If you don’t already, you really should know about XXL’s Freshman List. In the hip-hop world, it’s a top 10 selected of who is next to blow. XXL, one of rap’s most established outlets, have been putting out the list since 2008, and it ain’t no joke. Former freshman have included Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Schoolboy Q, Future, French Montana, J Cole and the list goes on. They don’t always get it right – Gorilla Zoe came and then most definitely went – but more often than not, they’ve got those smart bets.
XXL have this week released their 2016 Freshman list and it’s received the standard frenzy of attention. Check our break down of the chosen ten.
Coming out of Hip-Hop’s home, New York City
You already know about Brooklyn’s Desiigner. That infectious energy donny who got his head bop on while swerving lanes with Yeezy, he’s been in controversy recently after revealing he’d never been to Atlanta, despite boasting about the broads he had in those ends. “Panda” is his standout hit to date, but that allegiance with Kanye’s GOOD Music will surely mean there are more on the way. Read our own interview with him here.
Next up, repping Spanish Harlem, is Dave East. He is signed to Nas’ Mass Appeal records, due to his raw lyrical style and vivid storytelling. His last mixtape featured the likes of Pusha T, Styles P and Jadakiss. His list of features kinda tells you what you need to know about East’s style.
Lil Yachty isn’t a rapper. He doesn’t consider himself one, anyway. The red-braided southern twanger featured as a model in Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ Madison Square Garden premiere and dropped his ‘Lil Boat’ mixtape in March, featuring Young Thug and Quavo. His “1 Night” visual is representative of the fact Yacht is moving a bit, urm, different.
21 Savage is also out of the ATL, but is probably one of the least known on the list. He’s a trap rapper and he’s hard. Simple flows and lyrics aligned with strong visuals is his kind of thing.
Straight Outta Florida
Kodak Black also features on the list. Kodak has a style that has touches of Bone Thugz n Harmony and says his music is about “previous and future criminal misdeeds.” He features on French Montana’s latest banger “Lock Jaw”, and is getting national love in the US, as well as receiving the notorious Drake cosign.
Denzel Curry has been kinda big for quite a while, but 2016 has definitely seen his profile elevate. He’s got an intense flow, almost sounding like his voice is breaking on the track (is my man about to cry?), mad energy and an even madder banger in recent release “ULT”.
Lil Uzi Vert (AKA – Little Green Gun?) is a trap dude. On “All My Chains” he raps ‘This a fly trap nigga theme song.’ Cool swag, and melody heavy, but does LUV sounds a little bit like a lot of rappers you’ve heard before?
Lil Dicky is a comedian/rapper, who has got two big hits alongside Fetty Wap and Snoop. As he raps on “$ave Dat Money”, “I been saving money since I was thirteen, I wear the same pair of jeans everyday” is the kind of bar you can expect from Dicky.
Cali and Chi-Town
Anderson Paak is doing his soul groove thing. He sounds a bit like a mashup between Isaac Hayes and Theophius London, bu also a bit unlike anyone else on the list. He’s already got a full-length album, ‘Malibu’, which has features from the likes of Schoolboy Q, Talib Kweli and BJ the Chicago Kid. He’s also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel, which probably means he is about to get very, very big.
Last up is G-Herbo, aka Lil Herb, aka a Chicago kid with a loose flow. He is one of quite a few artists on this list who owe part of their shine to a World Star release, showing the power of that channel nowadays. Anyway, he is kinda nice, but does he have the staying power? We’ll have to see.
The XXL cover features the class of 2016 clad in all white on a “Shutdown” flex. The list has had a mixed reaction so far, as you can see below. But selections of this nature always come with a bit of criticism, so take that with a pinch of salt.
So, while there are some questionable choices in there, some of these artists are going to be setting the musical agenda over upcoming years, so make sure you get to know.