My fave hip hop senseis are always stomping on the current state of hip-hop with their pristine Timberland boots. They love to talk about what’s “real” and what’s not. I always back my generation of hip-hop and say that even though some more popular hip hop isn’t too great there are many more young artists that are spectacular. My first thought (from that one side of my brain that’s a hip hop purist) was that the cover was full of complete and utter garbage, besides a few bright spots that I had already been introduced to.

Then the 2017 XXL Freshman cover happened, and the senseis were talking my ear off again about how the artists of my generation were killing real hip hop with their colorful dreads and constant dabbing.

Even I was quite skeptical of this cover I knew of the artists, but I never investigated if they were poppin’ or not. I decided that I’m going to take this opportunity to give some of the XXL Freshman a deeper look. I also wanted to tell my senseis off, but that’s beside the point.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Atlanta rapper/rockstar Playboi Carti and Philly Thug&B crooner PNB Rock.

Playboi Carti is the artist that I’ve heard the most about from other people. I figured he was a good place to start my search for new music.

He honestly seems like a really down-to-earth guy from this XXL interview. He may say “it’s lit” a couple more times than I’d like, but he seems like has a grip on the individuals that have paved the way for him in the rap game (Gucci Mane, Shawty Lo, etc.). A lot of old heads get on the younger generation for their lack of hip hop knowledge (is there a required hip-hop history class that you have to take before you become a rapper? like come on…) but Carti seemed to know where the trap wave came from.

Next, I took a listen to his freestyle.

To be blunt, this was terrible. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I really wanted to like this guy and see the fire that others see in him. There are a couple things wrong with this freestyle:

  1. Pronunciation – I know he must have had more than one take to get this freestyle down. He couldn’t have seen this and thought he did his best work. Bits and pieces of the verse (0:04, 0:13) I couldn’t really understand cause it seemed like he was rushing his way through it.
  2. Content – Bitches. Watches. Cash. That’s pretty much it.
  3. Flow – He relies upon ad-libs too much for my liking (i.e. yeah & yup). It seems like those filler words filled up half the verse. The flow also changed up in the middle of the vid, which would be fine if there was a beat accompanying it. Obviously, it’s a capella so it just sounded awkward as ever.

After that freestyle, I wasn’t too optimistic about Carti. But, I decided to give the kid another chance and listen to some of his music. I had heard Magnolia previously, which I believe is his biggest track. It’s one of those songs you’d have in the playing in the background at a kickback. Nothing too spectacular. So, I tried to find something else.

I like the flow in Woke Up Like This better than Magnolia for sure. He has more room to pronounciate, and I also like the extra last word padding in his flow adding a more of an interesting pace to his rhymes.

Even though I usually turn my nose like an uppity white lady from the suburbs when I see Rap Genius make one of these Verified videos for a super simple song. But, honestly, there’s something about Playboi Carti that I like. Is it because he’s attractive? Is it because he just seems like a mad regular dude who got thrown in this wild hip hop world? Is it because he couldn’t hold his neck straight in this video?

I don’t know for sure what draws me to him. But, I won’t say that there’s nothing there. He may not be the best rapper lyrically (by a long shot) but I can see why other people radiate to him.

Will I listen to him again? Maybe if he does a song with someone that I’m more familiar with. Someone that’ll challenge him to be more lyrical. Or, maybe I’ll slide him on a “turn up” playlist if I’m really feeling like people talking like me.

Next up, let’s look into PNB Rock.

PNB Rock kinda looks like Will Smith and Klay Thompson smashed together. That’s beside the point though. He’s definitely confident in the interview, but he’s not overly so.

I’m kind of confused because the last half of the freestyle sounded like it came straight from a song. Like, he sang half the hook and everything.

  1. Pronunciation – I understood everything that he was saying. He took his time with it and didn’t seem too nervous.
  2. Content – Storytelling was all over the place. I enjoyed the parts where he was talking about his family and his personal struggles, but then he seemed to fall back on the girls, money, and clothes shtick. If he kept with his struggle I would have been more for it.
  3. Flow – Pretty good. Even though he lost it half way through, it seemed like he had a good wave going. I dig it.

Let’s look at some of his tracks.

I like the production of the track. The lyrics are kind of ridiculous (Saying he doesn’t want commitment, but he doesn’t want to see her with anyone else cause he’s “selfish”…what?! Talk about guy logic.) But, I shouldn’t expect much lyrically. And, the fact that he’s in a strip club throughout most of the video is quite off-putting. He seems like he doesn’t know what type of artist he wants to be. Is he appealing to the ladies or the fellas?

I just had to add this Genius video to Selfish. It’s semi-cute that he wrote the song about a girl that he was dealing with, that he took to the studio with him. Still, the lyrics are #notgood.

Notice Me is cute. I like it. It’s a timely tune for the social media obsessed Millenial generation. So, I can relate to what he’s saying in the song. Also, the video (concept, editing) is mad unique and something I can take notes from.

Will I listen to him again? I believe so. He’d fit well on a “let’s chillax and talk about our feelings” Spotify playlist.

Overall, I can see the appeal of both Playboi Carti and PNB Rock. Playboi Carti seems super down-to-earth but charismatic about his entrance into the rap game, and PNB Rock fits well into that Thug&B sound that artists like Chris Brown and The Weeknd have been popularizing. Sadly, I didn’t fall in love with either of these two artists. I’d only re-listen to them if the appropriate opportunity arose.

What do you think? How do you feel about PNB Rock and Playboi Carti? Did I miss a song that would totally change my mind about them? Let me know in the comment section how you feel.


  1. I think I remember everyone talking about this cover! Good to see it broken down for ppl like me that don’t stay up to date with the trends all the time (tho my kids do. lol!)

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