A year removed from his appearance on XXL’s Freshman cover, West Coast rapper YG is still at work trying to make the grade in hip hop’s school of hard knocks. While his report card doesn’t reflect the high marks of some past freshmen or the failures of others, YG is somewhere in between trying to get a grasp on a career that started out with a splash.
First introduced to the masses in 2010 with his debut smash "Toot It and Boot It," the Def Jam signee hasn’t delivered his debut album yet, but has kept his name buzzing with several mixtape projects, the latest being 4 Hunnid Degreez. This past weekend the Compton native opened up for Tyga’s Careless World tour at L.A.’s Club Nokia and it was easy to forget that the 22-year-old young gunner wasn't the headliner. The hometown crowd was worked up into a frenzy as the Young Gangsta performed local bangers like "Up" and "B-----s Ain't S--t.”
Focused on his own hustle at the moment, YG admits he hasn’t had much time pay attention to the 2012 edition of the XXL Freshman class, but he is aware that a few of his good friends are included.
“I haven't seen this year's cover but I heard it's, like, four people I know on there, like Iggy [Azalea], Future, Roscoe Dash and somebody else I forgot,” YG tells BET.com. “I don't even know the other people that are on the cover.”
Having a hard time identifying all 10 participants of the 2012 class is just one of the many criticisms levied at the hip hop magazine. This year's class — which features notable up-and-comers like the aforementioned Iggy, MGK and French Montana — has drawn criticism on some fronts for the noticeable absences of popular rap rookies like ASAP Rocky, Azealia Banks and Schoolboy Q. While Rocky, the front man of Harlem’s new hotshot crew ASAP, attributed his absence to scheduling conflicts, fellow Harlemite Banks was very vocal with her disappointment that the mag picked Australian femcee Iggy (the first female to grace the cover as part of the Freshmen class). And though it’s not clear if XXL offered him an invite, Schoolboy Q considered himself too experienced for the list.
This is not the first year rappers have declined participation, Drake and Nicki Minaj famously turned down inclusion in the 2010 class. As an XXL Freshman alum, YG offered his insight as to why there were a number of reported no-thank-yous this year.
"Basically, you’re on the cover and that's really setting yourself up to where people are going to expect you to be at a certain point [in your career] at that time,” YG explains. “If you don't get there, you’re going to feel a certain way. The cover makes it seem like you’re supposed to start popping next year, like Wiz [Khalifa] and them did."
Acknowledging that the current success of freshmen like Wiz, J. Cole, Big Sean, Meek Mill, Wale and Mac Miller may be a bit intimidating for new rappers to face, YG thinks fear may play a factor in some artists’ decisions to pass on an XXL invite.
"They just probably feel like they weren't ready for that or they didn't want it," says YG. "People are probably scared."
Not resting on his laurels, the 2011 Freshman is even taking up some extra curricular activities while he has down time from recording. The young rhyme slinger is set to make his film debut in the Mario Van Peebles-directed hip hop dance flick We the Party. Cast opposite Snoop Dogg and Tommy "Tiny" Lister, fans can look for YG in the film when it hits theaters April 6.
“I play a raw little character, Snoop's like my big brother,” YG reveals. “It was crazy filming because everybody was expecting me to have a hard time or be hard to deal with, but I came to the set and was just doing what I had to do. I was memorizing all my lines, I was going in.”
Van Peebles will make an appearance on 106 & Park to plug the film later this week.
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(Photo: Adrian Sidney/PictureGroup)