Every year, no matter how good or bad the XXL Freshman list might be in everyone’s opinions, I can’t help but look forward to the different cyphers that come to life throughout the process. Typically, artists are paired up with each other even if they might not have ever even considered working with one another, and they’re given a beat that is typically simple enough to manage but could still possibly put them outside of their comfort zones. After all, they want these artists to not only take a victory lap after being awarded the title of XXL freshman, but they also want them to prove themselves and show fans exactly why they deserve this title.
In all honesty, I always find the freestyles lame no matter how good or bad they are because half the time, artists use lyrics that have already been recorded and released on other songs, and I just don’t think they do anything to back up the skills of each artist. As for the most recent cypher I saw, Fivio Foreign, Calboy, 24kGoldn, and Mulatto all teamed up and although these might be some random and unlikely pairings, they all manage to come together and kill their portions. JetsonMade took over the production on this one, utilizing lingering strings as well as trap percussion and booming drums to offer a simplistic beat, as I said before, but one that is definitely going to allow each and every artist to show off their skills.
Mulatto comes in first, and her attitude and pure insistence are at an all-time high. She absolutely took the opportunity with the platform she has to boast some hard-hitting and ruthless bars, not giving fans any chance to hate or complain as Fivio backs her up with some ad-libs throughout. Considering the instrumental is a little less melodic than a typical 24kGoldn song would be, he might be the most uncharacteristic addition to this cypher’s lineup. Nonetheless, he takes this in stride and rolls with the punches, showing off some more enthusiastic yet less melodious bars than normal. His flows seem to come naturally to him as he switches cadences in the blink of an eye, and the sheer lyricism and wordplays that he gifts us as he makes his way throughout his verse are just unbelievable, in my opinion.
The BPM in this song seems to be a bit different than Fivio is used to using in his own music so he slows his delivery down slightly, but still flows flawlessly. The smoothness of his voice is just like butter as he offers chopped up lines, sometimes rolling his words together and offering up some signature New York City attitude with every single line he recites. As Calboy comes in, he almost laughs his way throughout the first few lines he delivers as he shouts out fellow freshman and Chicagoan Polo G while also providing listeners with even more wordplays and artistry. About halfway through, he goes into a slightly more off-kilter flow that is completely different than anything else we heard throughout the cypher, and although his words are slowed down, he remains consistent and never allows himself too much time to take a break or even breathe, which is impressive in and of itself. When every artist finishes up their verses, they all offer up some ad-libs and final thoughts as the beat leads us out of the cypher once and for all.
Once again, I don’t think that the freestyles do these artists justice because no matter how hard you might go, if you’re doing anything acapella without any sort of rhythm or tempo, it’s just not doing your actual skills justice, in my opinion. That’s why, when it comes to the cyphers, this is really where I think artists can either shine or be left in the dust, and if one person has a really good verse, the others know that they need to bring the heat to avoid being overshadowed. Unbelievably, in this round, none of the artists truly outshined anyone else and they all delivered some crazy bars with even wilder cadences. If I had to choose, I’d say that 24k surprised me the most because I feel like he had the most to adapt to and he still killed it while Mulatto, Calboy, and Fivio all stood their ground and killed their verses too. I’m looking forward to checking out all the other cyphers as you should be too, but the Fivio Foreign, Calboy, 24kGoldn, and Mulatto cypher is definitely a must-listen.
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