Morray – 2021 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: Morae Ruffin
- AGE: 28
- REPPIN': Fayetteville, N.C.
- TWITTER: @morrayda1
- INSTAGRAM: @nmorrayda1
- TIKTOK: @morrayda1
- NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “Quicksand,” “Switched Up,” “Trenches,” “Big Decisions”; Project: Street Sermons; Guest Appearances: J. Cole’s “my.life” with 21 Savage
- LABEL: Pick Six/Interscope
- CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Major label debut album due later this year.
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “They’re really on there. Coi Leray, because she’s so entertaining and she’s gonna bring the people if she’s on there. Pooh Shiesty, he’s been doing numbers. 42 Dugg, Blxst. It’s a lot of people that I didn’t even mention that need to be on there ’cause, bruh, this shit is hard nowadays. It’s so much music being put out, you don’t know what’s good or not.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “Drake. Only because hearing him sing ‘Brand New’ and ‘Say What’s Real’ and everything on So Far Gone just blew my mind. Like, this nigga is singing and rapping. He’s featuring on his own songs. I don’t need help, I could do it my fucking self… J. Cole, of course. His intricacy of what he talks about, how he puts it together. His flow pattern is amazing. Logic, that’s my dawg. I love how fast he raps and how he can have a great mindset about what’s going on, on the outside looking in. I like that because you don’t always have to be in the street to know about what’s going on so I fuck with that, too.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “I was a dickhead. I was really trying to fit in with everybody. So, if we were cooling in the hallway and a nigga was talking to a girl, I’d pull up like, ‘You don’t want that nigga. He a bitch.’ I would start fights in the hallway. I was trying to fuck every bitch I could. I was doing a lot of stupid shit that at 14, people shouldn’t be doing. Let’s just say that. My mom, I hope she doesn’t hear this. She’s going to be like, ‘Lord, Jesus.’”
TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “You know a new rapper because of two things: XXL and SoundCloud. Those two put you on to all of the unknown, fresh rappers. I would love to be a part of something that really wants to put fresh rappers out there. Who the fuck won’t fuck with the XXL Freshman Class when they’re putting fresh faces out there? You have to. You’d be dumb not to.
I’ve been doing music for 12 years and I finally got into the scene last year. I should’ve been on the fucking 2008 class, but it’s OK because I made it here, so it’s really important that I showcase who I am as a regular person even though I’m famous. But I want to be a regular person. I want niggas to understand that you can be here, too. You can have a nine-to-five and work and get paid every week and still be on XXL if you fucking got talent. You ain’t gotta fucking sell drugs and kill niggas to be the toughest rapper alive. Be yourself. I got here by being myself.
[It became a dream of mine to be a Freshman] after seeing DaBaby freestyle [in the 2019 class]. I was starting to rap a lot more and I felt myself getting better... I had to be a part of that shit. And the fact that it gets you hella attention. At the end of the day, we need views, we need this shit. And XXL is about to give me all of that. My XXL [experience] is about to make my fan base XL, extra fucking large, on God. This is a Grammy in the hood.”—Kemet High
MORRAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
Morray’s potential for greatness is going up, and it’s truly stuck. However, the Fayetteville, N.C. native had to shed his old skin to reemerge as the artist he is today.
The 28-year-old rising star, whose music is a melodic blend of singing and rapping, quit creating songs for quite some time before he swiped a spot in the 2021 XXL Freshman Class. After hitting the mic in 2008, more than a decade had gone by since Morray, born Morae Ruffin, made music again. He looked in the mirror on a handful of occasions and asked himself why he was continuing, considering how 10 years had passed with his songs failing to garner attention or much love on social media.
Last year, someone who claimed to be part of Gucci Mane’s team tried to scam Morray out of money, which prompted him to want to quit again. Just a few days later, his life changed as a result of his gold-selling smash "Quicksand." Pick Six Records founder Moe Shalizi called Morray to praise his artistry and the deal was real this time. Morray then signed to Pick Six, now in alliance with Interscope Records. “It's very discouraging when you're doing music by yourself, but it takes one thing to change your life,” Morray echoes.
