Fetty Wap Dominates Lukewarm 2015 XXL Freshmen NYC Show: Live Review

2015 XXL Freshmen Concert
Review
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Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images

New York City's Best Buy Theater was packed with rowdy teenagers for the annual XXL Freshmen show last night, June 30, featuring a group of rappers who are ready for the spotlight. The list is supposed to co-sign a variation of talent that has made great strides in their early phase of their careers without an official major label debut. Every year there's a new element of surprise and 2015’s XXL Freshman class returned to its original 10 picks that best represents the current state of hip-hop. This year selections saw an accumulation of traditional lyricists, melodic specialists, hit-makers, experimental rappers and street narrators: Fetty Wap, Vince Staples, DeJ Loaf, K Camp, Tink, GoldLink, OG Maco, Raury, Shy Glizzy and the fan-voted tenth spot winner Kidd Kidd.

Over the years, XXL’s coveted list has sparked more debates surrounding certain MCs who graced the cover and those who should have been shoe-ins that didn't make it. Last year's hoopla came over the fact that Rapsody’s absence from the Freshmen 12 was head-scratching; her show-stealing performance at the 2013 BET Cypher served as a catalyst. G-Unit's Kidd Kidd appears to be this year's controversial pick after XXL revealed the cover on June 3. Reportedly, he won 240,000 votes from 139 countries from March 16 to March 22, which was the duration of the voting process. After causing such uproar from rap fans -- mainly due to his extended run with Lil Wayne prior to G-Unit -- his appearance at Best Buy Theater was to prove a point.

Kidd Kidd Arrested Before XXL Freshmen Concert: Watch

But that didn't happen. Kidd Kidd, who served as a co-headliner with Fetty Wap, was noticeably absent for his 10 p.m. set time. Instead, 50 Cent and G-Unit, who were dressed in XXL letterman jackets, formally announced that Kidd Kidd was arrested on unknown charges right before gaining admittance into the building. "We was gonna rap with Kidd Kidd but the police was out front and they snatched him," 50 Cent told the crowd, "He'd be out by tomorrow." Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck announced their disdain for law enforcement, collectively: "F--- the police!"  Attempts at "Free Kidd Kidd!" chants ensued.

50 Cent continued to diss Epic Records' Sha Money XL for not bailing out Bobby Shmurda: "I ain't like Sha Money... Bobby Shmurda's still in the joint. They left the n----s in the jailhouse, the whole GS9 [crew]."

It was a rare juxtaposition for the XXL Freshmen showcase to feature veterans fighting for the recognition for the same new artist that the audience was. G-Unit ran through their a short set of old and new cuts like Buck's "Life," Banks’ "Send You to Hell," 50 Cent's "Don't Worry ‘Bout It" and G-Unit’s "Watch Me." They mixed in new Kidd Kidd songs for people who were unfamiliar. Flanked by a large group of G-Unit affiliates, the Unit's performance was to show their strength in numbers and the undying support for one of their own. Reluctant to play his own classics, 50 premiered Kidd Kidd's new single "Ejected" that features Lil Wayne, showing his good business acumen by saying it’s going to be in clubs everywhere and we'll known the lyrics soon. "Thanks for coming out to show your love and support for new artists," he said.

There were more gaps to fill throughout the three-and-a-half hour show. OG Maco, who was supposed to start the show at 8 p.m couldn't attend because of illness. Raury and GoldLink weren't present either. After opening sets by Shy Glizzy and K Camp, who both performed a good chunk of their known hits, host DJ Suss One killed time by letting a DJ play in between sets. Every name he announced to the stage had a louder reaction, which you could attribute to the amount of media exposure they’ve had before becoming XXL Freshmen. Surprisingly, Tink and Vince Staples -- two undeniable favorites for music critics -- received a few cheers in a crowd where mostly stood aimlessly with blank stares. Tink didn't get a huge response when performing her Jeremih-assisted "Don't Tell Nobody." "Ladies are y'all f---ing with me or nah?" she said, as if a cry for unity in a male-dominated atmosphere. The 19-year-old Timbaland protégé was impressively poised, continuing to bop to her own lyrics of "Ratchet Commandments." Her excellent Aaliyah remake, "Million," played to an uninterested crowd as Tink disappeared backstage.

 

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Vince Staples, who just put out his Def Jam debut Summertime ’06, came out the gate with tons of energy, hopping around the stage to "Blue Suede." The crowd looked to be watching him as a spectacle rather than a performer, and Staples even had to poke fun at it; he reminded everyone that this wasn’t a Talib Kweli show and we could all turn up. "Señorita," the lead single from his album, only had a few people throwing their hands up -- and this is a song that features a Future sample. "Norf Norf," his prideful Long Beach anthem, didn’t connect either. But his a cappella of the song did. Maybe real hip-hop isn't frowned upon after all.

The two most visible performers were DeJ Loaf and Fetty Wap. With so many glow sticks illuminating in the crowd, fans couldn't wait to go crazy once familiar songs were heard. They were warmed up to the Detroit rapper's radio-heavy collaborations (Kid Ink’s "Be Real," Omarion’s "Post to Be" remix). Her biggest single, "Try Me," rang through the speakers with authority. When it came time for Fetty Wap to close out the night, the energy shifted. This was officially a Fetty Wap show.

By far, Fetty Wap has had the most success than any other person on stage since "Trap Queen" turned him into a household name (Summer Jam, 2015 BET Awards). The 24-year-old trap&b star has been slowly building his crew now that they can be billed as Fetty Wap Presents: The Remy Boyz. "My Way" was the loudest sing-along song of the night. The slender MC looked happy to be there: smiling, dancing with the crowd, and overall just enjoying his latest resume builder. He followed "My Way" with "679" and "Again," pausing to school concert-goers on the formula to make it in hip-hop in 2015. "To my fellas, if you want to be successful in this shit, make songs for the ladies." The one-two combos kept coming: "RGF Island" and "Overnight" brought out everyone's previously-hidden wild side.

The exhaustive effort to watch so many rappers perform was worth its explosive ending. "Trap Queen" stole the final moments and its lyrics were screamed by just about everyone in attendance. For a song that’s approaching its one-year anniversary this summer, Fetty Wap aimed to please his devoted fans regardless of how many times he’s performed it live. He brought out no guests despite the amount of rappers who've remixed the song. He finished at around 11:30 p.m. by shouting "1738! Fetty Wap!" His DJ cued the gunshot drop -- the bat signal to telling those in attendance that the show’s over. For a concert overwhelmed with fans who all just wanted to see Fetty Wap, he might have been the smartest Freshman pick of the entire class.