Music Reviews — 10 April 2012
Machine Gun Kelly, Hopsin, French Montana Headline XXL’s 2012 Freshman Class

XXL Magazine’s 2012 Freshman Class f. Machine Gun Kelly, Future, Hopsin, French Montana & More
Best Buy Theater, New York, NY
April 9th, 2012

Concert Review: XXL Freshman - Roscoe Dash

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Swarms of hip hop fans packed the Best Buy Theater in Times Square on Monday night as XXL Magazine presented their annual ‘Freshman Class’ of relatively unknown artists primed for big things in the coming year. 2012’s incarnation featured ten different artists, with each one seemingly trying to outperform the previous’ live antics on stage. Headlined by Cleveland, Ohio’s Machine Gun Kelly, the show would be a showcase for rap music’s not too distant future, as some of the game’s most unheralded, talented, and hungriest performers all vied for spotlight supremacy.

Concert Review: XXL Freshman - Hopsin

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With ten acts performing for roughly four hours, some of the performers were handed some harsh treatment by the not-always-patient crowd. Detroit’s Danny Brown received a particularly short ended stick, appearing in a yellow ruler styled get up, and the crowd turned on him immediately. It was difficult not to empathize with the talented Brown, not given much of a chance before the booing commenced. Brown’s placement in the showcase may have been the issue, following a show-stopping performance by 26 year old Hopsin. Equipped with some frightening contact lenses, the Los Angeles bred rapper bounced around the stage and into the crowd, managing to even crowd surf his way through the entirety of “Sag My Pants” seamlessly. Bringing out Tech N9ne for “Am I A Psycho?” only solidified Hopsin’s place on the stage on this night, as the duo exchanged verses back and forth while the hungry crowd exploded.

Concert Review: XXL Freshman - French Montana

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Tech N9ne was the evening’s first surprise guest, but he surely wouldn’t be the last. New York’s own French Montana took the stage in ski masks accompanied by an entourage of around forty people, before being joined by Red Café and then DJ Khaled for “I’m On One.” Outfitted in a red jacket, the oversized, bearded rapper enjoyed the loudest pop of the night as he appeared, lending even more cred to French Montana’s blossoming popularity. Montana, surrounded by three hypemen, paraded around the stage for perhaps the show’s longest set performing “Shot Caller” and his closer, “Stay Schemin.

Other highlights of the night included a shirtless Roscoe Dash performing the familiar “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay,” Seattle’s Macklemore, who despite some initial doubts, managed to win over a judgmental crowd with an energetic stage presence and his affinity for David Bowie, and Atlanta’s Future, who relentlessly plugged the release of his April 17th album “Pluto,” with both large standees outside of the Best Buy Theater and on the mic inside. Losing his voice by the end of his set, the rapper looked infinitely comfortable onstage, performing club hits like “Same Damn Time” and “Tony Montana,” which pleased an increasingly weary crowd.

While nine other artists made up this year’s Freshman bill, make no mistake about it- the show revolved around Machine Gun Kelly. In fact, chants for the white rapper rang out as soon as the show began and between artists (and even during some) they didn’t dissipate even a little bit. When it became clear that MGK would be next on stage, the remaining crowd grew to a frenzy as males emerged in the front row, shirtless and tatted up just like the rapper that was set to appear. Backed by a live drummer, Kelly defiantly took center stage, seemingly using his pent up anger and aggression to fuel a mostly intense and energetic set, to which the crowd reciprocated accordingly. With little energy remaining beforehand, the MGK fans gave back every bit they had left as the clock strode past midnight.

Concert Review: XXL Freshman - Machine Gun Kelly

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After performing in front of roughly 78,000 fans just over a week ago at South Beach’s Wrestlemania, MGK brought just as much vigor in front of the small crowd of New Yorkers on this night, proving most of all that he is a complete showman. From the catchy “Invincible” to his verbal musings, lashing out a disdain for doing interviews, Kelly utilized his hostility positively, bouncing around the stage so fast that catching a picture of him in progress proved almost impossible. In his abbreviated set Kelly managed to bring four girls up to the stage only to have them strip him to his boxers as he performed over Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” sending more traditional hip hop fans heading for the doors, but captivating most of us with his unpredictable antics. He then borrowed a cymbal from his drummer, poured a bottle of vodka on it, and proceeded to violently smash his head against it, all while his fans were going ballistic. Kelly openly encouraged fans to mosh during the show, which the crowd was all too willing to oblige. Moshing, at a hip hop show. Machine Gun Kelly’s showcase somehow found a common ground between hip hop and punk music- from his lighting quick rhymes to his Misfits tank top- and with “Wild Boy” as his closer, he managed to bring it all together excellently. It would be a miscalculated error to claim that MGK stole the show, when in fact it was his to own from the start. And he absolutely delivered and then some.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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