Earlier this month XXL Magazine revealed their 9th annual freshman class which includes: California’s Anderson .Paak; Atlanta’s 21 Savage; Florida’s Kodak Black and Denzel Curry; Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert; Pennsylvania’s Lil Dicky; Harlem’s Dave East; Brooklyn’s Desiigner; Chicago’s G Herbo and the 10th Spot winner, Lil Yachty. Let’s take a look at each artist’s road to success before the cover.


Anderson .Paak

The Technician. In 2014 .Paak released his debut studio album Venice. Between that release and his most recent album Malibu, .Paak only received marginal exposure and success in the music industry. After finishing working on Dr. Dre’s Compton, .Paak dropped an EP with Knxwledge titled Link Up & Suede, credited as the duo NxWorries. On Malibu .Paak majorly improved and received praise accordingly. The 4 singles for his second album, “The Season / Carry Me”; “Am I Wrong” featuring ScHoolboy Q; “Room in Here” featuring Sonyae Elise and The Game; and “Come Down,” sparked a serious buzz on the internet. As an artist .Paak brings equal parts soul, funk, R&B, and hip hop. His vibe is definitely undeniable.


21 Savage

The Savage. In 2015 the rap game was a playground for Savage. He burst onto the competitive Atlanta rap scene (which he hates) in May after dropping The Slaughter Tape, which contained the hits “Picky,””Skrtt Skrtt,” and “Slaughter Ya Daughter” featuring Key! and ILoveMakonnen. In July Savage and Sonny Digital linked up and dropped Free Guwop EP which spawned the street classics “Red Opps,” “One Foot,” and “12AM.” Savage left his mark with “Red Opps,” it’s in the same league as Waka Flocka’s crowd moving “Oh Let’s Do It.” Savage most recently dropped another mixtape, The Slaughter King. With production from Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, Fukk 12 and others; Savage keeps up his dark trap vibe on his second mixtape.


Kodak Black

The Finesse Kid. Flexing, finessing, and keeping up with his health are just a few of his concerns, but of course rapping is number one. In the past 3 years Black has been on a mission to get his story heard and he succeeded. He’s dropped 4 mixtapes (in order of release): Project Baby (2013), Heart of the Streets (2014), Institution (2015), and most recently Lil BIG Pac (2016.) Black paints a classic picture with his music; a picture of poverty, drugs abuse, living fast and dying young. “No Flocking” has become a young flexer’s theme song and a party anthem all in one. Once he clears up his current legal problems he’ll be ready to join fellow freshman Lil Uzi Vert on the Parental Advisory Tour this summer.


Denzel Curry

The Ultimate. Not exactly a freshman to the hip-hop industry but nonetheless, it’s his time. Denzel Curry got his first shot at a rap career under SpaceGhostPurrp. As a member of Raider Klan he dropped his first 3 mixtapes: King Remembered: Underground Tape 1991–1995 (2011), King of the Mischievous South, Vol. 1: Underground Tape 1996 (2012), and Strictly for My R.V.I.D.X.R.Z (2012.) After some troubles with SpaceGhostPurrp, Curry decided to go solo like Beyoncé. In 2013 he released his debut album Nostalgic 64 with features from Lil Ugly Mane, Mike G, Robb Bank$, Yung Simmie, and others. He received high praise from Pitchfork Magazine by having his album listed as one of the top 10 albums of 2013. Miami New Times also called it “one of the best rap projects to come out of Miami in 2013.” March 9th of this year he released his second album Imperial featuring Joey BadA$$ and Rick Ross. You can stream it on iTunes for free.


Lil Uzi Vert

The Rockstar. Uzi Vert took 2015 by storm but he’s been rocking shows since before he went Vlone. A couple years ago Uzi Vert linked up with producer Charlie Heat and started making music. He started buzzing in Philly and was noticed by DJ Diamond Kuts, DJ Drama, and Don Cannon. In 2015 he was featured on Carnage’s hit song “WDYW” alongside A$AP Ferg and Rich The Kid. Next for Uzi Vert was his second mixtape Luv is Rage which propelled him into the fame he’s been waiting for. He teamed up with Atlanta’s underground star Playboi Carti for the Left Right Tour which sold out at nearly every venue. Two months ago he released his third mixtape Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World which topped the SoundCloud charts with millions of plays on each song. Uzi Vert’s musical style pushes boundaries and his shows are absolutely electric, the truth definition of a rockstar.


