XXL Freshmen 2015: Our Top 10 Picks of Who Should Be on the Cover
Being on the cover of a magazine doesn't hold as much weight as it once did. Long gone are the days when people got new information on their favorite artists and opinions on music via magazines and were forced to wait weeks or even months for a new issue to be published. The power of the internet has made it easier for rappers and singers to get access to their fans, but there is still one publication that gets hip-hop heads excited year after year: the XXL Freshmen issue.
Contrary to popular belief, having your name and face visible to see at newsstands nationwide -- and in certain cases, worldwide -- can still be invaluable exposure for a rising artist. The field is packed with newbies vying for prospective fans and the opportunities that come along with having all eyes in their direction.
The annual XXL Freshmen issue has become to hip-hop what an All-American team is to sports. Since the first Freshmen issue was unleashed in 2008, a number of successful artists have been featured on the cover, including current leaders of the new "cool" like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Wale, Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, among other notable names.
Now that XXL's 10th Spot has ended, we thought it'd be a good time to make our own predictions on which rappers -- and singers -- are deserving to be included in the 2015 XXL Freshmen class. Did your favorite new jack make the list? Check out our selections below.
New York City may be the mecca of hip-hop, but ATL has claimed the bragging rights of producing the best new talent in rap over the last decade. Young Scooter is one of the newer additions to that lineage of promising upstarts out of the home of strip clubs and the waffle house.
An affiliate of fellow ATLiens Gucci Mane and Future, Young Scooter decided to boss up, forming his own imprint, Black Migo Gang, in conjunction with Freebandz and 1017 Brick Squad. He's released an endless stream of solo mixtapes (Street Lottery 1 & 2, Juug Season), as well as a few collaborative efforts with Gucci (Free Bricks 2), proving he's on a hot streak.
Looking to further his campaign with his upcoming debut album, Juug House, Young Scooter is one to watch in 2015 and a great candidate for the XXL Freshmen list.
2014 was a buzzworthy year for Bas. Cultivating his talent over the last three years, the Queens, N.Y. native has quietly built a strong following for himself. After releasing two volumes of his Quarter Water Raised Me mixtape series, Bas dropped his 2014 LP, Last Winter, to much critical acclaim. The effort features appearances from Mack Wilds and J. Cole and showcases the rising MC's penchant for carefree lyricism and infectious songwriting.
With an invaluable cosign courtesy of his label head and longtime friend J. Cole, the support of his Super Mooking Fiends crew and having the chance to further spread his name on the Forest Hills Drive tour, Bas is primed for a breakout year and a sleeper to make the final cut for the Freshmen cover.
Despite being a hub for urban culture for the last century, Chicago is finally making a name for itself as a hotbed for some of the finest rap talent to emerge in recent times. Following in the footsteps of partner in rhyme, Lil Bibby, Chi-Town spitter Lil Herb is poised to continue the city's rap renaissance.
Herb first gained attention in 2012, when his and Lil Bibby's collaborative cut, "Kill S---," racked up millions of views on YouTube and took Herb from an unknown to a top prospect. He truly hit his stride in 2014, releasing Welcome to Fazoland, the Pistol P Project and lending his Harold's Chicken-flavored flow to household names such as Nicki Minaj and Common.
Currently prepping for his upcoming mixtape, Ballin' Like Kobe, and continuing to keep his name ringing, Lil Herb looks to be at the head of his class as far as Chicago rappers go.
Female rappers are slowly but surely coming back to the forefront of hip-hop. Casual fans may be more familiar with Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea, but Chicago native Tink has been touted as most likely to crash the party and toss her hat into the best female talent in the game.
Equally skilled as a vocalist and an MC, the musical double threat may have just celebrated her 20th birthday last week, but has already garnered accolades such as having her 2014 release, Winter's Diary 2, ranked at No. 8 on Rolling Stone's year-end list for R&B albums.
She signed to legendary producer Timbaland's Mosely Music Group last year, released a bold new song with "Ratchet Commandments" and is currently prepping her debut LP, which means we should be seeing a lot more of the pint-sized cutie in 2015.
In 2014, the Detroit rap scene got a boost of gangstafied estrogen when newcomer DeJ Loaf emerged on the scene. Releasing her first mixtape, Just Do It., in 2012, her career didn't really take off until she released her single, "Try Me," which slowly gained traction online, leading to millions singing along to her unlikely club banger.
