XXL Magazine started their industry-renowned and highly sought after Freshman Covers back in 2007 with their Leaders of the New School with artists like Lupe Fiasco, Saigon, Plies, Gorilla Zoe, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and more. Of those the obvious name that sticks out as the one who has been the most successful is Lupe Fiasco with the release of a couple classic albums and hit songs like Kick, Push, Superstar, Daydreamin’, The Show Goes On and more. The others had short runs of success (prime examples being Plies and Gorilla Zoe) but the others have had relatively lackluster careers.
From there XXL took a break from their Freshman list in 2008 but got right back at it in 2009 with a quality list of artists including B.o.B., Wale, Asher Roth, Ace Hood, Curren$y, and Kid Cudi. All of these guys have had a pretty exciting career. Curren$y is too one dimensional and has therefore yet to blow up and Asher Roth started as a college rapper who had to reinvent himself in order to reinvigorate his career with the recent release of his new album RetroHash which is definitely his best work to date.
2010 came a year of big names as well with the introduction of J Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle, and Jay Rock. J Cole has the most promise for the future with Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa coming in a close second and third. Jay Rock is the original TDE member but has yet to truly reach the level of fame and success that his fellow members Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q have. 2014 will hopefully lead to a quality album release from him. Nipsey Hussle is a true street rapper with the release of his Crenshaw mixtape release where the asking price was $100. A hefty price for a no-name rapper, right?
The 2011 has some huge names on their with the biggest name in hip hop other than Drake in Kendrick Lamar. The other successful rappers on this year’s list are YG, Meek Mill, CyHi the Prince, Mac Miller and Big K.R.I.T. Kendrick released one of the best hip hop albums of all time back in 2012 with good kid, m.A.A.d city (and don’t forget Section.80 either). The whole world is waiting on his next move and are definitely getting antsy. What will Kendrick do next? Also, Mac Miller is a truly self-made artist and released one of the best hip hop albums of 2013 with Watching Movies With the Sound Off. He also just released a new mixtape entitled Faces which is filled with dark yet gripping lyrics and storytelling on the 24 track mixtape that sounds more like a studio album than a mixtape filled with a compilation of tracks recorded over a long period of time. YG is doing his thing now as well. Cyhi is back at it with a couple successful mixtapes. Meek Mill is recording a new album as well so there is still a lot of promise for the XXL 2011 Freshmen Class.
2012 brings us the introduction of Macklemore, Kid Ink, Future, Danny Brown, French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly (MGK), Hopsin among others. Macklemore releases one of the most well put together albums of 2012 with The Heist. It was a top 2 album of the year in my eyes right up there with Kendrick’s GKMC. His heartfelt stories led the listener to have an understanding for where Macklemore has come from and what he has been through. Kid Ink has been delivering hits since day one with his slew of mixtapes and now 2 studio albums with the huge hit Show Me (feat. Chris Brown) as the highlight of his career thus far. Danny Brown is a very ecclectic rapper but seems to have a cult following as does Hopsin. Future has talent and released a pretty good studio album in Honest this past year. French Montana gets on my nerves but has had a pretty good career so far too. MGK is also doing his thing with the release of a couple real dope tracks in the past 10-12 months such as Mind of a Stoner, State of Mind, and Sail (Remix). 2012 seems to be one of the better classes in regards to overall talent instead of one or two huge standout artists.
Last year’s cover (2013), was released with the debatable headline, “Best Freshmen Class Ever?” Artists like Schoolboy Q, Logic, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul, Dizzy Wright, Kirko Bangz, Travi$ Scott Angel Haze and that’s basically it. This is arguably the best lyricist class ever with top-notch lyrical rappers such as Logic, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul and Angel Haze but it is too early to tell if they are the best freshmen class ever. There are arguments for each and every class to be the best. The most convincing are 2012 with the overall talent, 2011 solely based on Kendrick and Mac Miller and 2010 with the rise of J Cole, Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean.
Now finally to this year’s list. Their Freshmen Class is as follows: Chance the Rapper, Rich Homie Quan, Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Durk, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave, Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, Jon Connor, Jarren Benton, and August Alsina. This list is interesting in that August Alsina is an R&B singer who has a rap-like style and Ty Dolla $ign predominantly sings on his tracks are very club dominated so far with the heavy production from DJ Mustard. There is most definitely a lot of promise in artists like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Ty Dolla $ign, and Isaiah Rashad. Those names I definitely think deserve to be on that list based on pure talent and hits thus far. Jon Connor needs to prove himself a bit more but seems to have the lyrical talent. And I would not call Troy Ave a freshmen anymore. The others should by no means be on this list.
My list for the 2014 Freshmen Class goes as follows:
Chance the Rapper, Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla $ign, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Dillon Cooper, G-Eazy, Hoodie Allen, Chris Webby, Mike Stud, Casey Veggies, and Vince Staples. These guys all are very talented and have a huge buzz surrounding their name. Dillon Cooper blew us all away with his flows and lyricism on his mixtape Cozmik back in 2013. G-Eazy has been killing it across the country on his These Things Happen Tour and actually had E-40 come out to perform the remix to G’s hit song Far Alone (feat. E-40 and Jay Ant). Plus his debut album, These Things Happen, is coming out June 23rd this summer and is going to make waves in the industry. Same goes for Hoodie Allen who I hear all the time at colleges and summer parties all the time with his hit No Interruption and No Faith in Brooklyn, he is now back at it with Show Me What You’re Made Of which is the lead single for his new upcoming album. Webby is a fellow Ct native who has had one of the most illustrious mixtape careers where he was the only artist to crash DatPiff.com at least a couple times. He is planning to release his debut album this coming year at some point and after hearing his EP in late 2013, I am very intrigued to hear what he has to give the fans. Mike Stud has been releasing hit videos on YouTube almost weekly since 2011 and they keep getting crazier, funnier and full of even more talent. He is releasing a new album this summer and I feel this will be a defining moment in his career and what the future may entail for him and his team. Veggies and Staples are both full of talent and successful mixtapes but have yet to prove themselves in the public eye with a album release. Staples has been killing it recently with his remix to The Worst by Jhene Aiko and a couple other features and tracks of his own. This is my list and it is just an opinion. I tend not to listen to artists like Lil Bibby, Lil Durk or Rich Homie Quan but that’s just me. It will be interesting to see how all these aforementioned artists do this year and who will impress the most and then the big question of who will be members of the 2015 Freshmen Class. I hope some of the artists I mentioned above who were not named to the 2014 Freshmen Class end up on the 2015 Cover as they have worked hard and deserve a bigger following.
Thanks and please feel free to comment and spark some debate!