After killing A Tribe Called Quest’s posse cut Scenario in 1991, Bussa Buss let it be known that he was ready for his solo career. His solo debut hit the scene in 1996 with “The Coming“. Buss also blessed us with one of Hip Hop’s greatest hits ever with Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See off of his “When Disaster Strikes” album back in 1997. Releasing his eighth studio album “Back On My B.S.” earlier this year, Busta suffered the first time experience of having an album not going neither gold nor platinum. Still, the single “Arab Money” stayed being a heat rock in the clubs and controversial in the news. Regardless whether you eff with Busta Rhymes or not, this dude will murder a beat like a hired contract killer, and better than any new rhyme spitter out there.
Snoop Dogg – The Dogg Father remains America’s favorite Gangsta Rapper. Riding shotgun to Dr. Dre with the 1992 soundtrack single Deep Cover (one of my favorite joints ever), Snoop’s unqiue nasal flow and country drawl made every head look west as the Los Angeles based rapper helped Dre in cementing the West Coast as formidable contenders to a genre that was, up until then, mostly dominated by East Coast rappers hailing from New York. Snoop continued riding shotgun on Dr. Dre’s debut solo album “The Chronic” in 1992. “The Chronic” changed everything, from the introduction of the G-Funk era to Snoop’s unqiue voice, unique flow. Back during them days, West Coast reigned supreme. Snoop saw his own debut dropping in 1993 with the classic “Doggystyle“. Surviving standing dead center in the Ground Zero that heralded the East/West Coast beef, the death of Tupac Shakur, the advent of digital downloading and time itself, Snoop has managed to stay sipping comfortably from his pimp cup and resting with feet kicked up at the Senior’s table in 2009. Judging from the smoker of that brand new single that is I Wanna Rock (fucking fires) off his upcoming album “Malice N Wonderland” set to drop in December, this Crip’d out Chronic smoker will continue to light the charts and the blunts for as long as he wants to.
Raekwon – The Chef chef’d up some marvelous rhymes as he and his Wu-Tang Clan invaded the game back in 1993 with “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”. Not only did Rae and his set bring a new grimey dusted sound to the fore, they also brought respect and recognition to the fifth borough of Staten Island, before then, the bastard kin to the 5 boroughs. Assisted by fellow clansmen RZA and Ghostface Killah, Rae blew a crater in this Hip Hop shit with his classic “Only Built For Cuban Linx” back in 1995. Since then, dude has been on a quest to match the success that was OB4CL, promising multiple times and for several years that the follow up sequel was going to be of the same caliber. Cast off with mad “yeah rights” from rap fans everywhere, Rae made us all shut the fuck up with 2009′s “Only Built For Cuban Linx 2″. That album lived up to Rae’s promises as it made this Shaolin senior sound brand new. Possibly claiming that number one spot as best rap album of the year, Raekwon walks through the hallways garnering mad nods of respect from rap students. If Jay is this years Valedictorian, Rae is no doubt rap’s Prom King.
Ghostface Killah – Like Raekown, Ghost showcased his lyrical swords on “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers”) in 1993. Back then he rocked the stocking mask. Dropping his solo “Ironman” in 1996, it wasn’t until 2000 with “Supreme Clientele” that Tony Starks made us all recognize how much he deserved his solo run. Since then Starks has been banging dope albums like the Yankees bang World Series. After being insulted by us fans for copping but not actually buying his dope albums, Starks switched it up this year with an r&b, relationship themed album “Ghostdini: The Wizard Of Poetry“. Sounding like he’s NEVER going to give up rapping, and doing so better than most on any freshman list, ya’ll better throw your arms up in salutes whenever this senior enters the lunch room.
Bun B – To some, the godfather of Southern Hip Hip, Bun B, along with Pimp C dropped their first album as UGK (Underground Kingz) with “Too Hard To Swallow” in 1992. Repping their coast to the fullest, Bun and Pimp C continued to bang hard with follow up albums as well as their cameos on Jay-Z’s smash hit Big Pimpin (2000) and Three Six Mafia’s Sippin On Some Syrup (2000). Bun met with mad obstacles as his potna Pimp C was incarcerated in 2002. During that time, Bun dropped the dope “Trill” album in 2005. After Pimp’s release, UGK released the eponymous “Underground Kingz” in 2007 ending talks that the Southern ambassadors were washed up. Pimp unexpectedlydied later that year, but like the general that he is, Bun kept it moving like a champ with Trill II in 2008. Set to release Trill O.G. in 2010, Bun B stays being that rap upper classman to keep your eyes on.
Sean Price - The youngest in this year’s Senior 10, Kimbo Price made his cameo entry as Ruckus, one half of the two man group Heltah Skeltah on the the track Wontime from fellow Boot Camp Click members Smif-N-Wessun’s album “Dah Shinin” back in 1995. Heltah Skeltah dropped their own album “Nocturnal” in 1996. Switching it up, he claimed the name Sean P. on his solo “Monkey Barz” in 2005 and followed up with “Master P” and “Jesus Price Supastar” (2007). Recently blazing the mic with 2009′s “Kimbo Price“, Mr. Price continues to bring dominance to the field of rapping. Ask Dallas Penn who one of his current top ten rappers is.
So there you have it. The Senior class of 2009. Underclassmen take heed.
Dr. Dre., KRS-One, Rakim, Masta Ace, Buckshot, Method Man, Redman, Too Short