By Rob Markman
Every year XXL Magazine picks a new crop of rap stars to grace the cover of their annual Freshman issue and every year there is some type of public outcry about who did and didn’t deserve to make it. Getting picked for the cover is only half the battle though, because after the shoot each rapper has to prove their own worth and that’s what most of the new XXL crop did on Monday night when they performed at a commemorative concert at New York’s Best Buy Theatre.
Dizzy Wright and the Kirko Bangz were the first to grace the stage, but in between each of their sets the impatient crowd would erupt into loud and boisterous chants for their hometown hero Action Bronson. Before Bam Bam Bronson would take the stage however, the crowd would have to get through separate sets from Logic and Travi$ Scott, who brought celebrated southern producer Mike Dean on stage with him.
When Bronson finally did emerge rapping over the somber keys of Guns N’ Roses 1992 hit “November Rain,” the fans released all of their pent up excitement and showered him with praise. “Smoke wax, hat low like a marine/ The only way to describe the scene was serene,” he started with his colorful raps.
From there the bulging Queens, New York MC with the red-haired beard picked up the tempo rocking his new single “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” and even did a perfect cartwheel on stage—an impressive feat for a man of Action’s size. Then he jumped into the Harry Fraud-produced “Bird on a Wire” and invited Riff Raff out onto the stage to rap with him, much to the delight of the crowd. Bronson also gave Brooklyn MC, Troy Ave a chance to rock before his set was done.
After a short intermission Trinidad Jame$ was called to the stage as concert-goers who were camped out in the back of the theatre ran to the front of the stage. Jame$ got his two biggest hits “Females Welcomed” and “All Gold Everything” out early and then turned the stage over to DJ Drama, who brought out B.o.B to do his new banger “We Still in This Bitch.”
Joey Bada$$ followed suit and brought out D.C.’s Fat Trel, an MC Joey says he feels should’ve made the Freshman cover. After Trel rocked his riot starter “Respect the Teck,” he turned the stage back over to Joe who paid homage to his fallen Pro Era brother Capital STEEZ by performing their underground collabo “Survival Tactics.”
Finally it was Schoolboy Q who closed things out, with a set that began at about 11:30 p.m. While Q teased the crowd saying that he was going to bring out frequent collaborator A$AP Rocky and his fellow TDE/Black Hippy MC Kendrick Lamar, it was all just a fake out. Q instead held the stage down himself rocking choice cuts like “There He Go,” “Hands on the Wheel” and “Druggys Wit Hoes Again” from his independent LP Habits & Contradictions.
Q closed with his latest single “Yay Yay” from his upcoming major label debut Oxymoron. Judging from the sing-a-long that the song prompted, hip-hop’s future looks as bright as ever.