By Trey Alessio
Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s almost that time of year to start debating about who deserves a spot on the XXL Freshman List. We here at R | U | NTRTND like to stay ahead of the curve, so here are the artists who I believe deserve a spot. On this list, I did my best to balance who I really enjoy with who I really believe will make the list.
CREDIT: Mass Appeal
Remember when Sylvan LaCue (formerly QuESt) dropped “Searching Sylvan” back in 2014? Before that he toured with Logic in the first half of 2013 on the “Welcome To Forever Tour,” signed with Visionary Music Group and was poised to emerge as one of hip-hop’s top up-and-coming storytellers. In my opinion, if “Searching Sylvan” was released today, it’d be GRAMMY-worthy now that the Recording Academy is recognizing free, stream-only projects. “Searching Sylvan” is on that level. LaCue’s follow-up 2016 project, “Far From Familiar” has the same type of vibes. The man is a lyricist through and through. He utilizes skits to tell a relatable, honest, cohesive story, which seems to only come from the elite of the elite in hip-hop. I honestly thought LaCue was going to make the XXL list last year, but with the momentum of an array of self-produced singles, a tour with Saba and new music on the way, I think Sylvan LaCue may have enough of a force behind him to put on the Freshman List this year.
CREDIT: Village Voice
If I had to pick one shoe-in for this year’s XXL Freshman List, Saba would probably be my pick. His real buzz began when Chance the Rapper put Saba on his “Coloring Book”-single, “Angels.” After that monstrous guest spot, Saba released his album/mixtape, “Bucket List Project,” in October of 2016. This project was an honorable mention on my top-10 list of best rap albums from 2016. “Bucket List Project” was a cohesive project about chasing your dreams and crossing things off your bucket list, again showcasing his lyricism and storytelling. To follow up the album/mixtape rollout, Saba will be headlining the “Bucket List Tour” with Sylvan LaCue. Saba has all the tools to be a top-tier rapper moving forward in the industry. He has the big-time co-sign and a lot of momentum behind him to go along with his actual rap abilities. I would be shocked if Saba didn’t make the list this year.
CREDIT: Saint Heron
Jazz Cartier was another artist I thought deserved a spot on last year’s XXL list. My first encounter with his music came when he dropped “Hotel Paranoia,” which I thought was a very well-done project top-to-bottom from the production to the variation of sounds to the lyricism. Jacuzzi isn’t brand new to the rap game, but I think he’s very talented and deserves a spot on the Freshman List. He has the ability to be the face of the “New Toronto” movement.
CREDIT: Made In Toronto
I was put on to Nav when I heard him on Travis Scott’s song, “Biebs In the Trap,” from the album, “Birds In the Trap Sing McKnight.” I know he has been doing his thing for some time now on the production side, but that Travis Scott feature put him on my radar. Nav has one of those hybrid R&B/hip-hop flows, which I think gives him the potential to be a breakout star in 2017. Back in December 2016, it was reported that Nav and Metro Boomin’ have a joint album on the way plus Nav dropped a fire new song entitled, “Some Way,” with The Weeknd, which will be on his upcoming self-titled debut mixtape set to drop on February 24. So, the momentum is there, the new music seems to be on the way and the talent is apparent. Nav could be this year's Desiigner, in terms of making the list off a feature and a single. Don’t sleep on Nav.
Noname isn’t brand new to the hip-hop community, but with the release of her amazing debut project, “Telefone,” I think she has enough popularity behind her to put her on this year’s XXL Freshman List. The quality of “Telefone” alone should propel her onto the XXL List this year. She’s lyricist and a beautiful storyteller plus she has the co-sign of the GRAMMY-award winning Chance the Rapper. It’s just easy to listen to Noname. I think it’d be fair to say she’s the new version of Rapsody. She doesn’t seem to be craving the fame, but I think it’d be cool if XXL showed her some love. I don’t believe she has announced any new music coming any time soon, but her outstanding 2016 has definitely trickled into 2017, so XXL should give her the nod.
CREDIT: The A&R Report
I just recently gave “Free 6lack” a listen and thought it was outstanding. I get a Bryson Tiller vibe from 6lack’s music. He’s another R&B/rap hybrid, which seems to springboard a lot of these artists into the spotlight simply because they can sing and rap. I think this dude has the potential to be in the same conversation as Anderson .Paak, Bryson Tiller and BJ the Chicago Kid—all of whom have cemented their name into the hip-hop and R&B culture. Other than 6lack’s album, “Free 6lack,” I don’t know much about him, but based on the quality of that project, I think he has earned his spot on this year’s upcoming XXL Freshman List.
CREDIT: The Chicago Tribune
Chicago, stand up! If Joey Purp makes the list, that would mean three artists from Chicago (Saba, Noname and Joey Purp) would be on the cover, which would be really cool especially after the year Chance the Rapper had. But Joey Purp’s music by itself has the quality to put him on the XXL list. I don’t know much of his music outside of “iiiDrops,” but that project alone was incredible. It had the standout “Girls @”single with Chance the Rapper as well as the songs where he shines on his own such as “Godbody” and “Morning Sex.” Joey Purp can spit. He has the ability to go hard and then switch it up and show a softer side. The man needs some recognition. Show some love, XXL.
Kamaiyah is a breath of fresh, west coast gangsta rap. Her debut mixtape, “A Good Night in the Ghetto” was awesome. The quality of that project should propel her onto the XXL Freshman List this year, in my opinion. Kamaiyah also snagged a gigantic feature on YG’s single, “Why You Always Hatin?” alongside Drake. The buzz is definitely there, and this could be the year she steps out from the underground to the mainstream spotlight.
CREDIT: New Times Broward-Palm Beach
This is my sleeper pick. I was put onto Wifisfuneral’s music after seeing some buzz about him on Twitter and SoundCloud. “When Hell Falls” is the only project I’ve heard from Wifisfuneral, but I could feel the emotion on every track from the project. He has the versatility to be a trap rapper/singer or a conscious lyricist, which goes to show you how talent this dude is. I think Wifisfuneral has enough buzz to push him onto this year’s cover. Don’t sleep.
I’m not going to lie, I haven’t really gotten into a ton of PnB Rock’s music, but my sister—who’s in high school—raves about it day in and day out. So, he has the buzz going with the young hip-hop fans. I know just from my sister showing me his music that PnB Rock has more of a R&B vibe, which could make him a potential star for the radio charts. He recently released a project called “Goin’ Thru the Motions” with notable features from Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign and Quavo, so he has already cracked into the likes of a mainstream audience with those collaborative efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised if PnB Rock was on this year’s cover.
Here are some other artists to look out for.
Who do you think will make this year's XXL Freshman List? Let us know!