Lists in hip-hop are old news. Even before Biggie broke down the “Ten Crack Commandments,” rankings have reigned supreme as conversation starters and argument enders from barbershops to schoolyards.
Unsurprisingly, as is the case with all walks of culture, the internet has exacerbated said listing trend. Content aggregators realize the power of a Top 10. Or a Hot 100. Need a quick bump in page views? Looking to spark some dialogue in your otherwise destitute comments section? Lists help.
As such, we arrive at “The New New: 15 Boston Rappers You Should Know,” an article that appeared on the XXL site in late August.
The stately rag is not new to the procedure. Of all rap compendiums out there, XXL‘s annual “Freshman Class” ranks atop the most routinely buzzed about. Every January they roll out a nationwide assemblage of up-and-comers based entirely on arbitrary criteria, bookended by a month of posturing and a similar stay of groaning. As the cycle resets itself, there’s always a smarmy blog that attempts to remind us of the magazine’s meager success rate—roughly 60 percent by my assessment, hitting big on a few names like Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar, but not so much with Cyhi Da Prince and Charles Hamilton. Nevertheless, no one really gives a shit about their batting average, at least certainly not readers, the seeming majority of whom only care for the sound of their own ramblings.
Because mouse clicks matter more than magazine sales in today’s savage media landscape, XXL‘s current effort to train their gaze on the new fish of smaller ponds is understandable. From more obvious locales like New York, to less gussied about hotbeds like Seattle, the mag apparently won’t rest until they’ve informed us of a burgeoning crop of Tuscaloosa rhymesayers.
Just because the intentions behind the list are largely selfish doesn’t mean that XXL‘s Boston picks aren’t worth championing.
The same goes for Wednesday’s showcase at the Middle East Upstairs featuring all 15 “New New” picks—from more established talents like Cam Meekins, to steady crowd-movers like Catch Wreck, Dutch ReBelle, and Esh The Monolith, to newer scenesters like the fabulously named Michael Christmas. This is extremely fitting; if there’s anything the Boston rap scene hearts more than flat-brimmed B-hats, it’s a solid showcase.
However mismatched, the breadth on display here is a thing of wonder. The XXL list’s diversity jumps off the web page, with clips of Mr. Fritz cracking jokes in the aisle of a Mattapan bodega, Charmingly Ghetto ripping stark mantras on Comm. Ave., and Moufy, the most commercially viable act of the lot, deftly manipulating a packed City Hall Plaza. From battlers like Chilla Jones, to storytellers like Natural, to party-rockers like Black El x Durkin, it’s a wondrous representation of the city at-large. It’s not every day you give props to a music site—it’s much easier to blast their selections.
But for advertising Boston’s brightest hip-hop to the larger rap world, this time we have XXL to thank.
XXL FUTURE OF BOSTON SHOWCASE W/ REKS, EDO G., AND MORE