DJ Drama is on his second year serving as host for the XXL Freshman Class. For this year’s Dirty Dozen, the hip-hop tastemaker reflects on the impact of the Freshmen list on the culture, the strengths of incorporating R&B artists, and who he plans on getting in the studio with to make history. Check out Drama's take below, and head right here for all our coverage of the XXL 2014 Freshmen Class.

DJ Drama: I am a big fan of Freshmen covers. It’s great barbershop conversation. We always think about the cover before it comes out. You sit around with your peoples and you say who you think is going to make it. And once the cover comes, you vocalize your opinion, and then you like to know where [the guys] are afterwards. It’s always fun coming in every year and looking at the former covers and really seeing who is doing what. Everybody sounds different.

Artists and fans still care about it just as much as the other. I feel like for every artist, they definitely wait for that phone call. It’s still a coveted part of the culture. It’s still a coveted part of what’s important to hip-hop. I think the fans enjoy it all the same. It’s like the draft. It doesn’t get old. Every year there’s a new crop of talent, and when people come to the league, it doesn’t change. The brand and standard by no means have lessened the appeal just because it’s been going on for so long.

I think this year is a very strong class when I look at it. I think some of the guys could have been contenders last year, but they are still having very standout years, from Rich Homie Quan to Chance The Rapper to Ty Dolla $ign. I know all those names kind of came up even in 2013. But as a whole, 2014 is very strong.  With Ty and August, there’s an R&B presence that has never been there.

Chicago is very strong. There are four artists from Chicago. Just as a whole, I always look at it...the cover, to me, is always five strong. Five or more. I never see any less than that. I have to look back at the years. I think this class is going to have a really strong 2014.

Me and Chance have been talking about doing something. Collaborations. Really, all of them. I’ve worked with Ty. I’ve worked with August and Durk. I’ve worked with Quan. I’ve already [worked with] about half [of the class]. I love Jarren Benton. I’ve been following Jarren Benton for like two years. He’s impeccable behind the mic. I’m [in with] a good 60, 70 percent [of the artists] really. Me and Bibby gotta get in. Me and Vic gotta get in. Kevin Gates is in Atlanta, so we hang out a lot. In a couple months, I’ma be 100 percent with the cover. —As Told To Eric Diep