2014 XXL Freshmen

Every year, the annual XXL Freshman cover creates a huge buzz, opening the door to much debate about whether these coveted 10 (now up to 12) artists deserve the spotlight as “the next big thing.” Since its inception in 2008, the cover has become bigger and bigger, now being practically a rite of passage for new artists in the game. Check out my breakdown of each class below and the covers in the gallery – and then give us your opinions in the comments and on Twitter! Can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

Marisa Mendez


2008: Lupe Fiasco, Lil Boosie, Joell Ortiz, Plies, Saigon, Rich Boy, Gorilla Zoe, Young Dro, Papoose, Crooked I
My opinion: Save for Papoose…LOL…this class was pretty strong. It may not have been immediate for each artist, but they definitely all got their time. Although it was kind of a one-hit wonder situation for Rich Boy and Gorilla Zoe.

2009: B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Curren$y, Wale, Ace Hood, Asher Roth, Mickey Factz, Cory Gunz, Blu, Charles Hamilton
My opinion: It starts off so strong…and then…well….! B.o.B., Cudi, Spitta, Wale and Ace have all gone on to do huge things. Asher had a very strong start and he’s still standing so that’s something. Cory Gunz…he had a good run for a sec during the “6 Foot, 7 Foot” time. Blu…who? Charles – oh man.

2010: J. Cole, Jay Rock, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle, Pill, OJ Da Juiceman, Fashawn, Freddie Gibbs, Donnis
My opinion: Love this class! Cole, Wiz and Sean were starting to explode at this time and they hit the nail on the heads with these guys. Jay Rock had a little solo run that didn’t really work but he’s definitely hot right now, as is Nipsey (who had a strong local and industry buzz back then, but nothing too major-scale.) Freddie Gibbs is still floating so that wasn’t totally off. Donnis, Pill, Fashawn and OJ, though? #OrNah.

2011: Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., Mac Miller, Lil B, Yelawolf, Lil Twist, Meek Mill, CyHi The Prynce, YG, Diggy Simmons, Fred the Godson
My opinion: Kendrick, KRIT, Mac, Yela and Meek – nailed it. YG was chosen here because of “Toot It & Boot It” and signing to Def Jam, but as we all know, wouldn’t go on to achieve national success until 2013. Still dope the XXL staff caught it early on! Twist, Lil B, CyHi, Diggy and Fred – I personally don’t think any of them lived up to the major hype they had early on.

2012: Danny Brown, Hopsin, Machine Gun Kelly, Macklemore, French Montana, Future, Kid Ink, Don Trip, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash
My opinion: I might be a little biased because MGK and French are good friends of mine, but I really love this class! Those 2, along with Danny Brown, Macklemore, Future, Iggy and Kid Ink all went on to achieve MAJOR levels of success, making this class quite possibly the most successful yet. Hopsin – I know he’s still buzzing heavy on an underground level, and Roscoe Dash is getting MULA with writing, so they also were good picks. Don Trip – anyone heard from him in a while?

2013: Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Dizzy Wright, Angel Haze, Trinidad James, Logic, Kirko Bangz, Travi$ Scott, Chief Keef
My opinion: I don’t really like this class at all. I think they were all obvious “safe” picks.

2014: Chance The Rapper, Rich Homie Quan, Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Durk, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave, Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, Jon Connor, Jarren Benton, August Alsina
My opinion: Interesting, that’s for sure. I kinda of feel like Chance is too big for it, as is Rich Homie Quan – although I guess he’s comparable to Future’s buzz when he landed the 2012 cover, so I guess it can rock. Isaiah is dope, but I think he’s way too green to deserve a cover yet. Durk, Bibby, Mensa and Gates – I think they totally make sense. Very good, organic buzzes that appear to be getting stronger and stronger. $ign – y’all know how I feel about him! – so I think he’s PERFECT for the cover. Truly think he’s going to be HUGE! Mark my words! August – he’s dope, but Vanessa cited not putting Sage The Gemini on the cover because he already had a major label debut…and August definitely already dropped an album. I don’t think it’s fair he gets a spot, despite the fact I definitely see a long, prosperous career for him as well. Troy Ave and Jon Connor – feels like industry favors. Just being honest. Although – Troy really does have a dope record with “My Style,” and he really is one of the only ones buzzing in NY right now. I don’t know, I need more time to marinate on that one. Then Jarren Benton – I mean, he was voted in, so he has to be doing something right!

My final verdict: the class of 2012 thus far has been the best because they had the least amount of weak links, followed by a tie between the classes of 2010 and 2011. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!