• GOV'T NAME: Lakeyah Robinson
  • AGE: 21
  • REPPIN': Milwaukee
  • TWITTER: @itslakeyah
  • INSTAGRAM: @lakeyah
  • TIKTOK: @lakeyah
  • NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “Female Goat” featuring City Girls, “Big FlexHer” featuring 42 Dugg, “Poppin” featuring Gucci Mane, “Windows”; Mixtapes: Time’s Up, The Keymix ll, In Due Time
  • LABEL: Quality Control Music/Motown
  • CURRENTLY WORKING ON: As-yet-untitled mixtape due this summer.
  • WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “If Coi [Leray] didn’t make the cover, that would surprise me because she lit right now. Pooh Shiesty. My boy, I’m a big fan because I’m from the Midwest, 42 Dugg. Flo Milli, I’m a big fan of Flo. Erica Banks.”
  • INFLUENCED BY: “When it comes to music, I’m more influenced by male rappers like Tee Grizzley, like, when it comes to my flow. And, people like Wale ’cause I switch over and do a lot of R&B stuff… Nicki Minaj. She’s just the one for me. She cares about bars, metaphors, you know? That’s just me.”
  • AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “It’s so funny because my personality is so outgoing and I’m like the class clown. I got kicked out of all my classes, but I had glasses and braces and they were just like, ‘Girl, sit down.’ That was me though. I was in the poetry slam team, super smart and all the AP classes, but I was the class clown. I was a big personality.”

TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “I definitely think [being a Freshman] will open doors for me. I’ve been working on getting noticed by a platform. Even being interviewed by XXL was just crazy to me. I seen the [XXL Freshman] 10th spot thing, like, all of that is crazy to me. I came from rapping in cars to be signed and then a Freshman. Everybody’s gonna be so excited. My hometown gon’ be excited, my family gon’ be excited. I had to keep this a secret.

I’m gonna say bars and flow [is what ot me here]. Hard bars. I know I look gentle and pretty, she bringing looks, long hair, long nails. But, I’m a rapper-rapper. Not just a female artist. I’m making hard music. It’s like bossy music. You wouldn’t think a girl is gonna speak about pussy and selling sex in songs. I barely talk about it and I’ve had so many people gravitate towards me, so, that’s a big thing to me. I’m hoping that XXL notice that and is gonna be like, ‘That’s gonna be a great touch.’

Everything is about timing, and I’ve been working to get on QC and I’ve been working to get noticed by like anybody bigger. And, XXL is a very big, like, they always predict who’s next so that’s what I feel like. They already know what’s going on.

My fans gon’ be lit because I searched my name one day when that fake XXL list dropped. They were like, ‘What the fuck? If Lakeyah ain’t on there, this is ridiculous. We don’t wanna see shit. If Lakeyah ain’t on there, if Coi not on there, we don’t wanna see shit.’ So, once they see it, it’s gonna be a real surprise for them.”—Bianca Torres

Travis Shinn for XXL

LAKEYAH'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE

Lakeyah's dream to become a rapper started as a teenager, and it's clear she worked hard to make that goal a reality. The Quality Control Music artist is now a 2021 XXL Freshman, earning a coveted spot in the class alongside 10 other rappers. Her focus on sharp rhymes, witty wordplay and bossed-up energy have all attributed to her rise in the game. But like any rap newcomer, she had to put in work to get here.

The Milwaukee native first discovered her talent at the age of 15 after competing in her high school’s poetry slam team. Back then, the aspiring artist had the encouragement of friends, who pushed her to take rapping seriously. In 2016, Lakeyah, who was still in high school, was motivated to jump on the #SoGoneChallege, inspired by singer Monica's 2003 hit song of the same name. Her rap rendition went viral on Facebook and by 2017, she was dropping multiple freestyles on her social media accounts, gaining new fans by the day.

Two years later, Lakeyah took a trip to Atlanta and visited the Trap Museum, where she saw the Quality Control Music exhibit. The label was her dream destination as an artist. Soon, she up and left her home of Milwaukee and moved to ATL in hopes of getting signed to QC. Lakeyah continued to release music, pushing clips on Instagram, but this time, she started to tag QC cofounder Pierre “P” Thomas to get his attention. Her strategy worked as planned.

