Every music genre has its milestones that shows an artist has made it. For hip hop, making the XXL Freshman cover is a major accomplishment. For those unaware, XXL is a hip hop magazine that issues a yearly list of 10 rappers they think will be popular. The number of rappers who have appeared on the list has changed over the years but the importance of the list hasn’t. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Megan Thee Stallion and Travis Scott have graced the cover and gone on to be superstars.
For the 2020 list, XXL will have a lot to choose from, especially since there is fan voting in which fans can vote for their favorite rapper out of a selected bunch for the 10 spot on XXL’s website. Here are some rappers who I believe will be featured on the cover based on popularity and their artistry.
If you were paying attention to hip hop in 2019, you probably heard the song “Pop Out” by Polo G featuring Lil Tjay. The song reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 on the Billboard R&B and Hip Hop charts. Besides “Pop Out,” Polo G is also known for songs such as “Neva Cared” and “Heartless,” which have garnered millions of streams on Spotify. Polo G also has three million followers on Instagram and over 360,000 Twitter followers. With those kinds of numbers, Polo G is almost a lock to appear on the freshman list.
Bronx rapper Lil Tjay has quickly become a well known name in hip hop. Besides appearing on “Pop Out” with Polo G, Lil Tjay also appeared on “Slide” with French Montana and Blueface and “War” with the late Pop Smoke. Where Lil Tjay shines, however, is on his solo songs. Both “Brothers” and “F.N” each have over 100 million plays on Spotify, and his Instagram has nearly three million followers. Lil Tjay is a star in the making and a spot on the XXL freshman list is a fitting place.
Stunna 4 Vegas
North Carolina’s hip hop scene has been prosperous over the past couple of years. With DaBaby and J.Cole being the most well known rappers to represent the state, it’s only fitting that Stunna 4 Vegas would be the next North Carolina rapper to make it big. Best known for songs “UP THE SMOKE” featuring Offset and “Ashley” featuring DaBaby, Vegas’s career is starting to take off. His social media presence isn’t as high as other rappers, but he makes up for it through his unique flow and creative lyrics.
When thinking of major hip hop hubs, Memphis, Tenn. probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. After hearing NLE Choppa, however, that opinion may change. Songs like “Choppa Flow” and “Camelot” have catapulted the young MC to heights most 17-year-olds can only dream of. His feature on “Go Stupid” with Polo G and Stunna 4 Vegas also showed that NLE can share the spotlight. The energy Choppa provides to a track is something that will be hard for XXL to ignore when selecting their freshmen. Choppa is almost a lock for the cover.
Lil Tecca is everything XXL is looking for in a freshman. He has a major hit song “Ransom” has over 500 millon plays on Spotify and “Love Me” has over 100 million plays. He has over three million followers on Instagram and he is only 17. A teenage rapper with that much success is a rarity, especially with more teenage rappers entering the scene. If Lil Tecca keeps his momentum going, he is almost guaranteed for the XXL list.
Meme rap is a subgenre of hip hop that is often scoffed at for not being serious enough. Yet Doja Cat was able to capitalize off of memes through her song “Mooo.” Her fame has continued to rise through songs like “Juicy” and “Tia Tamera” which both have over 50 million plays on Spotify. Her eccentric style and colorful lyrics are a perfect fit for this generation of hip hop which are qualities XXL looks for when choosing their freshmen.
Not many rappers can claim they are related to Kendrick Lamar. Baby Keem is an exception as Lamar’s cousin. Best known for his songs “Orange Soda” and “Honest,” Keem is also a songwriter who has worked with artists like Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock. Keem is only 19 but he shows promise as an aspiring rapper, and XXL often looks for rappers who have potential in the future to make it big.
Jack Harlow at first glance does not seem like an artist who would be on a XXL Freshman list. However, when the music video for his hit song “WHATS POPPIN” was uploaded to YouTube by Lyrical Lemonade, there was no question Harlow would be a candidate for the cover. Best known for helping launch the careers of Juice WRLD and Lil Pump, Lyrical Lemonade produces music videos with views that go into the millions. “WHATS POPPIN” was no exception, having reached over 11 million views on YouTube. Other songs that have been hits on Spotify include “THRU THE NIGHT,” featuring Bryson Tiller, with over 17 million plays and “SUNDOWN” with over 16 million plays.
Houston rapper Don Tolliver almost seems too good to be true. His song “No Idea” has almost 150 million plays on Spotify, he will be an opening act on The Weeknd’s After Hours tour this summer and he has collaborated with artists such as Eminem and Travis Scott. With over 500,000 Instagram followers, XXL will probably recognize the clout Tolliver has built and will put him on the freshman cover.
Melodic hip hop has grown in popularity over the past couple years and it is partially because of rappers like Calboy. With hits like “Envy Me” and “Adam & Eve,” Calboy’s catchy hooks and melodic voice represent a new era of hip hop in which vocal abilities play a larger role in a song. Given how XXL has chosen melodic rappers such as YK Osiris and PnB Rock to be freshmen in the past, it is only fitting that they would choose Calboy to be a freshman on this year’s cover.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.