Back in 2007, nobody could have predicted that the “Leaders of the New School” cover would ignite this annual tradition in Hip Hop, but now celebrating its 15th anniversary and the reveal is still highly anticipated each year.
Throughout this tradition, we have been able to witness the continuous evolution of Hip-Hop as well as what is predicted each artist will bring to the table as they progress into stardom.
XXL MAG Traditions
Many of these covers are extremely reminiscent of the sound Hip-Hop was known for at the time while also introducing artists willing to bend the rules. We were able to witness the legends of the early 2010s from J.Cole to Kendrick Lamar take the cover as rookies. We were then introduced to the newcomers of the mid and late 2010s from Chance The Rapper to 21 Savage to JID.
This year XXL stated, “The 2022 XXL Freshman Class is breaking the mold. They refuse to conform to the norm and pride themselves on creating a fresh sound in hip-hop. Like the classes that came before them, these newly inducted rappers are aiming for superstardom.” So who made it to this year’s cover?
Meet The Freshman
1. Nardo Wick
The Jacksonville rapper shot to fame rather quickly with the help of his 2021 viral hit, “Who Wants Smoke?” He was signed to RCA at just 19 years old and went on to release his debut album “Who is Nardo Wick” late last year.
The Tampa native recently became the first female rapper to sign to TDE after her 2020 song “Yucky Blucky Fruitcake” went viral. Her most recent singles with TDE are “Persuasive” and “Crazy” in which she proves her potential is endless.
Based in Atlanta, the 20-year-old made his way into the scene with his 2019 song “Knock Knock.” He would later sign to Travis Scott’s record label Cactus Jack and has just released his EP “B4pink.”
4. Babyface Ray
Born in Detroit, the 31-year-old has been at it since 2010 but the momentum didn’t pick up for him until his 2019 album “MIA Season 2.” He has since then kept the momentum going and recently released his album FACE.
The Roswell rapper is most known for her 2021 hit “Do A Bitch” which sparked remixes with Rico Nasty, Saucy Santana, and Enchanting, she exudes confidence in her music as it can be seen throughout her most recent work Toxic Chocolate.
Born in Kenya the 24-year-old grew up in Minnesota and has struck cosigns from artists such as Drake and Kanye West. He went on to receive Grammy nominations for his work on Kanye West’s Donda and has just released his album Get Used To It.
From Palm Bay Florida, he caught the attention of many in 2017 with his breakthrough song “Moshi Moshi” and in 2019 with his single “Hatchback.” He plans to release his third album, THE INSPECTION next week.
8. Big 30
Known for frequently collaborating with his childhood friend Pooh Shiesty, the Memphis native was signed to Moneybagg Yo’s label back in 2020 and went on to release his debut album King of Killbranch last year.
She rose from the Houston rap scene after releasing her debut mixtape Kenny’s Back in 2016 and is most known for her viral hit “He Be Like.” She is now signed to Asylum Worldwide in which she released her most recent album What’s My Name.
10. Big Scarr
The 22-year-old from Memphis signed a deal with Gucci Mane’s record label after the feedback of his debut single “Make a Play” in 2019 and released his debut album Big Grim Reaper last year.
11. Saucy Santana
Making way for LGBTQ artists in Hip-Hop, the Tallahassee native has released 5 projects since 2020 and has recently struck a deal with RCA. He has also just teamed up with Latto for his latest single “Booty.”
Known for his humorous rhymes and album titles, the Detroit rapper caught attention back in 2020 and has been pushing out projects since then under his deal with The Hip-Hop Lab Records.
What do you think of this year’s roster? It definitely sparked mixed reviews-many wondering why their artist didn’t make the cut, but we still have a lot to learn about this year’s Freshman class. Over the next month, we will be seeing more of them in interviews, freestyles, and cyphers with beats produced by Wheezy Outta Here, so be on the lookout as we wait for the issue to hit stands on July 13th.