“Quicksand" finds him singing through the tumultuous experiences of making it out of a gritty, isolated area that typically holds people down. The record, cosigned by fellow Fayettenam native and 2010 XXL Freshman J. Cole, plus 2020 Freshman DaBaby, peaked at No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and its video currently has a view count that's almost touching 100 million.
After that, he kept the music in rotation with more songs like “Trenches,” “Kingdom,” “Big Decisions” and “Switched Up.” The latter three are housed on the 2021 release of his debut project, Street Sermons, equipped with 13 tracks that encapsulate the intricacy of his flow patterns and pitch control. That adept caliber of layering melodies and harmonies also helped him create the chorus on J. Cole's song "My. Life," which peaked at No. 2 spot on the Hot 100 this year and earned Cole the highest-charting single of his career.
Let Morray tell it, that vocal design is something that he got from growing up in the church, an environment that’s perfect for opening up the spirit. “They got trap soul, but my shit is rap soul,” Morray shares. “I'm rapping, but I'm pouring from my heart. And that's why I love what I do because I can just give it my all and be me.”
Now, it’s time to give people a moving example of why Morray is the perfect fit for the 2021 XXL Freshman Class. His XXL Freshman freestyle features a wave of demanding energy felt from the first set of words Morray offers. Here, he details how he became the rose that grew from the pavement.
“They said I’ll be dead by 16, I guess them niggas was just lying and shit/Bitch, I’m alive and I know that you hate it, wishing you’d go blind and shit/And my diamonds too clear to think that I’m just flexing, bitch, ain’t no denying this shit/And, bitch, I just started and I didn’t even tap into my fucking prime with this,” he bestows with an intoned flow.
In just over a minute, Morray plays taps with calm, fleeting rhythms utilized to deliver chin-checking flexes about attacking beats, covering the calcium-filled blocks in his mouth with gold and having stacks of money so stern that the bills don’t fold.
Before he exits, the prophet-to-be references the level of greatness he aims to achieve, shouting out a legendary NBA Hall-of-Famer and another rising star. “Ball like a Maverick, yeah/Dirk Nowitski, Luka Doncic, yeah/This is a doctrine, yeah/Closing the hip-hop wound like doctors, yeah,” he closes.
Watch Morray's 2021 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by BODYARMOR, above.
Paraded on his breakthrough song “Quicksand,” cosigned by fellow North Carolina-bred MCs and former XXL Freshmen J. Cole and DaBaby, 2021 XXL Freshman Morray’s church-grown spirit is perhaps his most contagious quality. What fans will peep in his version of XXL’s ABCs is that his inviting aura extends beyond the mic. It possesses him with the ability to light up any room with his charisma and zeal. And that’s one quality of a star that cannot be forced or faked.
To crack open the segment, the Fayetteville, N.C. native uncovers his snack selections whenever he’s smoking. To quench his thirst, his mouth races to say apple juice for the letter A. Then, on the note of munchies, he pairs the letter B with a bowl of cereal. “I’m telling you, 2 in the morning, after that blunt and apple juice, bowl of cereal,” he stamps to everyone in his view.
A bit deeper into the alphabet, the 28-year-old melodist conveys the love he has for his people. “E, ebony," Stands for Black, what I am, what I love, hell you talkin’ ’bout?" he voices with a beaming smile and snicker. “I love everybody though,” he adds. Morray doubles down on that sentiment when he gets to the letter J. “Justice, ’cause we need to stop fucking around. We need to start getting that for ourselves.”
Soon after, he plugs in his stage moniker, which has a slight adjustment from his government name. “M-O-R-R-A-Y,” he spells out in the air as if he’s on Disney Channel with a sky blue-tinted wand in his hand. He’s got the kinetics down pat as well. Speaking of entertainment, he actually has an allure for acting and writes screenplays sometimes instead of lyrics.