Lil Dicky

The Comedian. Dicky’s rise to fame is not a typical story. After graduating from business school he worked at an advertising agency which is surprisingly where his rap career begins. He gave his monthly progress report as a rap video and the company brought him in to work with their creative department. After that Dicky fell in love with rapping and began working on his 2013 mixtape So Hard. But starting a rap career can be very difficult and Dicky experienced that first hand. He launched a Kickstarter to begin “phase two” of his rap career and received $113,000 in donations, which was more than enough. With that money he was able to record the music which scored him a deal in 2015 with CMSN. Dicky’s first album Professional Rapper featuring Snoop Dogg, Rich Homie Quan, and Fetty Wap has been out for going on a year now.


Dave East

The Grinder.  In 2012 East decided to take rapping seriously and it has definitely paid off. He released four mixtapes: American Greed, Insomnia, Don’t Sleep and No Regrets but the success didn’t come immediately. The following year he had to find alternative methods to fund his career. That shadowy time in his life fueled the raw lyrics and dark storytelling on his 5th mixtape Gemini which got heavy airplay on New York radio stations. After meeting Nas through Nas’ younger brother, East was quickly signed to Mass Appeal Records and released his 6th mixtape Black Rose in the summer of 2014. On October 1, 2015 he became Gansta Grillz certified by having his 7th mixtape Hate Me Now hosted by the legend DJ Drama. Check out his newest mixtape Tales From The East and decide for yourself if he represents Harlem well.



The Newborn. Unlike the rest of the freshman class, Desiigner has yet to release a mixtape or album. As I’m sure you’re well aware, after Kanye West sampled his debut commercial single “Panda” Desiigner was boosted into fame. “Panda” topped the US Billboard Top 100 chart for weeks. Since then he’s signed with GOOD Music and announced the title of his first mixtape Trap History Month and his first album The Life of Desiigner. With all of that positive there’s a great deal of negative as well. He’s received a massive amount of flak from the internet for copying the style and sound of Atlanta’s Future. From the lyrics to the auto tune to the hazy flow, many people believe Desiigner is making a career off of imitating Future. Desiigner has even admitted to only knowing his “Broads in Atlanta” through Facebook. Whether his career lasts or not is to be determined by the people.


G Herbo

The Driller. G Herbo (formerly known as Lil Herb) hailing from Terror Town, Chicago got his start with his N.L.M.B. brother Lil Bibby. Before they rose to fame the two posted numerous videos on YouTube which gained them recognition from Drake. Chicago’s drill rap has been criticized as not being lyrical; Herbo puts that to shame with his story telling. He released his debut mixtape Welcome to Fazoland in 2014 in honor of his friend who was gunned down. After receiving high praise, he teamed up with Nick Minaj on the track “Chiraq.” Later in 2015 he was removed from the 2015 XXL Freshman cover. In response he released the song “XXL” and actually received praise from the magazine. He then signed a deal with Cinematic Music Group and dropped the long awaited mixtape Ballin Like I’m Kobe. This year you can look forward to an album from G Herbo.


Lil Yachty

The King of the Teens. Yachty is somewhat of an overnight success although he has been rapping for more than just one night. His career was ignited by a YouTube video in which the creator used Yachty’s song “1Night” produced by his longtime friend Burberry Perry. Before that Yachty released Summer Songs EP and Hey Honey Lets Spend Wintertime On A Boat EP with Wintertime. From then on Yachty has been everywhere. Since becoming an Internet sensation he’s signed a deal with Quality Control Music and Solid Foundation and has released his debut mixtape Lil Boat featuring Young Thug, Quavo, Skippa Da Flippa, Burberry Perry and more. Yachty has an endless brigade of loose songs floating around on SoundCloud. What’s next for Yachty is Pretty Boy Millionaires 2 mixtape with Lil B and Soulja Boy, which is only right sense they all made their fortunes from the Internet.


As you can see this years freshman class is very different from previous ones. Different in their sound, their perceptions of music, and different from each other.

About The Author

I'm 20 years old coming from Atlanta and attending the University of Alabama. For the magazine I'm a music writer but in general I'm a writer, producer, and designer. With my writing I want to spread to others the wonders of hip-hop culture. Follow me on Twitter @28Wavy for new music and updates.

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