In 2020, Lakeyah posted herself rapping to the beat of JT of the City Girls' "First Day Out" in honor of JT coming home from prison. It didn’t take long for P to take notice of her rhymes. In January of 2020, he put in a call to Lakeyah, but it wasn’t until July of last year that she inked a deal with Quality Control. Her freestyle over Lil Baby’s track “We Paid” featuring 42 Dugg sealed the deal. Baby praised her in a tweet, P took note and signed her within the week.

Consistency and and dedication led Lakeyah to drop three mixtapes so far—Time’s Up, The Keymix ll and In Due Time—and popular songs like “Female Goat” featuring City Girls, “Big FlexHer” featuring 42 Dugg and “Poppin” featuring Gucci Mane. While she’s known as QC’s latest up-and-coming rapper, this year, Lakeyah's big title is a 2021 XXL Freshman.

If you’ve listened to Lakeyah’s music, you know she brings hard bars to the table. And her XXL Freshman freestyle is no different. Ambition and a competitive nature are all part of her storytelling here. “They told me stay hungry and stay consistent/I’m standin’ on niggas’ necks, I ain’t worried ’bout competition, I did it/Killin' these bitches, I’m here for the life sentence,” she raps.

Lakeyah, who cites rappers like Nicki Minaj and Tee Grizzley as influences, lays it all out on what it took to get to where she's at today. “Really the definition of coming from rags to riches," she spits. "I’ma rich daughter, shit-talker, I’m the shit/They some imposters, rapping ’bout shit they never did/Bitches really don’t know me and the shit it took to win/Call it my hood trophy, it hit different on my wrist.”

Peep Lakeyah’s 2021 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by BODYARMOR, above.

LAKEYAH'S ABCs

XXL

Lakeyah takes a lot of pride in her rhymes and being a certified spitter. The 2021 XXL Freshman made her way from Milwaukee to Atlanta with aspirations of becoming a successful rapper. Through hard work, long studio sessions and perseverance, she made her vision happen. Now, she’s a Quality Control Music artist. The 20-year-old rhymer, known for songs like “Big FlexHer,” showcases her paper-chasing ambitions and motivation to succeed in her version of XXL’s ABCs.

The Midwest MC’s bossed-up energy and confidence shines throughout each letter of the alphabet. Lakeyah chooses a fitting word for B. “B is for bossy because that’s what I think my music is,” she says. “It’s just like, I got money, I got my own bag, I don’t need nobody.” Big Key doesn’t play about her money. “C stands for cash. You know, I need my money in all blues, A.S.A.P,” she conveys.

If you’ve listened to Lakeyah’s music, she’s all about the Benjamins and serves braggadocious bars on songs like “Female Goat” featuring the City Girls, “Big FlexHer” featuring 42 Dugg, “Poppin” featuring Gucci Mane and more recently, “Young and Ratchet.”

With big goals in mind, Lakeyah goes on to affirm her determination with the letter D all while sharing her desire to rise to the top with dreams of eventually making it to Hollywood. “H stands for Hollywood because that’s where I’ma be,” Lakeyah shares. “We in Atlanta now, but that’s next.”

As Lakeyah gets further into her ABCs, she pays homage to fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion with the letter O. "O is for outstanding," Keyah explains. "Shout-out Meg, she said, 'I don't stand outside 'cause I'm too outstanding.'" When it comes to the letter P, it stands for exactly what she's doing in the industry. "P is for pressure," she maintains. "I'm pressure. I'm coming with the pressure. I got the pressure."

Towards the end of the video, viewers will also find out that even though Lakeyah delivers hardcore lyrics in her music, she’s also a hopeless romantic.

Get familiar with Lakeyah and find out more about her in XXL’s ABCs.

LAKEYAH'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE RAPPERS

XXL

More often than not, there is usually another artist that inspired a rapper before they blew up. Whether it be because of a rap flow or drip, it’s only right that they pay homage to those that came before them in the game. That’s exactly what 2021 XXL Freshman Lakeyah does when speaking on her top five favorite rappers.

Lakeyah is best known for being a rapper's rapper and taking pride in her wordplay. So, it's no surprise that first up on her list is multiplatinum-selling rapper Nicki Minaj. Lakeyah admits she's part of the lauded MC's loyal fan base. “Nicki Minaj, I’m a Barb, like, that’s just, you already know I was gonna say that,” says the Milwaukee native. “She’s the G.O.A.T.”

