For over a decade, legendary hip hop magazine, XXL has been nominating several candidates into a class known as the Freshman list. This list is dedicated to showcase the hottest up and coming rappers in the game. Alumni on this list includes J.Cole, Nipsey Hussle and many, many more. This annual list is always both exciting and controversial. Some of the selections are met with several fake hip hop critics bidding their taste as higher as the hand-selectors of the list. But, you can't please everyone/ This year's list makes no difference. Here is our take on the 2019 XXL Freshman List.
Pros of the List
Unlike any of its predecessors, this year's Freshman list has a large ranking of up and coming male and female artists. We are excited to see hip hop's new leading ladies on the list. Megan the Stallion, Rico Nasty, and Tierra Whack represent various styles of hip hop including that 90's sex appeal Trina or Lil Kim inspired sound, that Gothic soundcloud wave of rap, and unprecedented lyrical genius sound . We are also excited to see a couple of break out artists such as DaBaby, YBN Cordae, and Roddy Rich. Yes we're even happy with Blueface!
We first want to say that majority of these choices are not us saying we think these artists do not deserve to be on the list. However, we do feel that these selected artist need a little bit of an edge to add them to this prestigious list.
Gunna- Now we are absolutely not upset with this addition to the list. Gunna has had an impressive last two years with back to back hits and collaborations. The only reason this choice is questionable is because where there is Gunna, there is Lil Baby. Both artists came up around the same time and their similar styles brought us classics such as "Drip Too Hard" and "Close Friends". We are excited to see Gunna on this list but it just seems weird that his fellow artist and friend did not make the cut.
Lil Mosey & Comethazine- We were introduced to both artists thanks to the wave of young Soundcloud rappers. Building an underground fan base is definitely what got these two artists to the top. Unfortunately, did they make this list a little too soon. Now, both of these young artists are extremely talented but, we feel they have way more to offer. Neither have a signature song that a standard lover of music can point out. After build a stronger career and commercial fan base we feel the two would've be a great addition for up and coming years.
YK Osiris- Another young artist who is indeed talented. With his viral hit "Worth It" this is a great example of a growing hip hop star. However, he is still so young and new. With a little bit more wiggle room, the artist can develop a little more beyond a You Tube and Instagrammable artist.
Great Additions for 2019's List
YNW Melly (pre murder charge)
March 31st, 2019- The day began somber as it was originally synonymous for the 24th anniversary of the death of Latina legend Selena Quintanilla. Sad to say that day got way worst. That Sunday afternoon Los Angeles rapper, Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot outside of his own clothing store in Hyde Park. Instagram kept fans updated on the shooting. As thousands of fans posted their prayers for recovery, it was announced on all media outlets of the 33-year-old's death. The shocking news left fans stunned as he leaves behind longtime girlfriend Lauren London and his two children. Hussle was more than a local lyricist. His intentions to revive Hip Hop, culture and history makes his death even more heartbreaking. To show honor to the man who represented Southern Los Angeles so well, I wanted to write a brief piece that showed the many hats that Hussle represented in the African American community.
Ermias Asghedom transformed his experience as a 60's gang member to a narrative tale as rapper Nipsey Hussle. Los Angeles rap was slowly losing its sting as the south dominated hip-hop in the early 2000's. Hussle; however, was at the forefront of the decade's new era of Rap. In 2005, The 'Slauson Boy' caught the attention of music lovers in 2008 with the releases of the two volume mix tapes 'Bullets Aint Got No Name'. Combining the lyricism and storytelling nature of an early South Central Ice Cube and the smooth enticing voice of Long Beach's Snoop Dog, Hussle reminded fans of the legacy of West Coast Hip-Hop. Year after year, and collab after collab- Hussle created iconic projects The Marathon, The Marathon Continues, Crenshaw and Mailbox Money. Surrounded by J-Cole, Freddie Gibbs, and Big Sean on the XXL's 2010 Freshman Class, Hussle stood out as the "Most Determined" and as a man dedicated to building a legacy for himself. The Militant Manifesto spoke his success to existence as he finally gained his first Grammy nomination for his last album Victory Lap. Even though he did not take home the big reward of the night, he stole the show by cementing his legacy.
"Invest in assets, not liabilities", a young Hussle said eagerly to a reporter on what he would do with his future profits. Hussle though openly and freely about being an African American male who knows his worth. After signing to Epic Records in 2008, Hussle learned about the guttering truth of an agency signed artist. Between challenging an artist's persona and slowing down their process due to costs and over signing talents-the industry has no problem leaving their performers high and dry. Hussle ended his deal in 2010, and created his own label All Money In. This was the first step to his entrepreneurial career. As a sufficient self-starter, Hussle moved differently than other rappers. Following after Jay-Z's creation of Tidal, Hussle regained interest in owning his own label and pricing his own masters. In doing so he charged one of his mix tapes for $100 (which Jay-Z purchased all of the copies). Other ventures that the rapper took interest in is fashion. In 2017, he opened his own clothing shop Marathon Clothing with Steve Careless and Karen Civil. In this shop he innovated the "Smart Shop" which fans can shop for one of kind clothing that syncs to Hussle's music purchases. Thus maximizing his ability to connect to his audience directly.
