Last week XXL magazine’s fifth annual freshmen list hit the web. Showcasing the ten rappers the XXL brain-trust predict will go on to blow up, the selection has been met with the traditional mix of celebration from those included (not least with Diddy‘s new charge French Montana sporting a bear’s head as a hat on the cover) and whining form those who were overlooked (Harlem’s Azealia Banks is perturbed that Australia’s Iggy Azalea snagged her spot). But beyond the bragging and bickering, does becoming an XXL freshman actually help any artist’s rap career? We can’t predict performance, but we can read the past. So Hive sifted through the stats of all 51 XXL freshmen (2011’s class included 11 rappers) to work out the chances of a freshman turning into a star. Read on for the results, but be warned: They ain’t pretty.
Chances of graduating into a superstar: 12.75%
After the braggin’ rights of snagging a spot on a magazine cover, the number of XXL freshman who turn their stint on the front page into a superstar status career is extremely low. Of the entire freshmen roster, only Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B., J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa can be considered kinda like a big deal — which translates to only 12.75% of freshmen finding genuine fame. Tellingly, all four of those artists counted on other factors to push them along: Lupe and J. Cole benefitted from gargantuan co-signs from Kanye West and Jay-Z respectively; B.o.B. scored a series of pop hits by packing his album with pop stars; weed rapper Wiz Khalifa succeeded the old-fashioned way with a huge break-through hit, “Black and Yellow.” With Drake and Nicki Minaj famously turning down an offer to appear on a freshman cover, and Interscope’s new $3 million signing A$AP Rocky too “busy” to appear this year, it seems like rappers benefit from distancing themselves from their run-of-the-mill classmates.
Chances of releasing an album before the year is out: 21%
Becoming an XXL Freshman might boost your profile, but it doesn’t bode well for your chances of actually getting to release a studio album before the year of your cover placement is out. Excluding this year’s picks, only 21% of past freshmen achieved the feat (those being Plies, Kid Cudi, Wale, Ace Hood, Curren$y, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, Lil B (of course) and Kendrick Lamar). And with two of 2012’s characters, Machine Gun Kelly and French Montana, being signed to Diddy’s notoriously tardy Bad Boy label, it doesn’t look like the trend is going to be bucked this year.
Chances of suffering from the freshman curse: 10.2%
There’s a 10.2% chance that an XXL Freshman will be struck by a bout of bad luck after appearing on the magazine cover. Charles Hamilton derailed his own career and ultimately checked himself into some sort of a mental asylum, preppy white rapster Asher Roth‘s chances of cracking the mainstream dissolved when he tweeted about “nappy headed hoes,” Saigon saw his album continually delayed and shelved by his then label, Atlantic Records , Nipsey Hussle also has a purported album, South Central State Of Mind, in limbo, and Lil Boosie is currently in prison serving out a drugs and gun possession charge. Curses!
Chances of going platinum: 11%
Can the freshman factor give an artist enough of a promotional push to propel them to a stage where they can mount a platinum plaque above the toilet? Not really. Only 11% of freshmen past and present have been able to claim any sort of platinum status — and even then that includes Rich Boy‘s one-hit-wonder “Throw Some D’s.”
Chances you’re actually really old: 30%
Far from celebrating hip-hop’s hottest young things, the Freshman vault is routinely packed with some surprisingly old rappers. Of this year’s batch, Detroit oddball Danny Brown is over 30 years old. The list of rappers who were closer to 30 when they were anointed as freshmen includes Eminem’s Alabama boy Yelawolf, Cyhi the Prynce, Donnis, Freddie Gibbs, OJ da Juiceman, Curren$y, Blu, Kid Cudi, Joell Ortiz, Saigon, Young Dro, Lil Boosie, Papoose, Plies, Lupe Fiasco and Crooked I. (The last eight of that list were all from the same apparently mature 2008 vintage.) So instead of rounding up spritely rap talent, one out of every three freshmen are actually approaching the middle-ages of an average rap career.
Chances of effectively disappearing: 10%
If the stats are to be believed, at least one freshman from the 2012 line-up will magically disappear from the rap world in the near future. That unlucky bod will follow in the esteemed footsteps of Rich Boy, Charles Hamilton, Donnis and Mickey Factz, who all basically flunked that year’s class and saw their career and relevance fade to dust. Place your bets now.
Chances you’re signed to Interscope: 25.4%
A popular charge from the conspiracy section of the peanut gallery is that XXL magazine is somewhat in the pocket of Interscope records, the label that gave the world 2Pac, Eminem and 50 Cent. Including Interscope-enabled imprints like Shady Records, over a quarter of all freshmen (25.4%) are indeed signed to the behemoth of a label. But the freshmen field is far from Interscope-sponsored, with Atlantic Records artists past and present also totaling 17.6% of the cover spots. Signing to a major label is still something most rappers find impossible to turn down, so expect the trend to continue.
Chances you’re a token NY rapper: 17.6%
New York City rappers might not exactly be flavor of the month in these Southern-saturated times, but they’ve put in a plucky performance as freshman, taking up 17.6% of all cover spots. (Although two-thirds of NY representers appeared on the first two covers in 2008 and 2009: Saigon, Papoose, Joell Ortiz, Charles Hamilton, Cory Gunz and Mickey Factz.) But despite Southern rap’s commercial clout, it’s actually California that has birthed the most freshmen, with just under 20% of all cover-worthy rappers hailing from the vast state. Artists who call Atlanta, Georgia home comprise the third most popular pick by totaling 13.7% of all freshmen.
Chances you’re a white rapper: 10%
Just over 10% of all XXL freshmen have been born with melanin-deficient complexions, with the current crop making up half of the tally. Prepster Asher Roth was the first white rapper to appear on an XXL freshman cover back in 2009.
Chances you’re a white female rapper from Australia named Iggy Azalea: 1.9%.
Incidentally, chances that Azealia Banks is angry about this: 100%.