Here’s What Went Down at the 2019 XXL Freshman Shows in New York and Los Angeles
Each year, XXL chooses some of music's newer names for the XXL Freshman cover, which has grown to become a staple in hip-hop. As the annual cover drops each summer, there's always excitement over who made the latest lineup, what their cyphers and freestyles will sound like and how they'll do during their performance at the bicoastal shows. This year, Gunna, Blueface, DaBaby, Rico Nasty, Megan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack, Roddy Ricch, YBN Cordae, YK Osiris, Comethazine and Lil Mosey earned their spot on the 2019 XXL Freshman cover. They've all become familiar with each other, whether they've kicked it at the Freshman cover shoot or collaborating on new music. Together, they brought their collective energy to the PlayStation Theater in New York City on Monday night (July 22) to showcase their talents.
The night began with R&B singer YK Osiris, the Def Jam signee who has scored a hit with his infectious song "Worth It." As expected, his performance of that song put the crowd in the palm of his hands. He also brought out Chicago singer Ann-Marie to perform their collaboration "Secret." Following the Jacksonville, Fla. singer was Tierra Whack, the Philly MC who's punctuated her rise with her off-the-beaten-path style and strong lyricism. She was all energy from the start of her set to the end. With a bag of Lay's chips in hand—and more she passed out to the crowd—she worked through cuts from Whack World and performed some of her newer work, like "Unemployed" and "Wasteland." She also donned an outfit that seemed like a nod to A Clockwork Orange, complete with white paint decorating her left eye.
Shortly after her set ended, Comethazine took the stage, continuing to turn up the crowd. He let loose with songs from Bawskee 2 shine, among them "Benjamin Counter" and Hippopotamus." Co also showed some love to the currently-incarcerated A$AP Rocky by playing the "Walk" remix, which features a verse from the Harlem head honcho. Moving on, Suitland, Md. rapper YBN Cordae grabbed the mic, basking in the moment and enjoying himself. His debut album, The Lost Boy, is out now, so he previewed a new track. Of course, he did "Kung Fu" and "Have Mercy" for the eager crowd.
Rico Nasty was the next act up, bringing her perfected blend of hip-hop and rock-based performance style to the PlayStation Theater. She started with the slow-building Anger Management opener "Cold," a perfect intro in every way. There was no way she could end her performance without doing "Smack A Bitch." She gave the crowd what they wanted and had fun while doing it. Inflated balls with her name on it were tossed into the crowd and and a pillow fight ensued. Seattle's Lil Mosey came out after Rico, heading straight into both his smoother, R&B-leaning songs and his more street-focused tunes. His set featured "Kamikaze" and "Noticed," a huge song that has over a quarter billion streams.
West Coast rep Roddy Ricch was fully prepared for the night when he hit the stage. The Feed Tha Streets rapper ran through his biggest songs, like "Die Young" and "Project Dreams," commanding the crowd with confidence. And, of course, he performed his 2018 track "Every Season." The final few performers of the night were Blueface, DaBaby and Gunna. Unfortunately, Megan Thee Stallion couldn't make it to the show due to the inclement weather affecting her flight. Blueface, had the crowd on his side out the gate; they stuck with him through every song. Noticeably, "Bleed It" rang off, as did his biggest banger to date, "Thotiana." He also brought out a wet mop on stage and used it, casually wetting the front of the stage and dancing while he was at it.
DaBaby's set was full of high energy. He shut his part of the show down with "Suge" and "Walker Texas Ranger," while also bringing out Stunna 4 Vegas to perform "Ashley." The North Carolina rhymer also went into the crowd walking through the pit and heading up to the railing to be amongst his fans. Wrapping up the night was Gunna, who brought out a guitarist to enhance his rock star vibe. For someone with a catalog of successful songs, he had plenty of tracks to choose from and hit all the right notes. From "Pedestrian" to "Richard Millie Plain" to "Baby Birkin," Gunna covered multiple stages of his career and showed why he locked down his spot as a 2019 XXL Freshman.—Robby Seabrook IIII
See Photos of the 2019 XXL Freshman Class at the New York City Show
2019 XXL FRESHMAN SHOW IN LOS ANGELES
Days after hitting the stage for the 2019 XXL Freshman concert in New York City, several members of this year’s class kept the same energy and brought the vibes across the country to Los Angeles. The second show of the 2019 Freshman season went down Thursday night (July 25) at The Novo and featured YK Osiris, Tierra Whack, YBN Cordae, Rico Nasty, Lil Mosey, Roddy Ricch, Megan Thee Stallion, Blueface and Gunna. Although DaBaby and Comethazine, who dropped his debut album, Bawskee 3.5, today, performed during the New York City show, both rap stars were absent from last night’s concert.
The night opened with Lil Mosey. While most rappers are cool with just making it rain, the 17-year-old Northsbest artist, who appears in the 2019 Freshman issue with a white mink on, made it "snow"—white particles fell from above—as he ran through his popular songs like "Kamikaze." YK Osiris followed up strong with his smooth vocals. "Timing" and "Worth It," the biggest hit of his career thus far, were all part of his set. The energetic young singer even managed to make a young woman's night extra special after he brought her onstage to serenade her as she sat in a chair. Right at home on the West Coast, Roddy Ricch was in his element as he hyped the crowd, rapping singles like “Die Young” and Nipsey Hussle’s Hit-Boy-produced “Racks in the Middle.”
The ladies definitely were in the building. Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack and Megan Thee Stallion came through in full force, proving that they can stack up against their male counterparts. Rico, dressed in all white, proved her lyrical delivery has been excelling with every show. Her raging performance of "Smack a Bitch" is evident of that. Philly rhymer Tierra, who's always dressed to ill—this time in a red jacket decorated with brown eyes—brought out the Lay's once more but kept the snacking to a minimum as she had more important things to focus on like running through rhymes on "Only Child."
With the Hot Girl summer now in full affect, Ms. Tina Snow pulled up on the L.A. crowd, appearing in a slime green “Pussy” hoodie with matching boots, while accompanied by a pair of backup dancers. Although she missed out on the opportunity to show out in NYC, she surely made up for it in the City of Angels, performing highlights from her growing catalog such as “Sex Talk” and “Big Ole Freak.”
Hometown hero Blueface came through ready to clean up the competition, performing fan-favorites like “Stop Cappin,” “Buss Down,” the Rich the Kid-assisted “Daddy” and “Next Big Thing.” Before ending the night with his smash hit “Thotiana,” the Cash Money West signee made sure show off his dance moves, Crip walking for the excited fans. And his performance wouldn't be complete without him mopping up the stage. Gunna closed out the epic night. Dripping too hard, the Georgia native, styled in designer duds, kept the party going, assisted by his DJ and his trusty guitarist. Songs like "Sold Out Dates" just sound better when accompanied by a guitar. The YSL rapper performed tracks from both his Drip Season and Drip or Drown series, as well as from his collaborative effort with Lil Baby, Drip Harder before bringing his show to a close.
To see more of the 2019 XXL Freshman Class, check out all of the interviews, freestyles and cyphers on XXL's YouTube channel featuring this year’s squad.—Kai Acevedo
See Photos of the 2019 XXL Freshman Class at the Los Angeles Show