Where Are They Now?: 2009 Freshman Recap
Being an XXL Freshman is something between a win-win and a double-edged sword. On one hand, the coveted XXL cover provides a platform for MCs to take their already burgeoning buzz to another level. On the flip side, not every upstart is equipped to handle the pressure that comes with being an XXL Freshman. Some (actually most) alumni have gone on to secure major record deals, released gold-selling albums and earned Grammy nominations, while others have squandered opportunities.
As the merit of this year's class is still being debated across message boards and social networking sites, last year's Freshmen are now reaching new plateaus (Wiz Khalifa anyone?). But what about the 2009 class? Where are they now? From Ace Hood to Wale, XXL revisits the 2009 Freshman class to see where they’ve landed since gracing our cover. –Georgette Cline
The Atlanta rapper’s hustle hasn’t gone unnoticed. Before his debut album, B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, hit store shelves in April 2010, the Grand Hustle signee caught listener’s ears with his debut single, the infectious Bruno Mars-assisted track “Nothin’ On You.” His follow-up, the Alex da Kid-produced “Airplanes” featuring Paramore's Hayley Williams was impressive, but it was his first hit that garnered him three Grammy nods. Add on the fact that he’s sold more than 531,000 copies of his debut LP and scored commercials with the likes of Adidas and EA Sports, and it’s safe to say Bobby Ray is ahead of his class.
By now Kid Cudi is a brand name. Besides his collabos with Kanye West and Jay-Z, the 27-year-old “wizard,” as he dubs himself, already has two albums under his belt: the gold-sellingMan on the Moon: The End of Day in 2009 and Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. in 2010. Then, last year, Cudder made his acting debut in HBO’s dramedy How to Make It in America. Quite the feat for a former American Apparel employee. He recently split from longtime production collaborators Plain Pat and Emile, and is forming a new yet-to-be-named label with beatmaker Dot Da Genius.
The D.C. wordsmith’s kept busy since the cover, releasing his debut LP, Attention Deficit in '09, and the 2010 mixtape, More About Nothing, a follow-up to his ’08 joint, Mixtape About Nothing. But he hit some bumps in the road along the way, coming under fire quite a few times for creating some lackluster records and for being a “hater” in the eyes of Kid Cudi. While the two rappers made comments on their tiff via Twitter and in the media, it’s since been squashed. Besides, Wale has better things to keep busy with. In February, the rhymer announced his addition to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music.
The sole white boy amongst the 2009 Freshman class, Asher shed more light on the fact that it was indeed possible for a fair-skinned dude other than Eminem to spit a mean 16. The Pennsylvania native dropped his first album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle in '09, and followed that with a tour alongside the likes of fellow classmates B.o.B. and Kid Cudi. While fans may recognize him for his “I Love College” hit, Roth serviced the underground movement with two mixtapes last year, dropping Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberry and The Rawth EP with veteran producer Nottz. The SRC Records signee is now crafting his sophomore disc, The Spaghetti Tree.
Where some rappers may not ever have the chance to put out an album due to legal politics, Curren$y’s been blessed with putting out three( Jet Files in 2009 and Pilot Talk and Pilot Talk II in 2010) since he graced XXL’s cover. The New Orleans native, who was formerly signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money roster, has had Dame Dash in his corner, signing with the veteran music mogul’s label BluRoc Records. With the Hot Spitta’s rapid releases, the union appears to be a beneficial one. While the 29-year-old rhymer preps his fifth studio album, Muscle Car Chronicles, he’s given rap fans a taste of what’s to come with the 2011 release Return to the Winner’s Circle, a follow-up mixtape to his ’08 effort, Winner’s Circle.
The Bronx-bred lyricist has consistently churned out mixtapes year after year, even when his laptop was stolen, causing him to start from scratch and re-record some of the material showcased on 2010’s effort, I’m Better Than You. “Paradise,” a banging track with an accompanying video showing love to his ‘hood, has proved to be the one that’s turned ears in the GFC New York affiliate’s direction. Lupe Fiasco’s even welcomed him into his circle after hearing him rhyme, tapping him for the rap outfit, All City Chess Club. After signing to Battery Records last year, Factz released his Love. Lust. Lost mixtape this year in preparation for his debut LP, The Achievement, which is scheduled to hit stores in 2011.
Ace already had an album to his name when he hit our pages, as well as a big co-sign in his corner: DJ Khaled. Since thene he's stuck to the formula of many MCs before him: pump out mixtapes. Last year’s tape, The Statement, featured the Lex Luger-produced “Hustle Hard,” which even had Ace hater giving props to the young MC. He’s now on schedule to release his third LP, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, via Khaled’s We the Best/Def Jam imprint.
Since appearing on our cover, Cory's secured what has become many a rapper’s dream deal last year, signing the dotted line with Lil Wayne’s Young Money imprint. The 23-year-old hopped on Weezy’s Bangladesh-produced banger “6 Foot 7 Foot,” showcasing double-time rhymes. His long-awaited reality show, tentatively titled Son of a Gun, helmed by Nick Cannon, is close to getting an air date.
After making waves in 2009, Blu is crafting his major label debut for Warner Brothers, titled No York. The set is rumored to feature collabos from Theophilus London and Sa-Ra Creative Partners, among others. He’s already dropped a seven-track EP titled Amnesia, which features songs from Blu's love-themed album, Her Favorite Colo(u)r, in preparation for his debut.
After getting punched in the face by his girlfriend on camera in late ’09, Hamilton became the butt of many jokes. His Interscope debut,This Perfect Life, ended up a mixtape when the label shelved it and dismissed his record contract. More drama came when the Harlemite credited deceased music vet J Dilla as executive producer, inciting beef from many within the rap community. He’s since collaborated with B.o.B. on “Paper Boy” and released a slew of mixtapes in 2010—including six in one day. But all that studio time didn’t keep him out of trouble, as the rapper was arrested in Ohio last year on assault charges for fighting a police officer. He also checked himself into New York Presbyterian Mental Hospital. Despite his stay in the crazy house, he’s working on his official debut, My Heart, via New Co Music, which will feature B.o.B’s assist.