Revisiting XXL Freshmen Ten of The Past – Where Are They Now


Revisiting The Inaugural XXL Freshman Class of 2007: Their Success & Where Are They Now


Gorilla Zoe
Looking back at it Zoe is one of the artists that sticks out as being questionable for the mention in the first place.  The former Boyz N Da Hood album did take Jeezy’s spot in the group and was signed to a solo deal as part of the Bad Boy South/Block Entertainment situation.  It can’t be forgotten that he released a couple of signature hits as well, “Hood Nigga” and the Yung Joc assisted “Juice Box”, both taken from his Welcome to the Zoo debut.  His follow-up album, Don’t Feed The Animals featured another banger, “Lost”.  Still he didn’t have the pedigree of some of the other artists on this list, but he had all the makings of a potential star.

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Where Are They Now?

Although it has been five long years removed from King Kong, the third solo album from ATL rapper Alonzo ‘Gorilla Zoe’ Mathis, that in no uncertain way means that he has hung up the microphone for good. As a matter of fact Zoe actually returned this past February with the frenetic party starter “Red Cup,” featuring Flo Rida – to whose label, International Music Group, he is now inked to – and Afrojack. Even though the sound is a departure of sorts from his early music, it just goes to show that Zoe is quick and easy to adapt to the current musical climate.


Joell Ortiz
Brooklyn, New York, spitter Joell Ortiz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, first rose to fame as a veteran on the underground rap battle circuit. Following two high profile recording contracts; Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label, both of which unfortunately nothing tangible resulted from, Ortiz opted instead to take the high road by embarking on a now highly notable independent solo journey.  Respectfully so, Joell is also one fourth of the Shady Records super-group Slaughterhouse.

Where Are They Now?
His fifth and latest endeavor, That’s Hip Hop, bowed this past March. The lyrically gifted Slaughterhouse quartet’s third studio LP, Glass House, is also due out later this year. #Yaowa


Crooked I
Another alumni, alongside the above mentioned Ortiz, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9″ of the Slaughterhouse collective, West Coast – Long Beach, CA, to be exact – rhyme animal Crooked I or Kxng Crooked as he prefers to be called, has a storied history – to say the least – in the music industry. Haven gotten his start during the Virgin Records era of his career where he appeared on compilations released by Big C-Style’s imprint, 19th Street, and soundtracks to movies such as Ride and Caught Up, pairing him with the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Eastsidaz and The Luniz… to the infamous Death Row second dynasty – their “dying” days – where he put in much work on Too Gangsta For Radio and Dysfunktional Family comps, as well as Tha Dogg Pound’s 2002, Ja Rule’s The Last Temptation and 2Pac’s Nu-Mixx Klazzics.  The mention as an XXL Freshman in 2007 was a good look, but honestly it was probably an insult for someone who had already been in the game for soooo long!

Where Are They Now?
His most recent body of work, Statik KXNG, is a collabo with producer Statik Selektah. Kxng Crooked is also CEO of his own record labels, Dynasty Entertainment and C.O.B. Digital, and Senior Vice President of Treacherous Records.  Crooked is expected to release his new project, Good vs. Evil in the coming weeks.  His show, a BET Rap search competition, One Shot is also premiering soon.  


As, then, one of the brightest new additions to Hip Hop, Papoose, née Shamele Mackie, literally broke into the rap game like gangbusters largely due to the release of his “Alphabetical Slaughter” gem. From there, and with the help of DJ Kayslay, Pap was soon able to secure a lucrative – to the tune of $1.5 million dollars – recording contract with Jive Records. His at that time proposed – not to mention highly anticipated – debut, The Nacirema Dream (ed.note: American backwards), was ultimately shelved causing him to permanently cut ties with Jive. The label went through a merger with Sony, so his ties to the industry were all but gone.  In 2012, the Bedford–Stuyvesant wordsmith landed a deal with Fontana Distribution, finally releasing his long time coming “official” first solo album in 2013.

Where Are They Now?

Papoose married rapstress Remy Ma in May ’08, while she was locked up.  The couple share recurring roles on VH1’s popular ‘Love & Hip Hop: New York‘ TV vehicle.  He released an album in 2015, but the buzz, hype, hope, whatever it was, has long faded for the emcee.


Young Dro
After making a huge splash with his regional hit song, “Yes Sir,” from his 2002 indie LP, I Got That Dro, D’Juan ‘Young Dro’ Hart was fortunate enough to be able to align himself with another Atlanta based rap artist and then budding music mogul, Clifford ‘T.I.’ Harris, Jr., who ultimately signed the hungry upstart to his, then, fledgling Grand Hustle Records roster. Dro’s major label outing, Best Thang Smokin’, contains his highest charting single to date the catchy “Shoulder Lean.”  He released his next album, High Times 7 years later in 2013.  That album featured the club bangers, “FDB” and “Strong”.

Where Are They Now?

The native Bankhead Georgia MC returned in September ’15 with his fourth full length studio opus, Da Reality Show [Grand Hustle/eOne Music], which has since been met with mostly positive reviews.  That featured another club anthem, “We In Da City”.  He’s maintained his lane and as long as he continues to have the backing of T.I. he will be okay.

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