TRUTH: On Being A 2014 XXL Freshman: “I went and looked at the artists like Future and watched the people that XXL chose go off and do some special shit and maintain their grind. I had to go chop it up with the staff at XXL. It was a thing like, ‘You a singer. How can you be a Freshman? We don’t do singers.’ For me, it’s like, of course XXL has catered to rappers. I know what hip-hop is, a nigga story, a nigga struggle put into a song.

I remember that meeting, and I clicked out on them because I feel like, let me get the same opportunity as the next man. I spoke my piece, and they felt my heart, and at that point I said, ‘If I don’t get it, I swear y’all muthafuckas are going to be mad at me because I’m going to speak on it.’ We’re breaking barriers.

My definition of hip-hop is the individual. Hip-hop is a nigga story, a nigga background, a nigga culture…my life, where I come from and what’s in my heart. It’s all of that. I don’t rap. You can either take that or leave it. But I know one thing you can’t take away from me: what I do. Talent prevails over everything. You can’t take that away from me. [I bring] something that’s never been on the cover of XXL. I don’t do what these other niggas do, and they don’t do what I do. I bring me to the table. Ain’t no other nigga like me. I say that in the most humble way, but I just know. I’m humble enough to know I’m not better than the next man, wise enough to know that these niggas ain’t like me and we are not the same. I just want to give back more than I took.

It’s an honor to be a part of this. This is something that I always wanted, and now that I got it, let me go double up on these niggas and just work, don’t make it a failure type. I’m going to go hard as ever before. I got too much other shit to be worried about this putting pressure on me. It’s just about show and prove. That’s it. I don’t feel surprised because deep down, I don’t really feel that I’ve blown up yet. I feel that people feel my presence, but it’s still a whole lot to do. Not even prove, just a lot to do. Hopefully this will put a stop to people marginalizing and putting people in a box because you can’t do that. It’s just so many opportunities. XXL Freshmen opens a lot of doors. It gives people an opportunity to really see what they fucking with.”—As Told To Emmanuel Maduakolam

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