The Quality Control Music signee is a big fan of rapper's who use metaphors, too. She's got them all over her tracks. As you could guess, Lil Wayne is also on Lakeyah’s top five. “I’ma definitely say Wayne ’cause like, he the metaphor God,” she explains. “That man was studying the dictionary. He know a lot.” She then names Drake as another one of her favorite rappers. The Big 3 all make it onto her list. “And, I had to put him in there ’cause they the Dream Team,” she says.

Her top five favorite rappers wouldn't be complete without including DMV rap star Wale to her. She favors his rap style and substance. “I really, really love, love poetic rappers” Lakeyah confirms. “He’s the one. I love Wale.”

Lakeyah then adds Tee Grizzley to finish off her top choices. “But, [No.] 5, my favorite rapper from Detroit is Tee Grizzley,” she asserts. “Shout-out Tee Grizzley, I hope I get a song with you. You know I fuck with you. I’m from Milwaukee, so, yes.”

Watch Lakeyah give a rundown of her top five rappers below.

LAKEYAH'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUMS

XXL

Every music enthusiast has a list of their top five favorite albums of all time. Many times, these projects bring back fond memories. On the flip side, fans may have been going through a tough time when an album dropped and the music helped them get through that moment in their life. Then there's that one project that just has everlasting bops. For rappers, it’s no different. Before they were artists, they were hip-hop fans. 2021 XXL Freshman Lakeyah can attest to that. Down in Atlanta during the Freshman cover shoot, she shared her top five favorite hip-hop albums that made an impact on her life.

If you’ve listened to the Quality Control Music rapper's songs, you know she takes pride in spitting hard-hitting bars. The choices for her top five album feature the music she naturally gravitates towards. First up on the “Female Goat” rapper’s list is Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. “I’m definitely gonna start with Nicki’s Pink Friday,” she says. “It’s iconic.”

Lakeyah moves on to No. 2 with Drake’s Take Care. “I’ma say Drake, Take Care. Like, that is just timeless music,” the Milwaukee native explains. “I love timeless music. Not shit that’s gonna be here one day and they worried about what’s coming tomorrow, you know?”

She then moves on to her third favorite album. “Three, I’ma say Lil BabyMy Turn,” she asserts. “Y’all already know there were some hits on there.” Tee Grizzley also makes it onto her list of favorite albums. “My fourth favorite hip-hop album is Tee Grizzley, My Moment,” Lakeyah confirms. “He snapped throughout the whole thing. There’s no skips for me. I love it.”

Lastly, the “Big FlexHer” rapper names her fifth favorite album. “My fifth favorite album is definitely Trina, The Baddest Bitch,” Lakeyah discloses. “I grew up to Nicki and Trina, you know? I ain’t really have a lot of females rappers and Trina is definitely the baddest, forever.”

Get familiar with Lakeyah's top five favorite hip-hop albums below.

LAKEYAH, DDG, MORRAY AND COI LERAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER

XXL

The 2021 XXL Freshman cyphers are finally here and best believe that they’re starting off with a bang. The first group with the task of showing and proving why they landed a spot on the coveted cover consists of 10th Spot winner DDG, Quality Control Music signee Lakeyah, soul crooner Morray and social media savant Coi Leray.

Each of the four acts use bull-ish bars and no-Auto-Tune warbling to skate through an enchanting beat, twirled with assuaging key melodies and pounding bass drops. That soothing foundation is set by none other than Internet Money creative Nick Mira, who serves as this year’s Freshman beat curator. Nick, who recently launched his own Mira Touch record label, produced the beats for each cypher along with a few Internet Money producers.

Michigan’s own DDG is the first rapper on the starting blocks with a domineering verse about toting clips longer than Jamaican hair, turning the cheek on his haters and running up the digits in his bank account. “Niggas switch up for the dollars/I be tryna be positive, but the drama/It be constantly following on my mama/But I guess it’s the side effects of the commas,” he delivers in a brash tone.

