Ranking the Top 10 XXL Freshman Classes All-Time Since 2007


| LAST UPDATE 07/07/2021

By Mahlik Campbell
XXL 2010 Freshman Class
Credit: XXL

Since its inception in 2007, the annual XXL Freshman Class has both identified future icons (Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole) and exaggerated quick burnouts (Lil Pump). Scroll to see Daquan's top 10 classes all-time based on staying power, influence and artist discovery.

10. 2009 – Kid Cudi, Curren$y & Wale

XXL's 2009 class signals the start of the blog era – when artist curation and discovery ran through sites like 2DopeBoyz rather than social media. While Wale and B.o.B may not be as popular as they once were, Kid Cudi and Curren$y continue to shape entire sub-genres.

9. 2017 – XXXTentacion, Playboi Carti & A Boogie

The Freshman Classes featuring artists who died too soon hold a little extra weight, especially when their stay was as brief and significant as XXXTentacion's. Along with Carti, A Boogie and Aminé, they each represent diverse corners of today's hip-hop landscape.

8. 2012 – Future, Machine Gun Kelly & Macklemore

With game-changers like Drake, Young Thug and Nicki Minaj having never been included in a Freshman Class, the presence of Future in 2012 is special. Not to mention Machine Gun Kelly is as relevant as ever 9 years later, leading a new wave of rock-rap crossover acts.

7. 2014 – Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk & Ty Dolla $ign

The 2014 Freshman Class put a spotlight on the range of Chicago's hip-hop output. Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa – eclectic and free-spirited – arrived next to Lil Durk, at the time a staunch drill music pioneer. Ty Dolla $ign added some R&B appeal that's aged well.

6. 2020 – Polo G, Jack Harlow & Rod Wave

It's easy to applaud the more recent Freshman Classes, as their fame is fresh and their trajectory is still being sorted out. But 2020's leaders – Polo G, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave and Baby Keem – seem to have already established loyal fanbases ready for the long haul.

5. 2019 – DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion & Roddy Ricch

Fast-forward a few years and XXL's 2019 crew could be competing for the #1 spot on this list. Almost everyone is a star, from those who own the mainstream (DaBaby, Megan, Roddy and Gunna) to those pure creatives who march to their own drums (Cordae and Tierra Whack).

4. 2011 – Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill & Mac Miller

Kendrick Lamar gracing this 2011 Freshman cover before releasing 'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City' shows just how visionary XXL can be. Now, he's a regular in rap's GOAT debate. Meek Mill, Mac Miller and YG had yet to drop their debut albums, too. True rookies all around!

3. 2013 – Travis Scott, Chief Keef & Logic

Though pop culture has changed a lot since 2013, this group remains relevant. You couldn't escape Chief Keef's hypnotizing "bang" ad-libs back then. 8 years later, Travis Scott is every brand's shortcut to coolness. Plus, Logic, ScHoolboy Q and Joey Bada$$ feel relatively exciting.

2. 2016 – Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage & Kodak Black

No Freshman Class has more depth than 2016 aka "The New Wave," nodding to their internet savviness captured in that hilarious freestyle cypher that goes viral at least once a year. There are the forefathers of SoundCloud Rap (Uzi, Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry), street storytellers (21 Savage, Kodak, G Herbo) and multi-talented entertainers (Anderson .Paak, Lil Dicky).

1. 2010 – J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle & Freddie Gibbs

If XXL covers helped predict some of the biggest stars of the past decade, then it's fitting that the top collective was assembled at the very beginning in 2010. Repping regional scenes before tools like IG or Spotify existed, this group set the standard for building a legacy. Cole recently scored his sixth #1 album while Nipsey, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean and Wiz are all Grammy-recognized.