XXL is an American hip hop magazine, published by Townsquare Media, founded in 1997. In August 1997, Harris Publications released the first issue of XXL. It featured rappers Jay-Z and Master P on a double cover. In December 2006, the magazine took over the struggling hip-hop producer and DJ magazine Scratch (another publication owned by Harris Publications), re-branding it as XXL Presents Scratch Magazine. However Scratch shut down less than a year later in September 2007.
What is an XXL freshman?
XXL Magazine has had a major influence in the rap genre through its annual list, known as the XXL Freshman Class. For those who don’t know, the list is a pairing of 10 or more rappers who are unknown, underground and/or considered potential superstars. While some big names have made their mark by being featured on the list, others haven’t had their claim to fame and become forgotten shortly after its debut.
With 2021’s Freshman list release this summer, let’s take a look at the past 10 years’ worth of XXL Freshman Cyphers, where rappers put their skills to the test and freestyled along with fellow on-the-rise artists.
Who has the best XXL Cypher?
Sigh… god, this one’s such a massive missed opportunity. J.I.D, riding possibly the best beat in XXL cypher history, proceeds to spit one of the best goddamn verses we have ever heard, throwing us an utterly dizzying set of rhyme schemes containing lines equal parts hilarious and endearing while seeming constantly as if he’s really enjoying himself doing it. His performance is one of the very best in XXL history, and as Ski Mask comes up he sounds genuinely excited, making sure to hype him up as much as possible. And Ski Mask’s verse is great, too, if very short, but… the fucker turns off the fucking beat! Why?
The beat here was fucking amazing, you prick! All you did was ruin what should, by all rights, be one of the most coherent cyphers XXL ever did. It’s a simple mistake, but a very consequential one; the lack of beat makes Ski’s highly rhythmic rap style sound really weird, and you’re too fixated by the weirdness to notice how good it is until you look. That, in turn, means you momentarily forget about J.I.D too, and the whole flow is ruined. we never listen to this. What a waste.
Who are in the 2022 XXL Freshman Class?
Since 2007, XXL magazine’s Freshman Class has been one of the most coveted, and debated, lists in rap music. The annual list highlights roughly a dozen upcoming artists who the magazine feels is worth keeping an out for in the near future.
Over the last 15 years, four Detroit artists have been featured on the list: Big Sean (2010), Danny Brown (2012), Dej Loaf (2015), and 42 Dugg (2021).
The 2022 XXL Freshman Class has been announced. This year’s lineup includes Nardo Wick, Doechii, SoFaygo, Babyface Ray, Kali, KayCyy, Cochise, Big30, KenTheMan, Big Scarr, Saucy Santana, and BabyTron (who got the most fan votes, earning him the 10th spot on the list).
XXL’s Freshman series is marking its 15th anniversary this year, and in the post announcing this year’s class, they write, “The 2022 XXL Freshman Class is breaking the mold. They refuse to conform to the norm, and pride themselves on creating a fresh sound in hip-hop. Like the classes that came before them, these newly inducted rappers are aiming for superstardom.”
XXL magazine announced the 2022 class and this year, Detroit will have two new artists joining the Freshman roster, Babyface Ray and BabyTron. Both were featured in Metro Times in the past year.
Babyface Ray released his album FACE back in January and received praise from outlets like Rolling Stone and Complex. He was one of our February cover stars, as we spent an evening with him during a show at Saint Andrew’s Hall.
Rapper BabyTron was the winner of this year’s fan vote for the 10th spot. In previous years, XXL only picked 10 artists. It’s wavered throughout the years, but the 10th position remains pretty sought after. BabyTron was one of seven artists featured in our 2022 Best New Detroit Music issue back in March, appearing on the cover. He released his latest project, Megatron, on March 4.
What did COI Leray do at XXL?
Coi Leray is constantly at the center of online criticism and the latest incident involves her rapping abilities. Coi’s XXL Freshman Freestyle was finally released and it seems like people weren’t feeling it. “Bro coileray couldn’t rhyme anymore in her freestyle n started twerking,” a now-viral tweet read.
The “No More Parties” artist caught wind of the comments and responded on TikTok with a video of her rhyming about “it being lonely at the top,” and throwing money in her house.
Coi followed up with a more direct response on Twitter. “How the hell you gon tell me how to rap? Ain’t no f**king rule book n***a I do and say wtf I want you either like it or not b**ch I’m here,” she wrote.
But she didn’t stop there. Coi Leray doubled down on her Instagram story and said she believed her XXL Freshman Freestyle was the best in her class.
“You thought I was about to spit the hottest fire flame. Let me tell y’all something…I feel like, personally, I had the best “XXL” freestyle. Me and Lakeyah fa sho had the best “XXL” freestyle. Especially my whole class of the cyphers. I haven’t even heard the cyphers, other cyphers yet. And I know we had the best cypher. Especially me.”