When one hears the phrase cypher, there’s an inherent expectation that bars will follow; look no further than Big Sean’s own stacked “Friday Night Cypher,” which recently lived up to the expectations of its wild lineup. For XXL, the cypher has been an anticipated tradition every Freshman Class, even though the classmates have been seemingly getting progressively less lyrical with each passing year. Yet with these low expectations comes room to be surprised, which bodes well for the first installment from Jack Harlow, Lil Keed, and Polo G.
Over a radio-ready instrumental from Jetsonmade, Harlow sets it off with a slick verse, proving that his skill set extends beyond “What’s Poppin.” “I’m tee’d up like Jake Austin, if you got an issue than say somethin’,” he raps, his cadence melodic. “Used to do shows, didn’t make nothin, now I got bread but I ain’t content.” Next up comes Lil Keed, who in all honesty needed something of a redemption round following his acapella freestyle effort; having the advantage of an instrumental this time, Keed’s style translates slightly better, though purists will likely deem him the weakest link.
In keeping with the pattern from years past, Polo G opts to deliver his verse without the beat. And while it does allow his lyrics to shine on their own merit, part of the enjoyment stems from hearing new flows. Still, it’s clear that Polo’s bars are sharp enough to retain attention, even if his performance comes with a marked drop in energy. Check out the entire clip below, and sound off with your takes on who took the crown in this opening round: Harlow, Keed, or Polo G?