NEW YORK — On his 1986 classic "Eric B. is President," the great Rakim famously rapped "MC means move the crowd," and last night the 2012 XXL Magazine Freshman class did just that — well, the bulk of them anyway.
On Monday night, the rap mag, in conjunction with sponsors like Monster Energy Drink and Reebok, held its annual rookie concert, showcasing Machine Gun Kelly, French Montana, Future, Danny Brown, Hopsin, Macklemore, Roscoe Dash, Iggy Azalea, Don Trip and Kid Ink.
Things started a bit slow as the crowd filed in to the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. It was approximately 8 p.m. when L.A. MC Kid Ink took the stage to perform joints from his Wheels Up mixtape; Don Trip followed with a poignant performance that included his soul-bearing "Letter to My Son."
It was 9 p.m. when the night's hosts, Hot 97's Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg, introduced Iggy Azalea, XXL's first-ever female freshman. She started with "My World" from her Ignorant Art mixtape and ended with her latest single "Murda Bizness" sans her Grand Hustle mentor T.I. "I wish Tip was here," Iggy told MTV News on Monday just hours before she hit the stage. "It's so sad that he's not."
A few other ATL talents were in attendance though. Roscoe Dash ran through a collection of his own hits and high-powered collaborations like Waka Flocka Flame's "No Hands" and Big Sean's "Marvin & Chardonnay." Then Seattle rapper Macklemore brought a tremendous amount of pageantry to the stage, being the only freshman to rock with a horn player.
Hopsin came out to his "Ill Mind of Hopsin 4," the song where he takes aim at Odd Future. "All these no-flow, gimmicky-ass, fired-up behaviors/ With wack beats and gap teeth like Tyler, the Creator," he spit as the crowd cheered in approval.
Hop continued to thrill the crowd by bringing out Tech N9ne to perform their collaborative single "Am I Psycho." However, things took a turn when Detroit rapper Danny Brown took the stage with the tongue-in-cheek single, "Radio Song." The crowd jeered in disapproval, but later turned around when he brought out snubbed-XXL freshman Schoolboy Q.
As the night began to wind down, XXL rolled out their heaviest hitters. Atlanta's Future, with an astronaut mascot in tow, promoted his upcoming April 17 album Pluto by rocking songs like "Tony Montana" and his current single "Same Damn Time." Hometown hero French Montana was next up. Not only did the Coke Boy perform all of his underground favorites like "Choppa, Choppa Down" and "Everything's a Go," French and his team flooded the stage to deliver his biggest hit "Shot Caller." He then brought out Bad Boy labelmate Red Café and the omnipresent DJ Khaled just to spice things up a bit.
Before the night's closer Machine Gun Kelly took the stage, the fanatics that lined the first few rows began chants of "MGK" until he bounced from backstage rocking "LTFU (One More Time)" from his Rage Pack mixtape. It was a celebration for the underdogs as Kells saluted his ragers and Lace Up aficionados. Hands waved from side to side when the punk rock-inspired rapper delivered a spirited rendition of "Invincible" and his rambunctious "Chip Off the Block."
By the time MGK's set closed with his "Wild Boy" single, the rail-thin Cleveland MC was crowd-surfing and encouraging the crowd to mosh. When it was all said and done, 10 MCs with 10 different styles gave hope for future generations of rap fans and artists. Apart from a few exceptions, the crowd was moved and Rakim's words continued to reign true.
Which 2012 XXL Freshman is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!