An array of talents from across the map and hip-hop’s musical spectrum descended on Austin, Texas on Tuesday night (March 13) for the XXL Freshmen Live showcase at SXSW. The show, which kicked off the Freshmen Live Concert Series and was held at Transmission Warehouse, spotlighted some of the game’s most promising new talent, in the form of 2012 XXL Freshmen Future, Danny Brown, Hopsin (pictured) and Don Trip, and still paid homage to legends, with Mobb Deep serving as headliners.
Fresh off of a flight, Memphis-bred MC Don Trip took to the stage, kicking off his set with “Help Is on the Way.” The song, which shares its title with Trip’s upcoming debut album on Interscope, was one of the highlights from his recent mixtape, Guerrilla. The DJ Drama-hosted Gangsta Grillz offering also included “The Life,” which the 26-year-old performed later in his set. To wrap things up, Trip passionately ripped his biggest hit to date, the honest and emotional “Letter to My Son,” kicking a handful of the bars acapella, leaving the crowd satisfied.
The show bounced West next, as Hopsin took the stage for his high-energy set. The California native got things going with “Pans in the Kitchen,” and continued to display his charisma and personality with “Baby Daddy.” The latter cut was one of a handful of songs from the rapper’s album Raw that he brought to life on stage. After bringing out his Funk Volume labelmates SwizZz and Dizzy Wright to flex what they could do on their own, Hop again stepped to the center. As sweat slipped off of his shirtless upper body, the 26-year-old closed strong, with his Raw fan favorite “Sag My Pants” and his memorable verse on Tech N9ne’s “Am I A Psycho?”
It was then the Midwest’s turn, as Danny Brown displayed his lyrical pedigree to an enthralled crowd. Performing multiple cuts from his XXX release, which was praised by some critics as one of 2011′s finest offerings, DB convincingly proved that his fashion and sonic style have their place. Starting early on with “Die Like a Rockstar” and finishing up with the self-explanatory “Blunt After Blunt,” the Detroit native sandwiched in joints like “Adderall Admiral” and “Radio Song,” as he kept the house hooked on each high-pitched bar.
Another upstart with distinct vocals, Future brought his auto-tune-tinged sound to the stage as the last of this year’s Freshmen to perform. Running through singles like “Tony Montana,” “Magic” and “Same Damn Time,” the ATLien had no trouble making sure that the event felt like the club, as the whole crowd moved to his hits. With his debut album, Pluto, due out in just over a month, on April 17, the braided rapper was sure to give attendees a taste of what they should expect on the debut disc.
Though scheduled headliner Kendrick Lamar missed his set due to travel issues, legendary duo Mobb Deep stepped in as headliners to an enthused audience. The veteran New York squad showed their experience, cementing why they’ve enjoyed nearly two decades of success in the game as they captivated the crowd and ran through a string of classics. From upbeat joints like “Outta Control” and “Got It Twisted” to the soulful “Win or Lose” and classic early career cuts like “Survival of the Fittest” and “Shook Ones Pt. II,” The Infamous Mobb reminded what it takes to enjoy the longevity that they have.
The Freshmen Live Concert Series will continue later this month, with Big Sean (Los Angeles), Wale (Atlanta), and Kendrick Lamar (San Francisco) headlining local shows, before the tour culminates when the 2012 XXL Freshmen converge on New York City for an April 9 show at Best Buy Theater. —Adam Fleischer