• GOV'T NAME: Rodarius Green
  • AGE: 20
  • REPPIN': St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • TWITTER: @rodwave
  • INSTAGRAM: @rodwave
  • NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “Heart On Ice,” “Cuban Links” featuring Kevin Gates and “Pray 4 Love”; Mixtapes: Rookie of the Year, Hunger Games, Hunger Games 2, Hunger Games 3, PTSD; Album: Ghetto Gospel, Pray 4 Love; Guest Appearances: E-40’s “Made This Way,” Plies’ “Bag Alert”
  • LABEL: Alamo/Geffen/Interscope
  • WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “My man Tweezy. Bobby Fishscale.”
  • INFLUENCED BY: “Somebody who really influenced me since a kid was Lil Phat. He was just telling his life story. He was young, just like me. He was tough. [Lil Phat] was like, one of the first young rappers to really be doing they thing, like, really turnt up.”
  • AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “I just was lost, man. I ain’t know what I wanted to do, you know what I’m saying? Whatever happened as a Freshman in high school…I wouldn’t even be right here. I’d probably be gone somewhere else, locked up or dead."
TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “I think I been chosen to be a 2020 XXL Freshman ’cause, you know, I been rocking with XXL since I started, you know what I’m saying? They respect grind, you know? Yeah, that’s why… You listen to my music, I’ma tell you how I’m feeling, the pain that I go through on a daily basis, my real life, you know what I’m saying? Reality—I feel like a lot of people living in fairytale land, wonderland. So, I feel like I’m different because this is reality. This is the real deal. But, [this is] a big achievement like, if you go back to all my old songs, my label used to make me do press runs with XXL and I go there and freestyle, hoping I could become a Freshman, you know what I’m saying? So, it feel good. Like an accomplishment. Like a trophy. ‘Grandma, I just left XXL.’ That’s how I feel.”—Bianca Torres



Melodies and hip-hop formed an unbreakable bond during the 2000s and the foolproof formula has transcended to the point where it has almost become a sub-genre of sorts. Twenty-year-old rapper Rod Wave is among the new school artists who are conjoining rapping and singing and are taking the fusion to new heights.

He's relatively low-key, and puts his pain and struggles into his music, hence the title of his sophomore album, Pray 4 Love. Rod's candid rhymes on the LP resonated with fans, earning him a No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200. This project is where you can get a feel for who Rod Wave truly is: an up-and-coming talent out of St. Petersburg, Fla., who keeps it real in his music about what he's been through, falling in and out of love, overcoming adversity and climbing the ladder of success step by step.

Rod, born Rodarius Green, credits Kevin Gates for motivating him to rap. The sonic semblance can be heard in his music, too. "I really liked your music since the eighth grade, just how you talk about your life," he told XXL last year of Gates, who executive produced his debut LP, Ghetto Gospel. "You made me understand people like us could actually go far, people like us could actually do it in the game. Just the fact that you could take your pain and turn up with it."

So, that's just what Rod does in his 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle as he creates his own a cappella flow while candidly sharing his aspirations as a kid, how that quickly shifted after being exposed to what some might deem the finer things in life and the gratitude he feels after getting a record deal. The lyrics in the freestyle, which was recorded during the 2020 XXL Freshman cover shoot in June, ended up on his song "Smile," which was released in August on the deluxe edition of his Pray 4 Love album.

"This for them tribulations and trials/I finally got a smile for all the frowns/I finally get to make my mama proud/Start a family, bought a house/I finally see what pops was talkin’ ’bout/But it was hard lookin’ up when I was down/I was down, bad and bummy/They was laughin’ at me, but it wasn't funny/Imagine me in that bottom as a youngin’ on the any given Sunday/Tryna find a way to get some money/We cut grass to get cash when I was hungry/Stealin’ chicken out of Publix/A nigga grab a box and go to runnin’/A nigga never gave me nothin’, so it's fuck ’em/Was ballin’ on a budget, I remember ballin’ on a budget," he rhymes.

The South Florida rhymer might be one of this year's 12 XXL Freshmen, but as a kid, he didn't dream of rocking the mic. He actually wanted to be a firefighter or an educator. "I was fine ’til my mind got corrupted/I used to want to be a firefighter or a teacher/’Til niggas came through on 22s and boomin' speakers/My mind changed instantly/Mom didn't even know what gotten into me/Thuggin’ hard, stealin’ cars and shootin’ at the enemies," he delivers.

Rod even opens up about prior drug use on the nearly two-minute freestyle. "Back in 11th grade was addicted to poppin’ seals/I love to sip that lean, I like the way it make me feel/The smile up on my face big ’cause I been swallowing pills/Couldn't focus in class/My mind was stuck on them M's/Was thinkin’ ’bout my past/That shit be giving me chills/I never thought I'd see the day I'd get a record deal."

Despite his past, Rod Wave is grateful to have found a passion in his songs.

Watch Rod Wave's 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by Rap Caviar, below.—Aleia Woods



Sometimes, a rapper's music doesn't always match their personality. This could be because their music is a cathartic release or they've adopted an alter ego. Rod Wave fits under the umbrella of using his music as therapy because unlike his emotion-evoking music, he's pretty coy and not very outspoken. However, in the 2020 XXL Freshman's version of XXL's ABCs, he offers a middle ground. Get ready to witness Rod joke and laugh his way through the 26 letters of the alphabet.