Lastly, as a father, Morray doesn’t stride past the finish line without doubling down on his family ties. “T stands for toddler," he affirms. "I got a lot of kids. I’m done, no more toddlers.” And then for the letter W, the rapper humbly gives a nod to the love of his life. “W stands for the wife," shares Morray, who's signed to Pick Six Records/Interscope Records. "I’m going to say it in every interview. I don’t give a damn because I’m married. I love her.”
Press play below to peep Morray’s wit shine in his highly entertaining ABCs.
MORRAY'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE RAPPERS
If you’re a fan of Morray, you know that his musical style boomerangs between singing and rapping. In one chunk of a song, he drives home his bars about the trenches with a jittery flow. And in another, he flexes his vibrato with the soul of an entire church choir. When it comes to his top five favorite rappers of all time, the 2021 XXL Freshman's ability to entangle the two makes sense.
The first influential artist to get slotted into his list is none other than Drizzy Drake. “He helped me find out with the singing and rapping that you don’t have to just be a singer or a rapper,” Morray expresses.
Next, the 28-year-old gives a shout-out to J. Cole for setting the pace when it comes to aspiring artists bred in their hometown of Fayetteville, N.C. ”Bull is the G.O.A.T.,” Morray says of the man he’ll soon be on tour with alongside with 21 Savage.
Following that is Lil Wayne, who rightfully needs respect put on his name. “Don’t act like he ain’t have your whole 2000s to 2010 fire," Morray explains. "And your 2015 fire. So let’s just give him that respect.”
Playing things back to that mention of having a hurried flow, he places Logic in the fourth spot. “I like Logic a lot just because of his versatility, speed with rapping and the stuff that he talks about," Morray shares. "He’s not afraid to be himself.”
Finally, Morray, in a light-hearted manner—though he’s serious—divulges that he is indeed one of his own biggest fans. “And my last favorite rapper, he just started. He’s also fairly new. I think he got a song called 'Quicksand.' Me!,” he stamps. You can’t even knock it.
Watch Morray name his top five favorite rappers below.
MORRAY'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUMS
All hip-hop fans can point to certain albums and mixtapes that got played to the point where the CD skipped. You know, the must-haves that got listened to for free on sites like DatPiff, for a few dollars on applications like iTunes or even illegally through now-deceased platforms like LimeWire. Morray shares with XXL the top five albums that led to him falling in love with hip-hop.
The first project, which is actually a mixtape, that the versatile artist makes mention of is the polished effort that made Drake rich, So Far Gone. Morray lets it be known, “That’s probably like my favorite one ever.”
Another LP that makes the cut is one of the best sophomore albums of the modern era. “J. Cole, Born Sinner,” the 2021 XXL Freshman says surely. “The whole thing was just like a wake up call to new rap. Like, you ain’t gotta rap about the same stuff. Like, he just really came and gave smart bars. Smart bars are always needed.”
The North Carolina-bred MC hits Logic’s debut album, Under Pressure, with the prayer hands for the third election. “The fact that he’s on the outside looking in and has his own opinion is fire," Morray begins. "’Cause I’m pretty sure he don’t gang bang.”
“Fourth, I would say Chris Brown, Indigo.” To add context to that choice, Morray explains that he chose to embrace the whopping 30-plus songs instead of being turned off by so many different sounds. “You could put it on and feel a vibe whether you want to have sex with your wife, go party with your homies, get into a fight, dance to techno,” he explains. “You don’t know what you’re gonna do to Indigo.”
Last but certainly not least, the self-proclaimed family man gives himself a shameless plug by mentioning his very first project, Street Sermons, released in the top half of this year. “I made it for you,” Morray says of the effort. You heard the man. Have some respect and go spin that.
Peep Morray name his top five favorite hip-hop albums and mixtapes below.
MORRAY, DDG, LAKEYAH AND COI LERAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
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.
MORRAY, DDG, LAKEYAH AND COI LERAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW
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.