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Next Up: Part 1

WANTED: The T.I. of tomorrow. The Kanye on the cusp. The Weezy-in-waiting. XXL looks into the crystal ball and calls the 10 best bets for future rap superstardom.

Label chiefs and A&R execs talk about looking for that elusive element of “star quality” in aspiring artists—intangible stuff like whether or not listeners believe someone’s music or if viewers want to be the person they see on MTV. But if predicting potential for success were easy, the labels wouldn’t be wrong so often. (Jay-Z wouldn’t have had to start Roc-A-Fella Records to put his music out himself. And Lil’ Zane would be quadruple platinum.)

Most of today’s biggest names are former outcasts and loudmouths that few believed in and no one would have wanted to be. 50 Cent was just a chubby kid from Queens with a chip on his shoulder before bullying his way to the top of the game. Kanye West was a college-dropout Chicago producer tugging on Jay’s coattails. Eminem was just some White backpacker MC from a trailer park in Detroit. And who would have thought Lil Wayne would be the Hot Boy sitting on top 10 years after Juve hit with “Ha,” ha?

While the pool of true hip-hop superstars is shallower than ever at the moment (in case you haven’t heard, the industry is experiencing something of a down cycle), there’s bound to be a few diamonds in the rough among the newbies. So the XXL brain trust set up shop in the boardroom for a few weeks and emerged with a Top 10 list of hopefuls. We considered things like technical proficiency, swagger, presence, co-signs from already-established artists, and the extent to which they move the crowd. So, without further ado, here are the 10 rappers we believe have the best shot to reach the top.

SAIGON: I Do This For My Culture.

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