Over the past five years, XXL's annual "Freshman Class" cover has become one of their most anticipated of the year. On it, they feature rising rappers who are expected to make an impact over the next several months.
So, without further adieu, the mag unleashes their list of artists who made the cut for the 2012 Freshman Class.
All familiar names, the list of 10 is as follows (via XXLMag.com): Machine Gun Kelly, Danny Brown, Kid Ink, Future, Roscoe Dash, Hopsin, Macklemore, Don Trip, Iggy Azalea, and French Montana.
"In the past five years that XXL has been picking Freshman classes, never once has making the list been easy. This year included," the mag said in its unveiling. "Similar to 2011, the hype around the Freshmen Class has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, surprising even us with its popularity. For this class, the buzz began earlier than ever, four months before the cover was even shot. And it seemed like everyone had a list. From subdued music fans to diehard rap junkies, from Twitter stalkers to industry heavies and featherweights, folks wanted their list to be the XXL list. We listened, asked opinions, took notes."
Hopsin is 26-year-old spitter hailing from Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. While 2011 has been the biggest of his career thus far -- making noise with his Tyler The Creator diss track/video, "#IllMindOfHopsin 4"; and the Tech N9ne and B.o.B. collaboration and video "Am I A Psycho?" -- he's been grinding for over five years. First signing with Eazy-E's Ruthless Records in 2007, the rapper sat on the shelf before finally leaving a disgruntled artist. From there, Hopsin took matters into his own hands, launched his own Funk Volume imprint and took a grassroots approach to building a following.
Los Angeles rapper Kid Ink started off his career as a producer, working alongside the likes of Diddy and Yung Berg, before stepping out from behind the boards in 2010 with his debut mixtape, Crash Landing. From there, it's been a steady climb. He's released two mixtapes since then, each bigger than the next, and has begun getting regular radio rotation with his latest single, "Time Of Your Life." With the help of popular mixtape curator, DJ Ill Will, Kid Ink's future looks bright. (Read our recent interview with Kid Ink here)
Detroit's Danny Brown started off his career in music in the early 2000s as part of a group, but by 2010, he began working with G-Unit's Tony Yayo and nearly landed a deal with once-prominent label. However, 50 Cent declined to sign Brown due to his fashion style, which the hip-hop star felt didn't fit into G-Unit's image. So, in 2011, Brown made some moves. He signed to A-Trak's Fool's Gold Records, released his critically acclaimed XXX album as a free download, and things took off. It received numerous accolades, including being named the "Best Hip Hop album of the Year by Spin.
Indiana-bred rapper Future had a big 2011. Following his contribution on YC's smash hit "Racks" early in the year, he began tearing up the mixtape circuit, dropping popular tapes like the collaborative Free Bricks with Gucci Mane and Streetz Calling. Then, late in the year, Future had the streets on smash with the Drake-assisted "Tony Montana," off his latest tape Astronaut Status. Up next ... his debut Pluto.
Roscoe Dash needs no introduction. Over the past 12 months, he's graced hit singles like Waka Flocka's breakout hit "No Hands," Big Sean's Kanye-assisted "Marvin & Chardonnay", DJ Drama's single "Oh My", and Maino's "Let It Fly," among others. Everything kicked off for the rapper in 2010 though, when he dropped "All The Way Turnt Up!" with Soulja Boy ... which he parlayed into a record deal with Interscope Records. Roscoe has since dropped his 2011 debut EP, J.U.I.C.E., and is currently working on a full-length project.
Machine Gun Kelly's rise has been documented. His buzz is undeniable, so much so, his loyal fanbase helped him earn MTV's coveted "Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2011." Thanks to his energetic stage show, as well as wild off-stage antics, MGK has become one of the new faces of Diddy's Bad Boy label, when he signed on the dotted line back in early August. Since then, the rapper has dropped the Waka Flocka-assisted "Wild Boy" single, collaborated with his idol DMX, and is set to have a big 2012. He currently working on his debut album, Lace Up, slated to drop this year; and will take off on a record-setting tour with Tech N9ne in late March, dubbed the "Hostile Takeover 2012" tour, where he'll perform 90 times in 99 days.
Australian female rapper Iggy Azalea gained national attention last year with her provocative video/single "Pu$$y." She followed with the release of her Ignorant Art mixtape, became a topic of gossip over her rumored relationship with rising NY rapper A$AP Rocky, and has inked a deal with Interscope. Her debut, The New Classic, is due sometime in the summer.
Don Trip began buzzing throughout 2011, thanks to the release of several mixtapes, his latest being the DJ Drama-hosted, Gangsta Grillz edition: Guerilla. The tape includes his buzzing single, "Letter To My Son," featuring Cee-Lo Green.
Everybody knows French Montana by now. Introduced to the masses via longtime collaborator Max B, the Bronx rapper was left to continue the "wave" when Max was sent to prison for murder charges. The Bronx rapper then got on the grind, dropping mixtapes, and then kicked things up a notch with the creation of the DVD series, "Cocaine City". Garnering international success with the DVD series, French build a huge following, and eventually signed a deal with Akon's Konvict Muzik. However, the deal didn't pan out and he continued to grind independently. His groundwork paid off, and by 2011, there was a major label bidding war surrounding French. After much consideration -- weighing options between Rick Ross, Kanye West and other labels -- he settled on a deal with Diddy's Bad Boy label. Now, with a hit single in "Shot Caller," French is poised to drop one of the most anticipated albums of 2012 -- his debut, Excuse My French, which is due July 17.
While we're not too familiar with Seattle-based hip-hop artist Macklemore, he's definitely doing his thing. The white rapper kicked off his career in the early 2000s, and eventually became a fixture on Seattle's local scene. Dropping indie projects over the years, things began to take off in 2010, when he teamed up with DJ Ryan Lewis to create the VS. Redux EP. On it, he dropped the critically acclaimed song "Otherside," which samples the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song of the same name, and raps of his experience with substance abuse ... an issue many young people deal with. Since then, Macklemore has been touring around the world, building a loyal following and a buzz across the Internet. The Source magazine featured him in their long-running Unsigned Hype column in January.
That's XXL's 2012 Freshman Class. At press time, it was unknown when the issue was slated to hit newsstands. Visit XXLMag.com for more info.