Since 2008, hip-hop fans look forward to the annual announcement of who will be featured on the NYC magazine, XXL, Freshman Cover. This cover showcases new artists to be on the look out for over the ascending years in music. Every year, these selections cause controversy on who is chosen, why they were picked, who was left out, and whether the style of music an artist makes, allows them to be deserving of the cover.
I’ve been aware of the Freshman Cover’s notoriety since 2014 and have looked forward to its annual reveal ever since. When I look at each artist placed on the cover, I focus on 3 important aspects to determine the accuracy on why there were chosen:
- Is this a new artist?: Are they new to the underground or new to mainstream? How long have they been around?
- Is this a talented artist?: What type of music does this artist make? What makes them different from the rest? What are they known for within their songs?
- Will this artist last?: Who is behind this artist, pushing their success (fans, label) and why? Do the tracks they have under their belt scream long longevity to the future of hip-hop?
On June 13th, XXL revealed the top nine artists who made the 2016 Freshman class. This line-up includes: Lil Yatchy, Desiigner, G Herbo, Anderson .Paak, Kodak Black, 21 Savage, Lil Dicky, Denzel Curry, Lil Uzi Vert, and Dave East.
Let’s take a deeper look into my perspective of two of the most controversial artist on this cover: Lil Yatchy & Desiigner
Lil Yatchy, aka Lil Boat, is an 18-year-old rapper from Atlanta, GA. Yatchy is known for his catchy, nursery-rhyme-sounding songs like “One Night” and “Minnesota.” Personally, I think Yatchy got his mainstream recognition in early 2016.
In late December 2015 on to early January 2016, a video by Caleon Fox went viral. The video is a comedic sketch done by Fox titled When Bae Hits You With That “So What Are We?” Throughout the video, Lil Yatchy’s “One Night” is playing, which makes the video the greatness that it is. Take a look below for yourself:
So of course, everyone asks the question “what song is this?” and it blew up from there. When I first saw the video, I had never heard the song so I myself found interest in it because it was so catchy and humorous. Lil Yatchy is not your typical “rapper.” As you can see, he has his own unique sound (and look) that in some more ways than others, makes him likeable.
By February 2016, Yatchy was a model in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show that took place in Madison Square Gaden, alongside fashion icon Ian Conner and rapper Young Thug. In March, Yatchy released his first mixtape, Lil Boat. By now, you could officially see how much his fan base grew. The tape is currently ranked Gold on Datpiff with over 100,000 downloads and 1M views. By May, Lil Yatchy was featured on Chance The Rapper’s third mixtape Coloring Book. The song is titled “Mixtape.” With Young Thug also on the track, this record asks the question “am I the on nigga that still cares about mixtape?” So featuring two rappers known for their mixtapes was a smart move.
By popular demand, it seems like Lil Yatchy won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon, so putting him on the Freshman cover was a great choice.
Ahh.. That sweet face.
Desiigner is the newest artist signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. His debut single “Panda” released in late 2015 has taken over the airwaves ever since. Kanye West sampled “Panda” in his 7th studio album The Life of Pablo which only boosted its popularity.
Just when you think “Panda” wasn’t hot enough, it peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in May of 2016.
What is about this song?
Panda is a very controversial track. This biggest thing discussed is Desiigner’s voice: According to the people, he sounds JUST like Future! Desiigner’s voice is very deep and raspy just like Future’s and his flow is in same because he raps so quick and mumbled, you can barely understand what he’s saying; just like Future.
But the thing with this is, aren’t there SEVERAL artist that sound like Future? I honestly think the only reason this is a topic among fans is because of the high quality that’s behind him.
I feel that Desiigner got this cover by default. Desiigner is surrounded by the best of the best in G.O.O.D., but if we wasn’t, I don’t think he would have got this cover. Desiigner has a lot more proving to do, to show he’s eligible for what the XXL Freshman cover should represent.
Maybe Kanye sees something some of us don’t.
This cover is definitely a great representation of 2016 hip-hop. Although fans are allowed to vote for the artist they want to be a finalist, I feel that this plays a small role in who is actually chosen because this year’s list seems so predictable. Overall, this year’s XXL Freshman cover happened to leave many, including me, with mixed feelings of satisfaction and confusion.