Over the last few years, XXL’s “Freshman Class” has become a list to watch for among hip-hop fans. The highly anticipated 2011 grads have finally been revealed. Usually, it’s 10, but this year the long-running mag chose 11. Although the cover leaked nearly a month ago, the official list was just this week. The 11 rappers XXL thinks you should watch are: Lil Twist, CyHi Da Prynce, Big K.R.I.T., Meek Mill, Diggy Simmons, Kendrick Lamar, Fred the Godson, Lil B, Mac Miller, Yelawolf, and YG. “This year, during the selection process, we spotted a problem: In the past, some years had been hard getting the list up to 10; in 2011, the difficulty was getting the number down to 10,” the mag said. “We realized we had more new rap talent to pick from for the 2011 Freshman class than previous years. So we decided to make an exception and chose an extra Freshman this year, because it was clear that 10 just wouldn’t be enough.”
Some of the names on the list could be considered a grade level higher than freshman, but each are definitely deserving of being called the “next” artists to make impacts — some are already doing just that though. Yelawolf had quite a big 2010. After dropping Trunk Muzik and Trunk Muzik 0-60, the rapper capped off the year by inking a solo deal with Eminem’s Shady Records. Lil B is an eccentric native of the Bay Area, who started as a member of a group called The Pack. However, over the past year, he’s embraced a weird swag about himself, stirring up things online, via random tweets, and building such a following in the digital world that it could not be denied. He’s invented a new sub-genre of music he calls Based Music. What is it? We still don’t know.
Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. made numerous year-end Top 10 lists, following the release of two popular mixtapes, and appearances alongside Curren$y’s debut Pilot Talk, and Wiz Khalifa’s uber-popular mixtape, Kush and Orange Juice. Compton rapper, YG, broke out with his smash single, “Toot It and Boot It,” and even managed to nab heavy hitters for the official remix, such as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and E-40. He’s got to be doing something right? Mac Miller is a white rapper hailing from Pittsburgh, and signed to Rostrum Records, which also boasts Wiz Khalifa. He’s built a fan base online, thanks to the release of two mixtapes in 2010, and constant touring. Kendrick Lamar, well, he’s been grinding hard over the past few years, becoming a mainstay on hip-hop biggest audio blogs. But, it was Dr. Dre who reached out and co-signed him that helped other fans get hip to the young rapper and his music. There’s no question Dre can pick talent, so pay attention.
Lil Twist, well, he’s from Weezy’s camp, so people are becoming more and more familiar with him. CyHi Da Prynce has gotten more and more shine, thanks his constant hustle, and re-emergence of Kanye West. Meek Mill just inked a deal with Rick Ross, who has been touted him as the future. Fred the Godson is a Bronx rapper showing a little bit of that New York hustle. As for Diggy Simmons, well, he had a good start by having Rev. Run as his father and appearing on “Run’s House,” but people were skeptical at first upon hearing that he was pursuing a rap career. However, once hearing a few tracks, you couldn’t deny his skills. He inked a solo deal with Atlantic Records and is currently preparing his debut album. The 2011 Freshman issue of XXL hits newsstands on March 15.