XXL revealed its 2013 Freshmen Class — its pick of the (sort of) new rappers set to blow up this year — back in March, but yesterday it dropped a mixtape featuring new songs from many of the rappers on the cover. At 17 tracks, the tape is padded out with previously released songs by Trinidad Jame$ and Travi$ Scott (dollar signs are, in fact, optional), but there are some obvious highlights amongst the crop of new selections:
- Action Bronson's "November Rain" is produced by Party Supplies, who helmed the production on Bronson's Blue Chips, which was SPIN's No. 5 rap album of last year. This may be a leftover from those sessions or it may be a new track entirely, but nonetheless it's more proof that this team comprises Bronson's best music. Over a blunted orchestral beat, he rhymes "Steve Harvey," "green Harley," and "beach party" — and that's just in the first minute. The track starts at 2:36.
- Harry Fraud is one of the most kinetic producers in independent rap, which makes him a perfect fit on paper for TDE spitfire Ab-Soul. "Back Then," their collaboration, on this tape, proves that formula works in practice, too. Over a dizzying beat, Ab-Soul sounds perfect talking shit and playing with his flow. This song starts at 4:48, immediately after "November Rain."
- Houston's Travi$ Scott is an interesting figure — his music is brooding and art-y with notable pop flourishes, but his Kanye reverence can often suffocate his songs. If he can grow past his influences (his "Quintana," for instance, is a blatant Future rip-off) he could be a contemporary pop star. His contribution to this mixtape, the self-produced "God Level," is heavily indebted to A$AP Rocky but gives a good idea Scott's persona. It starts at 17:19.
The mixtape can be streamed or downloaded at DJ Drama's website.