Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and complaining about XXL‘s annual Freshman class.
Since 2007, the yearly list has featured hip-hop heavyweights poised to blow up and counts Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Chance the Rapper as just some of its past honorees. However, more recently, the magazine’s selections have reflected the growing divide between “traditional rap” and the rise of the genre’s more popular and viral offshoots. What’s interesting about this year’s list is the degree it skews towards the latter.
Four of the rappers on the list — Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, Wifisfuneral — are from the same bubbling music scene in Florida that has overtaken the Billboard and streaming charts. Trippie Redd, from Canton, Ohio, shares aesthetic and sonic similarities (colored dreads, face tattoos, punk and emo influences) with the aforementioned. Unfortunately, the Midwestern star was reportedly arrested on the same day of the cover reveal on charges of aggravated assault and battery causing substantial physical harm, according to TMZ.
The rest of the class, with the exception of one, hails from the South. YBN Nahmir is from Alabama and hit the scene with the viral “Rubbin Off The Paint,” which many compared to Texas rapper Tay-K’s “The Race.” BlocBoy JB is from Memphis and has seen his stock rise ever since Drake hopped on “Look Alive.” J.I.D, in a surprising turn of events, is the only artist from hip-hop’s current hit capital of Atlanta, but his style is closer to J. Cole — who he signed to in 2017.
In regrettable news, the only female rapper to grace the cover is British rapper Stefflon Don. In the 11-year history of the list, only six female rappers have appeared, with 2015 being the only time two women were on the cover at the same time (Dej Loaf and Tink).
Here are some of the best reactions from fans and the artists featured on the cover.