Eventually signing with Columbia Records, she unleashed her first nationally recognized mixtape, Sell Sole, and has popped up on a number of high-profile records since, most notably the Motor City posse cut, "Detroit vs Everybody," as well as Game's new single, "Ryda."
With oodles of swag and a superstar aura to her presence, DeJ Loaf has all the traits of a promising talent and could add to the growing list of female MCs competing with the big boys and dominate. Add that to the fact that she's been far from creatively loafing during the past 365 and has managed to keep her name abuzz, XXL would be remiss not to include DeJ on the Freshmen cover.
More than 20 years have passed since Snoop Dogg put Long Beach, Calif. on the map, but fellow LBC native Vince Staples is looking to restore the feeling. The 21-year-old has been making his rounds on the blog circuit for the past few years, releasing a number of critically acclaimed mixtapes, including Stolen Youth and Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2.
Signing to Def Jam Records in 2013, the young wordsmith continues to make his bones in the underground via a number of standout guest appearances and by hitting the road on Cali cousin Schoolboy Q's Oxymoron tour. He also landed two features on Common's Grammy-nominated album, Nobody's Smiling, as well as the opportunity to perform alongside Common at the 2014 BET Awards, earning himself some valuable face time.
Capping off 2014 with the release of his well-received Hell Can Wait EP, Vince Staples is currently readying his Def Jam debut album, Summertime, and looks to be a major contender for a slot on the Freshmen list.
Coming from the home of arguably the hottest rapper in rap has its perks, one of them being a spotlight on your city. In this situation, that rapper is Drake and the city Toronto, home to R&B star-in-waiting, PARTYNEXTDOOR. After piquing the interest of Champagne Papi, PND signed to his OVO Sound, releasing his eponymous debut mixtape. While appearances from Drake didn't hurt matters at all, the true draw was PND's emotive, yet aggressive songwriting and endless stream of melodies.
He's toured alongside Drizzy, Future and Miguel on the Would You Like A Tour? concert run and released PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO, which was considered by many as one of the solid R&B releases of 2014 with songs like "Recognize" and "Options." Ending the year on a high note by giving fans a four-track EP, PNDCOLOURS, and releasing dates for his highly anticipated PND LIVE tour, the singer looks like a safe pick to run things in 2015 and find his way on the cover along the way.
When you run down the rap talent to come out of New Jersey, the names are legendary, but the list is midget-sized in comparison to its neighbor, New York City. But Fetty Wap isn't concerned with his state's lack of rap royalty and is looking to make the Garden State proud with his addictive brand of music.
While not as tenured as the other artists on this list in terms of experience, what he lacks as far as resume he more than makes up for with his unlikely smash single, "Trap Queen," which climbed as high as No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest charting position for a rapper from New Jersey in a decade.
He signed to 300 Entertainment in November of last year and is looking to release a self-titled mixtape in the coming months. Fetty is furthering his Remy Boyz brand and is the perfect candidate to lock in a magazine cover in 2015.
Having a superstar rapper remix your song can do wonders for your career, just ask Migos. Well, ILOVEMAKONNEN found this out when Drake put his midas touch on the his track, "Tuesday." Using the cosign as a launching pad, Makonnen never looked back, signing to Drake's OVO Sound label. He earned a Grammy nod this year for the effort and is now gearing up for the release of his forthcoming mixtape, Drink More Water 5. And with cosigns from the likes of Miley Cyrus and producers Mike WiLL Made It and Metro Boomin, there's a good chance that Makonnen will have clubs going up daily rather than on a solitary Tuesday this time around. Now if that's not a frontrunner for a XXL Freshmen spot, we don't know what it is.
Before 2014 hit, OG Maco was a virtual unknown, but by the end of the year, he was a critic's darling and one of the breakout stars moving into 2015. Hitting big with his single, "U Guessed It," Maco emerged as the latest Quality Control signee to reach stardom and positioned himself alongside label mates Migos as top dogs in the southern rap scene.
The rapper put his nose to the grindstone and churned out his solo mixtape, Live Life 2, as well as Give Em Hell, a collaborative project with fellow rising Atlanta rapper Key!. Maco didn't stop there, delivering two EPs, including the socially-conscious release Breath and made sure he tore down any stage he stepped foot on. His buzz spread like wildfire and before long, he had everybody screaming and jumping around to his high-octane tunes.
Fans can expect more of those sounds on his upcoming project, Yep, with fellow XXL Freshmen hopeful Rome Fortune, in addition to a litany of other surprises the eclectic spit-kicker has up his sleeve.