TRUTH: On Being A 2014 XXL Freshman: “I’ve been working a long time. For a lot of people, this may have come out of nowhere because my following is really underground, true underground fan base. And just to grind so hard and to work so hard; I came up with the Master P, out-the-trunk-of-the-car grind, performing at holes in the wall, just enjoying it and appreciating all the experiences from my journey. So to finally make it to this point right here is a feeling that really, I don’t know if you can put it into words.

It’s the gratification for everything that you went through. It’s times like this like, this isn’t the end of the journey, this is another milestone in the journey, but it’s one of those things that lets you know that all your hard work ain’t for nothin’, and I appreciate XXL for appreciating and saluting my journey and how much work I was putting in.

I used to obsess about the Freshmen cover. There was a time where that was my benchmark of that’s how you know you did it, or that’s how you know you put in enough work, or that’s how you know you on the radar. I remember, I dropped a mixtape, The Blue Album, and two months after that I dropped The People’s Rapper LP, and two months before that I dropped Season 2. That all stemmed because I was like, ‘Yo, I gotta work so hard to where they recognize my grind.’ Not just XXL, but if XXL recognizing your grind, that mean the world is recognizing your grind, the world of hip-hop is recognizing the work you put in. So that was the standard I held it. So of course the Freshmen cover inspired me and motivated me and was something I wanted to have on my resume. Look at the people that’s been on it before—Kendrick, we know what he went on to do, Macklemore, we know what he went on to do, J. Cole, Big Sean. It’s a who’s who of people that are now on the road to becoming the new legends of hip-hop. And now I get the same jump-off, so I love it, man.

Man, you know what I feel? I feel like life is not just about opportunity, but it’s also about what you do with an opportunity that is given to you. A record deal isn’t the end-all, be-all; it’s what you do with that record deal. It provides you with a bunch of opportunities, but if you don’t do anything with those opportunities, then it’s a waste. So I think that what XXL provides with the Freshmen cover is that opportunity. It’s like, ‘Okay, we believe in you up until this point. Now you could either, A, take it, be relaxed and say, ‘I did it,’ or you can take it to the next plateau.’ And that’s what I want to do with it. That’s what I’m gonna do with it. I look at it as that: We see you, we see how hard that you’ve worked, but at the same time it’s like the gunshot in a race: POW, and they’re off. That’s what this is. Okay, now go ahead, you’ve been working so hard, now go do it.”—As Told To Dan Rys