Speaking of connecting to fans, the Marathon Man was entirely for the people. Though fame and fortune came to Hussle, he never lost sight of his social agendas such as feeding the homeless, donating funds to community programs, and providing clothes and shoes for the less fortunate. Believing in teaching a man how to fish, Hussle's philanthropy style taught the community on how to profit off of themselves. His political awareness also encouraged youth to go out and vote with his YG collab "F*** Donald Trump. Hussle's latest work of activism was creating a documentary on the late Dr. Sebi. Sebi was a Hounduran herbalist and spiritualist who claimed to find a cure for Aids. In doing so however, the research was never shared to the world as the government silenced the man. Hussle was going to display the 1985 trial and prove to the world that anything is possible with hard work and education.
Los Angeles Legend
There are two faults within the rap community: First, many celebs who started out in the hood rarely return and second, when artists become famous they put on a pair of goggles that blinds them from what is going on in their community. Hussle was always both aware and proud of his roots. Starting out as a Rolling 60's gang member, Hussle acknowledged what he saw and how he can transform the history of LA gang violence. One way Hussle did this was by realizing that the reason so many children get involved in gangs is because the lack of educational resources and activities in the area. To "redefine what the streets expect" Hussle created several programs: The Too Big To Fail, a STEM center and co-working space in Crenshaw and the Marathon Movement, a program to donate back to the youth of Crenshaw. Hussle was also invested in buying back the community with his growing projects to refurbish Destination Crenshaw Arts District.
Though the world lost Nipsey Hussle, Los Angeles grieved a little bit more as we lost a father, a uncle and even big homie. We may have lost the man, but we can never lose his message. Thank you Hussle for all you have done and we will continue to keep your legacy alive.
All of the old heads can continue coming for this generation's idea of music. Mumble rap, drug references and consistent add libs- that's their only argument against our current state of hip hop. To each its own, is my usually calming personal response. However, lately I've realized that 2018 was shitty for a lot of things but, not for music! Music changes for both the better and for the worst. Some of these changes includes the growth of a Chicago MC, who has been grinding for years and is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Changes of the worst includes the loss of a Pittsburgh white rapper with flavor. 2018 will be classified on its own as a year of triumphs, tributes and trouble ; but through all these troubles it will be considered an interesting year for hip hop.
1. Female Rap
No matter how many Doll's are in the industry, I am more or so excited of the amount of females attempting rap this year! It's about time Nicki Minaj is given a run for her money. With a Grammy nomination and media attention completely on her, Cardi B controlled 2018. Even Minaj held her own with her 2018 release of "Queen'. Another female artist making her name this year is Megan Thee Stallion. The Houston MC's debut EP "Tina Snow", is proof that raunchy is returning for women rap. Artistry is cool but the sex appeal and bad-assness that Lil Kim made us feel in the 90's is finally returning to hip hop. Bay Area's own Saweetie also climbed the charts with her hits Icy and High Maintenance. Other leading female rappers in the industry includes: City Girls, KashDoll, Kodie Shane and Rico Nasty.
2. Iconic Returns
Due to the industry's chaotic lifestyle, it is imperative that every artist takes a little hiatus. Regrouping and rediscovering helps certain artists further establish their positions as a rapper. Some say "absence makes the heart grow fonder", and 2018 proved that theory to be true. Returning officially this year is one of my middle school's favorite Lil Wayne with the "Carter 5". This album was in response to the all of the new fans of hip hop who forgot the reason why some of these new aged rappers started in the first place with an iconic feature from Kendrick Lamar in "Mona Lisa". Another middle school favorite making his return is the top freestyle lyricist of all time Eminem. Slim Shady returned with "Kamikaze" , Nas returned with "Nasir" and another icon of mine Ice Cube returned with "Everything's Corrupt". Both artists continued growing their platform by reintroducing everyone to why they are considered the best of the best.
3. Everyone Loves a Comeback Story
Artists took a lot of L's the previous two years. From demolished rap beefs to a laughable standing in hip hop culture, these artists were almost forgotten in the eyes of hip hop. After his controversial jail release, Meek Mill made it a point to return to 2018 on top. Which he did and in style! Releasing two top albums: "Champions" and 'Legends of the Summer", the Philly rapper reminded everyone that no beef is permanent and he's not that easy to get rid of. Another comeback of the year was Los Angeles' own Tyga. Becoming the youngest Kadashian/Jenner's boy toy left Tyga lost in the new era of hip hop. Luckily his release of the summer hit "Taste" is an homage to the Cali MC getting his groove back. Other chart dropping singles proves that Tyga has something in stores for everyone in 2019. Coming back to the scene after a long hiatus is underground favorite Earl Sweatshirt. The Odd Future alumni returned with classic collaborations with producer Alchemist, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples and his own album "Some Rap Songs".