Next is Milwaukee seed Lakeyah, who picks up right where YouTuber-turned-rapper DDG leaves off. The self-proclaimed “Female Goat” takes a no-mercy approach to the beat as usual, and offers a hot rhyme about beating the odds to a pulp. “How the fuck she a Freshman when she dropped out of college?/And how the fuck she go so hard when she look like a model?/Buy a bitch life, legally I can’t even buy me a bottle/They know I’m a problem,” she spews briskly in just under one minute.

After cosigning Lakeyah's verse preceding his with an accurate “fucking fire,” Morray slides through with a sing-song flow that’s heard on tracks like the gold-selling “Quicksand.” Truly off the top of the dome, the Fayettenam stepper has in fact arrived with a chip on his shoulder and a strap on his hip. “Fuck it, don’t gotta write it/Fuck it, I rather spit it/Niggas talkin’ ’bout toilet bowls, bitch I’m shittin'/Like, whoa, what you mean you want the dough?/And you niggas talkin’ bullshit, but I’m the one with the flows,” he declares matter-of-factly. “Off the top bitch this shit is hot, what the fuck you niggas know?/When I come outside the strip club, I’m coming with the poles.”

Boston and New Jersey reppin' Coi Leray swaps her red cup with the mic and drives things home with a quotable ballad about camaraderie and commas. “C-O-I, love it when he say my name, yeah/Low-key, that my little sneaky link, aye/Yeah, I love when he fuck me to the beat, aye/He a freak, fell in love with me, let's go” she spits. Showing off her versatility, she croons during the second half of her rhyme before busting out into a mini twerk session.

Her last few lines are built around the phrase “We all get money,” which Morray uses as a base to dip back in with his church-grown harmonies for the outro. The beat fades as he salutes his group for their performance: “XXL, we in this. Aye, DDG, we did this/Lakeyah! Yeah, we did it,” he stamps, feeding confidence into his fellow Freshmen.

Watch DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray’s 2021 XXL Freshman cypher, powered by FX’s Dave, below.—Kemet High

LAKEYAH, DDG, COI LERAY AND MORRAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW

XXL

The surreal feeling of turning a dream into reality is unmatched. Those pivotal moments are often filled with feelings of anxiety, peace and motivation, all wrapped up into one. 2021 XXL Freshmen DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray reflect on that during their post-cypher roundtable interview, along with their thoughts on what went down in Atlanta on the day of the Freshman shoot in May, their influences and their shared mindset of growing even bigger and better in the future.

DDG turned years worth of YouTube vlogs and social media leverage into the foundation of his budding rap career. Though he’s recently switched lanes to focus on rapping and left his YouTuber life behind, he defends the fact that he earned his spot. “It’s important to be a XXL Freshman ’cause I feel like I put the work in," DDG shares. "I feel like I’ve been working extremely hard. I put the numbers up, put the plaques up. So, I feel like it’s my time.”

It hasn’t even been a year since Lakeyah signed to her dream label Quality Control Music and made her way into the rap game. Reflecting on how she earned a deserving spot on this year’s cover, she acknowledges that though it’s just the tip of the iceberg for what’s yet to come, the big cosign feels unreal. “I’m a newcomer," she says. "I been in the game eight months, so, this is like crazy to me... I’m just working and I’m here.”

Morray echoes that sentiment as someone who similarly is now hitting an unavoidable stride. “No cap, I’ve been wanting to be a Freshman for a long time,” he adds. "I feel like this is more than an opportunity, it was something that I watched my whole life and now I get to be here... You get to see people on TV, but then when you meet them, they’re actually dope-ass people, so.”

Platinum-selling artist Coi Leray offers insight from an artist perspective on how low-key the entire process had to be along the way. “This is some secret shit, y’all don’t know about this shit," Coi reveals. "XXL don’t fucking tell us nothing, bro. They just tell you a time, show up, wardrobe, dressing room, whatever it is, but they don’t tell you who’s on there, like. They don’t give you none of that shit.”

Well, everything has been brought to life now.

Watch DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray’s 2021 XXL Freshman roundtable interview below.—Kemet High

See the 2021 XXL Freshman Class

Welcome 42 DuggIann DiorCoi LerayPooh ShiestyFlo MilliMorrayRubi RoseBlxstToosiiLakeyah and DDG to the 2021 XXL Freshman Class.