Everybody that follows hip-hop media is probably acquainted with XXL Magazine’s now-infamous Freshman Cover.
This past Thursday, the popular hip-hop magazine revealed their 2019 class and, to the surprise of most people (including me), it was actually a fairly solid list. With that being said, XXL still has a complex relationship with the hip-hop world. Once a respected source of hip-hop journalism, questions have arisen in throughout this century concerning XXL’s harmony with hip-hop culture.
Our original plan was to wait until XXL dropped their 2019 Freshman Class and give our opinions on how good or bad we thought it turned out. But we decided to participate in a more productive/fun exercise: creating our own Class Of 2019 to highlight the emerging artists that we’ve really enjoyed over the course of the past year and are excited for in the future.
Here are the parameters set before we voted on artists:
- Lyrical Quality: The most important aspect of being a rapper remains the ability to actually rap (that should go without saying, but you never know how many people will debate that). This can be a highly subjective field, and it isn’t necessary that the artist be able to employ some kind of complex multi-syllabic internal rhyme scheme to make this list. But everyone on this list has to be somewhat intriguing lyrically and have at least a modicum of competence on the mic.
- Quality of the Art/Artist: To make this list, you have to have achieved a level of genuine respect from the music world — from journalists, critics, music consumers, etc. The artists here have achieved rave reviews, award nominations, some level of cultural significance in their hometowns, heavy coverage from respected outlets, co-signs from rap OGs, etc.
- Quantifiable Relevance: To narrow the playing field, we decided to narrow it down to artists who get at least 700k monthly listeners on Spotify (as of 6/23/2019) and have at least 100k followers on IG.
- Recency of Break-out: Our focus will be on artists who have experienced a significant jump in popularity and musical relevance over the course of the past year or so. Artists who have been in the game for a few years may still qualify for this.
Without further ado, we present the artists we chose for our own Hip-Hop Class of 2019.
Real Name: Anthony Dixson
Hometown: Compton, CA
Compton rapper Boogie isn’t necessarily a brand new face — in fact, my introduction to his music was four years ago on the banger “Oh My.” However, despite having four projects in his discography, Boogie’s ascent has come later on in his career, as he is enjoying the most attention and success he’s encountered in his career so far, thanks to his most recent album Everything’s For Sale. Highly introspective and an astute lyricist, it’s about time that Boogie gets the props that his career deserves.
Real Name: Simmie Sims III
Hometown: Compton, CA
Fellow Compton native Buddy is also helping to hold down the West Coast. Nine years after being signed to Pharrell Williams, he is beginning to reap the fruit of his labor. Describing himself as a “full-fledged entertainer,” Buddy is an artist with an impressive artistic repertoire. He can rap, he can sing, and he is learned in a myriad of sounds across the spectrum of the West Coast, which makes his music fun and engaging. He released his well-received debut studio album Harlan & Alondra last July.
Real Name: Jonathan Kirk
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
DaBaby‘s popularity has exploded since late 2018; he might arguably be the most popular rapper on this list. The Charlotte, NC rapper has garnered acclaim due to his outrageous visuals and sense of humor, as well as the fact his music BANGS. But beyond a charismatic personality, DaBaby checks the boxes of many of the attributes we look for in compelling rappers — a bold voice, a great flow, and a good lyricist when he wants to be. He recently dropped his label debut mixtape Baby On Baby.
Real Name: Amala Dlamini
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
From her debut EP Purrr! to her most recent album Amala, Doja Cat has displayed an uncanny ability to switch between singing and rapping, to go along with her colorful aesthetic. Doja Cat’s recent rise came off the back of that “Mooo!” a meme almost a year ago, but — as she showed in tidbits on that song, and as she proved even more so on her 2019 single “Tia Tamera” — she’s a capable and excitable rapper whose artistry commands more staying power than an average one-hit wonder.
Real Name: Barrington Hendricks
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
DMV rapper JPEGMAFIA, who has operated mainly in hip-hop’s experimental underground, experienced a surge in popularity thanks to heavy coverage of his highly-rated 2018 album Veteran, which landed on many year-end album lists (including ours). Though a practitioner of noise rap, his music remains surprisingly accessible. And Peggy’s music is as confrontational and abrasive as the rapper is himself, as the former veteran takes lyrical aim at just about everyone.
MEGAN THEE STALLION
Real Name: Megan Pete
Hometown: Houston, TX
In the span of a couple of years, H-town native Megan Thee Stallion has gone from an up-and-coming talent to a potential phenom and a charting artist. She’s already established herself as a modern staple of the city of Houston and is well on her way to reaching the mega-star status. If you love a compelling voice, bombastic shit-talking, impressive flows, and quotable bars — which you’ll find on her last two major projects Tina Snow and Fever — then you don’t have to look further than Megan Thee Stallion.
Real Name: Maria Kelly
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know how high we’ve been on Rico Nasty over the course of the past year. Uniqueness in today’s musical landscape is more important than ever, and Rico Nasty has a surplus. Her mixtapes Nasty and Anger Management present refreshing takes on contemporary trap music, with boisterous energy and in-your-face lyricism. And Rico’s unapologetic individuality, in her music and beyond, makes her both an icon of the post-SoundCloud era and an inspiration for her fans.
Real Name: Tahj Chandler
Hometown: Chicago, IL
2018 was the year that Chicago rapper Saba started getting some of the recognition he deserves. His 2018 album Care For Me, which was a mature, meditative album inspired by the grief caused by the death of a loved one, received nearly-universal acclaim and landed on the year-end lists of just about every major rap publication — and for good reason. Saba, who is both an elite songwriter and one of the most prodigious lyricists on this list, has emerged as one of the premier young voices coming out of the Midwest.
Real Name: Tierra Whack
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Of all the rappers on this list, you won’t find one as lyrically talented or as artistically surreal as Tierra Whack. Already boasting a Grammy nomination for her music video “MUMBO JUMBO,” her 2018 album Whack World was an intriguing, 15-minute journey into the colorful, ultra-creative mind of this Philadelphia rapper, which also garnered critical acclaim and recognition from the masses. And if it wasn’t abundantly clear from her recent singles and one-off freestyles, Tierra Whack can rap her ass off too.
Real Name: Cordae Dunston
Hometown: Suitland, MD
YBN Cordae is the youngest artist on this list, and he also has the shortest résumé (he is yet to release his own official full-length project). But compared to many of his cohorts, including his YBN collective teammates, Cordae is on a lyrical level that they just aren’t at (see: “Scotty Pippen” and “Old Niggas.”) While many of his peers subscribe to the trendier, auto-tune-laden aesthetics of today, Cordae’s approach, which is relatively more throwback, proves to have much more longevity.