• 48 KINDA LIKE A BIG DEALIt’s that time of the year again, when all the arguments, debates and lobbying end and the 10 best emerging talents in hip-hop are crowned. Their hustle, Web impact, touring efforts and, of course, music set them apart from their peers and proved these rookies are ready for prime time. As always, it was a difficult task to pick just 10 XXL Freshmen, so for the 2012 group we let fans weigh in online for the last pick. Pay attention.
  • 64 HEY YAThese guys are gonna be signing a lot of autographs in the future, so preview their signatures on Polaroid pictures from the day of the cover shoot. No shaking necessary.
  • 68 GAME TIGHTThere’s no better veteran to give advice to this current crop of Freshmen than BUN B. Uncle Bun serves up crucial pieces of game for the new guard. Take note.
  • 70 I’M SHININGA lot can happen in a year for a new MC. Unfortunately, for some, little can happen as well. XXL checks in with our picks for Freshmen for 2011 and sees who made moves and who’s still waiting for their time to shine.
  • 72 WHY STOPThe Freshmen list has been around for five years now, giving upstart rappers a stepping stone to stardom. From LUPE FIASCO to WALE to WIZ KHALIFA to YELAWOLF and more, we shot-called ’em early. Here, by the numbers XXL compares, contrasts and breaks down the classes against each other. Plus an interview with the official Freshmen DJ, Whoo Kid.
  • 80 ANOTHER LEVELPUSHA T and 2 CHAINZ talk solo debut albums, emerging from groups and the Freshmen list.
  • Departments

    • 21 360Rick Ross gets real in Murder to XXLence, Joe Budden becomes a journalist for Super Bowl champ Victor Cruz, Lloyd Banks supports his lil’ bro’s rap dreams, Tyga talks biker gear, plus hip-hop’s infatuation with Kurt Cobain, rappers’ go-to strip club, Drake’s tour manager, and more.
    • 39 Show & Prove
      Azealia Banks, Astro, Chase N. Cashe, Phil Adé.
    • 90 The Good Life
      XXL keeps you fresh with the Freshmen’s favorite new clothing lines.
    • 109 X-RatedNew albums from B.o.B., Maino and Tyga, along with plenty of anticipated mixtapes, make this a packed reviews section; plus Melle Mel talks the 30-year anniversary of “The Message.


    • 12 Editorial
      VS sets 'em straight.
    • 16 Letters
      It's the kid 50 Cent.
    • 114 Doin’ Lines
      Red Café jots some down.