Now in its tenth year, XXL Magazine has had the (dubious?) suspicion of crafting a list of ten musicians they feel are the next up, calling these selections their “Freshmen.” Never mind that most of their selections have been professionally doing music for years prior; it’s supposedly set up to give a “next big thing”-type of certification to its choices, but by the time it is announced some of their selections have already established a relatively successful career. The whole thing is designed to be a glammed-up version of The Source’s influential Unsigned Hype column, but the fact is that thanks to a constantly advancing digital age their fans know of their choices well before they’ve been picked by XXL. Still, there are rappers that still crave the Freshmen stamp.
Following a 2016 list which had the likes of Dave East, Anderson .Paak, G Herbo, Desiigner and others, the 2017 incarnation consists of (in alphabetical order):
- A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
- Kap G
- Playboi Carti
- PnB Rock
- Ugly God
- 10th Spot selection XXXTentacion
Hot takes time!
I’m just going to ignore XXXTentacion, lest I get called an “old hater” or something insipid (plus, I still don’t really know how to pronounce his name properly, and how I look like criticizing someone who I know more for his issues with Drake and fights with Rob $tone than for his own music?). I’m not too familiar with Ugly God either, save for the handful of songs I casually perused once or twice. Carti, KYLE, MadeinTYO, Kap G, Kamaiyah, and PnB Rock have been doing their respective things for a while now; it’s somewhat tough to consider them “freshmen” at this point. That just leaves A-Boogie and Aminé, who actually experienced breakout 2016s.
Again, these selections are predominantly “safe choices” for the magazine, as each artist all have some kind of momentum going for them already. Perhaps next year they’ll be willing to take a risk, but it’s unlikely.