Trying to fit in with a new crowd in a new place and vying for cred with a set of accomplishments measured on a different scale is about the epitome of an uncomfortable experience. You're awkward as hell having never worked on that scale before, made only worse by the surrounding crowd's comfortability and your glaring realization of that fact. And if that doesn't neatly sum up the idea of freshman year, well, I wish I'd gone to school with you.
Luckily for them, most of the names on XXL's fourth Freshman list aren't really new to the game at all--more like safe bets--and the 11-man class's unveiling in the April edition (which also dubiously proclaims "the recession is over!") was met with more than a few groans. But before you have your mind made up for you, the magazine teamed up with DJ Whoo Kid to put together a mixtape of all new material that serves as a worthwhile introduction.The cyphers are one of the tape's best features, putting all the MCs on even ground with a bare-bones drumbeat, and it even managed to fit the most unremarkable artists--namely Diggy Simmons and Lil Twist, with YG as a close runner-up--into the same easily ignorable round. But the new tracks from Yelawolf (one of the class elders, and also the most talented), Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar and Lil' B are all great songs from talented artists independent of any Freshman buzz. Making that cover might be the career highlight for a few of these guys--Fred The Godson, I'm looking at you--and it's the few who don't fall into that group (the bold names above, plus maybe Mac Miller and Meek Mill) who will still be around by the time the next class rolls up.