The annual XXL Freshman cover never fails to attract attention. It aims to represent the hottest rap artists of the year, as well as forecasting success for each artist included. This is never the case in totality, as there are always freshman that fall off the grid within a year of their appearance on the cover.
XXL often drop the ball on their inclusions (see 2017 and 2018 for reference). However, this year’s list is surprisingly impressive, accurately representing the current climate of American hip hop. There is a variety, consisting of both trendy and artistic rappers, not to mention that the female roster this year is stacked.
Here is every 2019 XXL Freshman ranked from worst to best.
Criteria includes: Lyrical ability, melodic ability, replay value, originality, production, commercial success, longevity and future potential
11. YK Osiris
YK Osiris’ music sounds like he is living in 2015. The singer has, so far, one notable hit to his name, “Worth It”, a track which fiends off expired trends set by Fetty Wap and August Alsina (and where are those artists now?). No qualities compensate for Osiris’ lack of rapping, so it’s hard to see his career reaching greater heights. Perhaps he needs a project or two to consolidate a style, but from what is available right now YK Osiris has much more work to do.
As popular as he is in the SoundCloud rap scene, Comethazine’s punk edge is a personality that already exists in more successful counts. The gun talk is in abundance, as is the distorted production and song lengths perfect for an iTunes preview. Without any melody or hooks to support the unoriginal sound, Comethazine’s music remains flat and tedious.
9. Lil Mosey
Like Comethazine, Lil Mosey lacks much originality. However, he compensates for it with catchy tracks. His biggest hit, “Noticed”, is a warm trap tune, while “Kamikaze” gives a glimpse of his ability to perform over divergent production. Mosey is far from putting out cohesive projects, but shows promise for creating hits.
8. Roddy Ricch
Roddy Ricch is notoriously responsible for the most overrated song of 2018 and staining the unlistenable “Splash Warning” from Meek Mill’s Championships. Yet redemption is earned on his mixtapes Feed Tha Streets and Feed Tha Streets II, melding standard street tales with modern trap production. There’s an ounce of lyrical substance available, despite possessing the most generic vocals out of the 2019 Freshman. Roddy Ricch is far from superb artistry, but is bound to be a hood favourite.
7. Rico Nasty
Rico Nasty is quite the novelty. Her punk-inspired rap style is an acquired style, and isn’t always successful, but boasts several qualities. The experimental production, hyper-aggression and humour sets Rico apart from female counterparts. Rico still has work to do, such as improved lyricism and replay value, but nevertheless exceeds in artistry.
6. Megan Thee Stallion
Thee Stallion is the most recent freshman to gain commercial success. Her carnal material is not to be dismissed, as her rapping ability puts the majority of her male counterparts to shame. Her latest mixtape, Fever, is as energetic as it is ratchet, consistently providing impressive flows and unfiltered bars. Beyond her current buzz, Megan Thee Stallion needs to focus on how she matures throughout her career, as the same tricks easily turn stale.
Somehow, Blueface was able to successfully revive DJ Mustard’s sound that notoriously dominated the 2012–13 charts. It worked because Blueface added a unique element to the formula – his offbeat flow. It may not be for everyone, but it made him stand out from the crowd, resulting in viral hits such as “Thotiana”, “Bleed It” and “Studio”. Paired up with his infectious personality, occasional wordplay and confidence, Blueface is both likeable and compelling. The shelf life is questionable, but Blueface provides something different to the contenders that precede him in rankings.
Gunna beat the odds in becoming one of the most popular rappers of 2018. His shameful embodiment of mentor Young Thug didn’t stop him from becoming the (lesser) second half of the ‘Drip Too Hard’ wave either. His inclusion on the 2019 XXL Freshman is late, late enough to the point where he is a graduate rather than a freshman (also, where is Lil Baby on the list?). Gunna is certainly the worst lyricist of the 2019 Freshman, nor is there a drop of originality in his style. But he pulls off the style successfully when backed by strong production (“Pedestrian”, “Oh Okay”, “Outstanding”), not to mention he is responsible for the guitar beat trend. There’s an abundance of flaws, but Gunna is established, and boasts replay value to compensate.
DaBaby has quickly established himself as the most flamboyant freshman. Thanks to his humorous personality, DaBaby’s songs are full of entertainment, whether it is charismatic one-liners or melodic production. His debut album, Baby on Baby, left no room for filler, rapping without Auto-Tune on songs like “Suge” and “Baby Sitter”. DaBaby’s music is fun; there is no other way to describe it.
2. YBN Cordae
In the sparse material he has put out so far, YBN Cordae is setting out to be something different. Cordae is J. Cole with the youth on his side, bridging the gap between lyricism and modern trap production. Compared to the rest of the Freshman, Cordae’s discography is virtually non-existent upon his inclusion, but is the one who shows the most promise. With a debut project on the way, Cordae must ensure his lyrical angle doesn’t result in ‘corniness’, comme Logic or Chance The Rapper.
1. Tierra Whack
Tierra Whack possesses everything necessary to be the best 2019 XXL Freshman. Personality, originality and lyricism are in abundance on her debut album, Whack World, a 15-minute eruption of one-minute songs, for one of the most creative albums of 2018. She is setting trends like Gunna, rapping admirably like YBN Cordae, and has got the personality of a DaBaby or Blueface. Above all of them combined is the artistry. Artistry is what defines Tierra Whack, and it is clear she is far from reaching her peak.