For the most part, the St. Petersburg, Fla. native keeps his alphabet word association short and sweet. He kicks things off with "I'm all in" for A. Rod goes the sound effect route for B. "BDDDD," he says. If you've ever watched him freestyle for XXL in 2018, you're already familiar with his ad-lib. Rod explains that it's a hometown thing for him. "It's just something we do in Florida," he shares. "It's just something I took it and ran with it."

By the time Rod Wave gets halfway through, he gets personal with the letter I. "Insane," the 20-year-old rapper says before explaining why he chose this particular word. "My lady, my mama, my grandma, everybody think I'm crazy," he reveals. "’Cause, you know, insanity, they say the definition of it you keep doing the same thing expecting different results, you gotta be insane."

Towards the end of the alphabet, Rod tells an endearing story about how he became Rod Wave. "R, Rod Wave, that comes from one of my homeboys gave me that name ’cause I used to be scared to upload my music," he admits. "I just used to make music and just to listen to it myself. So one day, he just uploaded it and gave me my name. I came back to school, everybody was like, 'Rod Wave!' I ain't know what the hell they was talkin’ ’bout."

In April, Rod Wave's signature melodic crooning about his life in the streets of Florida, his triumphs and everything in between landed him at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200 chart with this album Pray 4 Love. His rigor and consistency—(his singles, “Heart On Ice,” “Cuban Links” featuring Kevin Gates, “Pray 4 Love,” mixtapes, Rookie of the Year, Hunger Games, Hunger Games 2, Hunger Games 3, PTSD and albums, Ghetto Gospel, Pray 4 Love)—are what got him to this point. It's only up from here.

Check out Rod Wave's ABCs below.—A.W.



The time has finally come. XXL's coveted Freshman cyphers have arrived, and with this particular group from the 2020 XXL Freshman Class, it's a meeting of the bars from the South (Memphis, St. Petersburg, Fla. and Montgomery, Ala.) all the way up North to the Bronx, N.Y. And while gimmicks and stunts have managed to keep vise grip on the rap game in recent years, rapping off the top of the dome is still an essential aspect in hip-hop. NLE Choppa, Rod Wave, Chika and Lil Tjay are a foursome that have proven this to be a pure fact—no cap.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic forced a number of unforeseeable adjustments onto the rap game, but the lyrical content delivered by these four rappers during the cypher was unaffected. Grammy Award-nominated, South Carolina producer Jetsonmade produced the piano-driven beat that each of these Freshmen slide over.

Seventeen-year-old Memphis native NLE Choppa is first up to bat on the beat. Holding the mic close to his mouth, Choppa leaves no room for his words to be misconstrued.

"Grew up around the killing and all the dealing and all the drilling/I just be putting my heart in all of my songs," he spits while taking minimal breaths in between his bars. "I make sure y'all niggas feel it/The nigga, he ratted, we cutting his tongue/Look like paintballs when we hit ’em/Lord forgive me, I'm a sinner and a winner/Rockin’ chinchilla eating at dinner/Know where we lay and we know where we stay/Wet the whole house up, if you play/Fuck that ho shit/Talk what I said/I don't need no mouse hole in my face."

Next, Rod Wave switches up the flow. It's soothing, yet captivating as he casually offers a melodic spin on his rhymes. He uses his smooth delivery to tell how he's risen above his childhood hardships.

"’Member I was broke, I ain't have nothin’/Kicked out of the house, livin' with my cousin/Bank account, car stop runnin'/Problems kept comin', mama kept prayin'/Prayin' God got her baby, it's crazy/One apartment, fo’ niggas/Air mattress got a hole in it," he recounts. "I remember, nigga/All them cold Decembers, nigga/I can't believe that I'm finally winning, nigga," Rod adds.

Chika is accompanied by a special guest, her dog Vision, throughout the cypher. Spitting in a softer, more tranquil tone than her counterparts, the Alabama native raps about her come up and advises listeners not to count her out—all while her dog rests on her chest the entire time. It's endearing, to say the least.

"Do I have a story to tell about glory?/A nigga defeatin’ the odds/Got used to a budget, but now I say, 'Fuck it' in stores," she spits. "I don't care what it costs/I gotta admit it, I never envisioned a life where I wasn't the boss/I think of my ex and the level of stress/He be feeling a hell of a loss/I'm in no position to floss/I'm in no position to plead/I knew I was runnin’ the course, but dammit I'm taking the lead/I'm comin’ from sweeping the floors/To rollin’ a blunt with a lease/When they put my name on the board/Make sure its in permanent ink."

And lastly, Lil Tjay hones in on his mid-tempo cadence while dripped out in a black-and-red Louis Vuitton matching two-piece set to close out the cypher. He, too, tells his story of overcoming adversity in the Bronx hood where he's from.

"Yeah, a nigga really made it out the hood/I got through them rainy days/I still got some real niggas in the cell/They sent the whole gang away/Guess I'm a real nigga from the start/I guess I was trained this way, trained this way/The Audemars, I got a Rolls/Finna cop out on a Rolls/I done seen so much, so, so much shit, should pay a toll/So I be smokin’ all the dope/It kinda help my demons show," he croons.

Watch NLE Choppa, Rod Wave, Chika and Lil Tjay's 2020 XXL Freshman cypher below.—Aleia Woods

See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class

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