by: Thomas K. Welker, @thomaskwelker
August 24th, 2016


If you know me you know my proclivity for organization and thus my fascination with XXL’s neatly organized annual Freshmen List. For the unacquainted- the Freshmen List is designed by XXL magazine picking the 10 hip-hop artists they feel are going to have a breakout year. Among those formerly chosen are some well called picks like Kendrick Lamar, Future, J. Cole, and Wiz Khalifa. The list also has it’s share of duds like Trinidad James and Diggy Simmons. In the past there have been comments made about the decline in cultural relevance of the Freshmen List. I feel that the list is better organized and presented better than ever with cyphers, photoshoots, and a whole day devoted to introducing fans to the class of that year.

A few weeks ago the nominees for the 10th spot, a fan voted space on the list in which the artist with the most popular votes wins, was released. For the sake of organization (see? I told you.) I’m going to give you my picks for the 10 XXL Freshmen of 2016 and include a few categories to break it down for you.

I’m interested to hear what you think about my picks though. Drop me a line on Twitter and let’s talk about it. I’ll give you a fair RT and chance to voice your opinion.

Freshmen List 2016

Bryson Tiller
Probably the most deserving of a spot on this list. Young Tiller released TRAPSOUL late last year and carved out his own spot of stardom. Plus you could argue he brought back the dad hat trend.

He may only have two searchable songs out but it’s hard to argue with the 18 year old who made his musical debut on Kanye West’s most ambitious album yet and then followed it up by claiming the Billboard charts. Call him Future 2.0 all you want; he’s got a spot on this list for sure.

Kodak Black
Drake originally co-sign Kodak in an Instagram post earlier this year and since then “Lil’ Kodak” pronounced in southern drawl as “lee-kow-dah” (which is honestly really fun to say) has been releasing music to his hungry growing fan base.

Lil’ Dicky
Okay, this is the first guy on this list most of you guys are going to have a problem with. He’s controversial for being a comedy act and appropriating culture amongst other things. I’m personally a fan and with the numbers he’s doing I think it’s fair to say his year is going to be big.

Lil’ Yachty
I’m not happy about it, but again, here’s another guy whose buzz is hard to ignore. Yachty has a huge niche fanbase and co-signs on co-signs in the industry and he’s going to only get more popular as the year goes on. If you read my last article you know why this is hard to admit.

Post Malone
Post Malone is quite an interesting character. I mean you can’t go on tour with Bieber and not be at least considered for a list like this. He’s getting a spot. As a extra bonus, if you can find it, there’s a YouTube video of Post Malone before the fame hanging out with his Minecraft clan. I won’t link it just to make it an adventure for you, seriously it’s on YouTube.

O.T. Genasis
“Coco” and “Cut It” are huge songs. I don’t honestly think O.T. Genasis has a recognizable enough brand to have a great 2016 but XXL will almost surely give him the nod if not for the relationships with his label. I predict this to be one of their dud picks in the coming years.

Lil’ Uzi Vert
Lil’ Uzi Vert is another Yachty-esque artist in the fact that he has a lot of co-signs around the industry. His music is different and his fanbase isn’t the biggest but they’re incredibly loyal.

Tory Lanez
Tory Lanez is going to get pushed by his label onto this list. He’s very pop and very mainstream. Regardless of how he gets on the list he’s going to have a big year with all that label budget and team behind him. He’s also really talented… I guess that counts for something too.

Young Dolph
Dolph had a bit of a disappointing album release. I almost want to exchange him for someone like D.R.A.M. or Anderson .Paak. This spot really could go to either three for various reasons. I think Dolph probably is the closest to XXL at the moment.