4. Keeping it Short & Sweet
Music is finally being made with the idea of quality over quantity. Stripping away extra production costs, features and flashy promotional tactics- Artists have developed a new tactic to display their current musical projects. GOOD music dropped several albums this year including: the head man in charge Kanye West, Nas, Kid Cudi and Pusha T. One thing all of these albums have in common is a track list of only seven songs. This common theme has made its way throughout the rest of 2018, with many artists releasing projects with seven songs- some even less. The trend is surprisingly becoming a favorite of mine as it allows me to focus on the actual song beyond the numbers game. Projects with this trend are previously stated EP "Legends of Summer" by Meek Mill, "Nasir" by Nas and "Kids See Ghosts" by Kanye and Cudi.
5. Sound Cloud Lives
2018 said good bye to many of our favorite APPS- Tumblr, Vine and old school favorite My Space. Though sad, the deleting of the tools was necessary due to their low popularity. But, with the large amount of rappers transitioning to stardom, who would've thought that Sound cloud was the next app on the chopping block. The modern day Lime Wire for the gen x youth to search through unreleased music for free, Sound Cloud has constructed the careers of Chicago's Chance the Rapper, the late XXXTentacion and many more. For some odd reason the company almost shut down after stiff competition between Spotify, Apple Music and the overly priced Tidal. Due to Chance's ability to always recognize his roots, he made it his duty to save the fallen app. Other rappers continued using the streaming service thus elevating their careers such as Ski Mask the Slump God, Trippie Redd, Denzel Curry and Uno the Activist.
6. Kings & Queens of R&B
"I am the king of R&B !" The phase heard around the world muttered by fairly new music artist Jacquees. I'm positive he was not even aware of how much backlash he would receive by stating this on one Instagram video. This announcement made the world stop and think of R&B in our current standings. Comparisons between the older and newer generation sparked the bigger question "Who is the overall king of R&B ?" Bringing R&B back to conversations was a big power move of 2018. While everyone was arguing about the king of R&B, the new queen of R&B Elle Mai took over whit her chart topping single "Boo'd Up". Other waves of R&B were introduced in 2018 with sounds from Neo-Soul artists Nao, Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) and Brent Faiyaz.
7. Hip Hop on Screen
Light, Camera, Action ! Hip Hop has taken on a new stage in 2018. With the release of the iconic film "Black Panther" came TDE's "Black Panther" soundtrack. This album features a variety of black artists paying homage to first Black superhero movie. Awards for the movie are already stacking up but the most surprising ones of all are the Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for the soundtrack. Artists on the soundtrack are used to praise such as Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Sza. However additional artists on this project includes: fellow TDE members Reason, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, artists 2 Chainz, Future, Travis Scoot, Vince Staples, Swae Lee, Khalid and The Weeknd are also currently in the running for award winning praise. Other standouts on the album includes Bay Area's own Mozzy and SOB x RBE.
8. Year of the Underdogs
It's about time that certain artists are getting the recognition that they deserve. 2018 saw the growth of many new upcoming artists. Some of these artists worked their asses off and finally got rewarded for it. Underdog of the year award goes to Deamville's own J.I.D. Grinding hard for years the East Atlanta artist caught J.Cole's attention in 2017. 2018 became his stepping stone as his project " DiCaprio 2" displays his craftsmanship and versatility. This album is pretty much on my top 10 album list of 2018. Another underdog receiving the recognition he deserves is TDE's Jay Rock. Ranking TDE is a difficult and pointless since Rock released "Redemption". This project proves Rock's rank among his fellow members and talent.
9. Collaboration Is Key
If there is anything that music taught me in 2018, it is that collaboration is key. This year we saw a lot of projects from husband and wife to mentors and men-tees and we even saw collaborations between long standing industry friends. These partnerships left us with the most memorable tracks of the year like "Sicko Mode". The "Astroworld" track featuring Travis Scott, Drake and soft vocals from Swae Lee was potentially the best collaborated song of the year. Some artists even decided to take their collaborations throughout their full albums. My favorite partnership of the year was "Fetti" by Freddie GIbbs , Curren$y and producer the Alchemist.
10. Rest In Peace
Certainly 2018 had its ups but also it had its downs! 2018 saw the lost of many musical icons from various generations. Losing the classic queen of soul Aretha Franklin , certainly left a empty feeling for the continuous of the year. Some deaths struck as a complete surprise. XXXTENTACION mounted his career by capturing a cult following via Soundcloud. His emo, vulnerable tracks left us all wanting more from the young rapper. Unfortunately, he was shot and killed in June 2018. At the age of only 20, he left us with his albums "?" and "Skins". Another huge lost in the hip hop community was one of my personal favorite Mac Miller. Brash; yet thoughtful, Miller was the perfect example of the late 2000's generational artists. Miller had the ability of finding ways to make music more personable and relatable. He had a knack for finding and co producing the best beats and channeling whatever he was feeling into his art. After releasing his final album "Swimming", Miller passed in September due to his struggle with substance abuse at the age of 26.