Joyner Lucas didn't make the XXL 2017 Freshman cover, and I'm happy he didn't. While this may come off as the mere ramblings and jealously of a hater, just hear me out.
In 2007 XXL debuted its inaugural freshman cover, something they didn't know would grow into an annual tradition. It was the chance to do something new, fresh, and innovative. The climate of music looked, and felt, more familiar to some of us who have been invested and committed to the culture that has shaped us and changed our lives for the better. Wordsmiths. Craftsmen of vocabulary. Masters of ceremonies. A class skilled enough to move from student to sempais, working their way up the ranks to one day have the title of senseis. Saigon. Papoose. Joelle Ortiz. With immaculate execution on its first go, we witnessed the birth of a tradition that would carry on for 10 years and become a staple in Hip Hop.
Since it's inception, many have graced the cover. Hip Hop cohorts with matched levels of skill and talent, and if not, with the potential to one day be seen as a collective integrally woven into the fabric of Hip Hop.
2009. Wale. B.o.B. Mickey Factz. Ace Hood. Cory Gunz. A class of elites. A class of marksmen with a clear target (the Hip Hop thrown) ready to go in for the kill. Just as you thought a class of this caliber couldn't be matched, the 2010 class ushered in. Ready to continue what was slowly becoming a rites of passage among artists trying to prove their place. J.Cole. Nipsey Hussle. Freddie Gibbs. Big Sean. Wiz Khalifa. Jay Rock. What a time to be dubbed the next up.
This tandem of greatness would continue for years and covers to come. Where there was a Kendrick Lamar, a Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T., Cyhi the Prince, and Mac Miller (who happens to be nice too though as mentioned by Jay Z) could stand beside him.
This was a time when a Danny Brown, Machine Gun Kelly, Hopsin, and French Montana could come together and co-exist on one cover as one diverse, passionate movement representative of their piece of Hip Hop.
2013. One of my favorite classes as you get ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Logic, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, and Angel Haze. A cover donned in lyricism and a class refusing to dim down their star.
Back to the artist up for discussion. Joyner Lucas. A rarity, or what would seem to be one, in the current sound and wave: welcome to the era of Lit Hop.
Joyner. A diamond in the rough still shining through the muck and debris of what sometimes feels like a crumbling, Apocalyptic Hip Hop.
We've heard Nas tell a whole story backwards on "Rewind," but Joyner takes this concept and makes it his own on "Backwards" by rapping then rapping the same verse backwards to tell a whole new story: two different stories and meanings in one song from one man.
If "Ross Capicchioni" didn't make you a believer, the intricate, real-life story detailing the attempted murder of a young man from the perspective of the young man then the perspective of his attacker, then maybe it was his freestyle during the 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards. Could it have been his "Panda remix" or his "Mask Off remix (Mask On)" that were so mesmerizing and addictive it made you feel a bit guilty for liking it more than the originals? If it wasn't that, then it had to be his recent video for "Keep It 100," a song of his recent project 508-507-2209, which displays the lives of those we encounter look like through the lens of a $100.
Joyner Lucas didn't make the 2017 XXL Freshman cover, and I'm happy he didn't.
He doesn't need to be seated next to Ugly God. He doesn't have to stand on the sidelines of the cypher as XXXTentacion raps (possibly barefoot, but who's paying attention). He doesn't need to find ways to rhyme, twist, and bend words to match the harmonies and melodies of A Boogie and PnB Rock.
Joyner Lucas didn't make the XXL 2017 Freshman cover, because he's not a freshman. He's already a sempai on his way toward greatness. If you don't believe me, then go listen to "Sriracha."