Yesterday XXL released their Freshman 2016 issue. The “New Wave” class of 2016 graced the cover all color-coordinated in white outfits, and each was striking a different pose. When the cover was finally released, there was a lot of negative feedback from regular people. Of course, STANS (aka super fans) and celebrities were extremely excited and supportive, but the general public was left unsatisfied. On Twitter, the magazine received a lot of backlash from users stating that the magazine’s choice was “trash” — with the exception of maybe one or two artists. “Panda” rapper Desiigner seemed to be everyone’s choice target; many felt as if he didn’t deserve a spot on the cover. One user on our Instagram even commented that “they all look like they’re trying too hard to be different.”
Reading that comment made me think about how much rap/hip-hop has changed in the past ten, even five years. As I look at the cover, I see a multitude of “unconventional” colorful hairstyles that once would have been viewed as “questionable.” Skin that’s covered in tattoos that it seems as if they were born with the ink. The love of “bling” is still prevalent as each rapper is rocking jewelry that could probably pay off all of my student loans. So, have we reached a new era in hip hop culture? The focus no longer seems ONLY to be about how well a rapper can spit, but their personal brand. Social media, an element that was virtually non-existent ten years ago, plays an important role in these artists’ lives. Gone are the days where people are selling you their mixtape out of their trunks hoping that word of mouth will propel them to stardom. Instead, it’s all about how they present themselves to the public, the ability to strike up enough interest for people to follow, and creating a following so large that their musical agenda is pushed to new heights.
XXL’s decision to have these artists on the cover is a decision that many of us may never understand or agree with; however, it is a part of the changing times of hip-hop culture.