XXL’s Freshman List is always one of the most awaited releases within the music calendar, and it is seen as, for most new artists, a provision of the exposure from which their career will spring upwards from. Many fans have slated the list in the past couple years, as it has moved more away from lyrical and conscious artists, and more towards, hype and trap artists, whose lyrical content isn’t as wordy and convoluted as their predecessors. The list has arguably become more about ‘clout’, rather than ‘talent’, so to speak, so it is always going to get its haters.
My personal opinion of the list is that it’s becoming more and more irrelevant, and new artists don’t necessarily need it to push their careers into the mainstream. For example, look at last year’s list; someone like Playboi Carti or XXXTentacion did not need to be on the list, because their careers were taking off anyway. But then again, you look at an artist like Kap G, who I would classify as a late bloomer, who has been putting in work for years, but wasn’t necessarily getting the plaudits he deserved. Maybe he needed to be on that list, so that people would quit sleeping on him, and realise that he actually makes good music. But, it’s all subjective.
Last week, the freshman pitches were released on YouTube, and links were provided for fans to vote for which artists they feel deserve to be on the list. Notable absentees from the pitches were Lil Pump, Ski Mask, Rich the Kid and Trippie Redd; many people probably expected their names to be the first on the list, due to the massive successes they have enjoyed over the last year*. But again, this served as a reminder of how the XXL Freshman List isn’t needed for every new artist, and you can blow up without it. From watching the pitches, I made a list of 10 artists who I would love to see on the cover.
1. UNO THE ACTIVIST
Uno the Activist made a pitch for last year’s list, but I knew he wasn’t ever going to get on the final cover. His music wasn’t as popular back then as it is now, and I feel like it was too early in his career for him to be put on it. This year, I think he deserves it, because he released one of my favourite songs last year, in Yamaha, and he had one of the strongest mixtapes out of the any other candidates. He’d been popping in the underground scene for around 2 years, but I think in the last year, he has slowly started to break out of that shell (shown with his European tour recently), and I think he is at the right place in his career to be put on the list.
Smokepurpp should be one of the frontrunners for this year’s list, because this guy knows how to make hits. I only listened to his Deadstar tape properly this year, and the amount of hits on that tape is crazy. Also, to learn that he also doubles up as a producer made me like the guy even more, so I think he deserves to be on the list. His releases in 2018 have been good too, especially 123, and I’m looking forward to seeing him perform at Wireless.
Another artist I kinda jumped onto late, but someone deserving of all the recent success she has been getting. She recently signed with Warner Bros, and after listening to her High Maintenance tape, I can definitely understand why. That ICY GRL joint is a hit, and I like how unique her voice is compared to other female rappers.
4. YUNG BANS
My 2nd favourite artist right now, and an artist whose career is blowing up faster than I think even he could ever imagine. The first song I heard of him was 4tspoon back in like 2016, and I didn’t really pay too much attention to him after that, until late last year. I heard Dresser, and I was hooked. I heard Dead Faces, and I was mesmerised. Then, this year, I listened to his tapes, and thought to myself that this guy is special. Although some people may say it’s a bit too early in his career to be put onto the list, I think with the hits he has under his belt, and the murder charge he was facing, there is no better time than the present for him to be on this list.
5. YOUNG NUDY
Watch this guy’s pitch if you really want a laugh. I’ve never seen such an unserious pitch, he fully doesn’t even look like he cares if he gets it or not. Weirdly enough, that’s made me want Nudy to be on the list even more. Music wise, he definitely deserves it. Nudy Land had some of the best production I have ever heard on a tape. The beats were actually insane, and his flow is so raw and unrefined, that it just meshed and merged so well with the beat. Just for that tape alone, he deserves to be a 2018 XXL Freshman.
6. LIL BABY
I’ve wrote about Lil Baby on this blog before, and I was happy to see him deliver a pitch for the list. From being in federal prison, to becoming a rapper, to releasing 3 tapes in a year, this journey has been crazy for him. But from a music standpoint, he makes some of the best music out of anyone else on this list. Take away his biggest hits in Freestyle and My Dawg, his actual tapes as a whole have gotten better with each release, and he has already starred in one of the hit songs of 2018 so far, in Oh Okay.
My favourite artist in the world. When I was writing about his songs on my blog last year, I never thought he would blow up to a point where he would be a contender for the list; not because he wasn’t good enough, but just because, I didn’t think he would even want to go down that route. But he did, and he is the first person I would vote for to be on the list. Drip Season 3 has been the best hip hop tape of 2018 for me, and he is just a hit making machine. Out of the 10 artists I will list, he makes the best music, and for that, he should be on this list.
8. TEE GRIZZLEY
After listening to his and Takeoff’s track, We The Ones, I started to listen to Tee Grizzley’s music, and I came to the conclusion that he makes some real clean music. His pitch got almost 200k views, so it is clear he is a popular candidate for the list, and a deserving one, at that. I hope to see him added to the final cover.
9. JAY CRITCH
Jay Critch HAS to be on the cover. The guy has given us too many hits to not be added to it, and it would be a real travesty and shame if he is overlooked for the likes of Lil Xan. A record deal with Interscope, more bangers than one can count, and a solid fanbase (all of this with no mixtape, by the way). If that doesn’t put him at the front of the line of the candidates, then I dunno for this list.
10. NBA YOUNGBOY
I hate that I like this guy’s music. This guy has so many red flags against his name, I’m even surprised that XXL went through with choosing him as one of the candidates. But this is a music list, and one must be judged from the quality of the music. Going from that, NBA Youngboy is one of the best of the new new generation of rappers. I like how he isn’t within the ‘xanned, leaned and mollied out’ part of this new wave of rap, and the guy knows how to make good songs. Go for it, I guess.
Others who I would have chosen if the list was bigger: Moneybagg Yo, Key Glock, Famous Dex (maybe), 6ix9ine**
*Tay-K also, but because of his incarceration, he obviously couldn’t be considered
**just because of that Chocolate tune