Freshman issue. It's finally here. And it took even longer than ever to put out. We are actually about two to three weeks later than usual with the release of the cover, but things switched up a little with our schedule in 2015 so we were stuck coming out later than usual. It's all good, because it really only helped build the hype.

When we started Freshmen back in 2008, I had no idea it would become this big and important. I don't have to go on and on with the most successful Freshmen and the hits and misses; every site and blogger will do that and they will mostly choose to tear it down rather than build it up or support the fact we are putting 10 new faces on the cover of the magazine rather than the same old ones. But that's hip-hop. We love to say "Fuck the haters" or some shit like that when most of us are the haters.

Picking the Freshmen is always hard, but this year in particular has been the most difficult. I think that's because we are seeing new artists blow up off of one song that can last some of them a three-to-six month run, and in that time, they tour and guest appear and remix—all off that one song. Meanwhile, we sit there trying to figure out if they've got another one in them or if it's all just a fluke or fad. It used to not be like that so much, but we can't control what hip-hop does, we can only document it.

One of the challenges we get from Freshmen is that so many people think that if we don't pick a certain artist, we want them to fail or that we don't believe in them. That's not the case at all. Sometimes we think it's too early for an artist, other times it's the setup with the label they are on or the manager they have that we think could potentially stop their growth. Occasionally we think it's too late for an artist and they are past their moment, even if they still fill their requirements. And then there are times we just don't believe. But we never ever try to stop an artist who isn’t a Freshman from shining. We will continue to cover and support them, because you never know what might happen. We aren’t playing favorites. And maybe not getting picked will be the battery in an artist's back to help them turn it on and take it to that really popular next level everyone wants to get to.

With all that, we offer you the Freshman Class of 2015, a cover we are proud of and worked tremendously hard to put together. As I've said before (who knows where ’cause I stay repeating myself... It's the weed, and I'm cool with that), a Freshman can't have their major label debut or their indie solo project that they consider that their big national debut. So basically, they can have put out their Section.80 but not their good kid, m.A.A.d city. Or, they couldn't have released their The Heist. I hope that makes sense, again. (We don't do groups or duos, and if we did, we couldn't include Rae Sremmurd because they already put out their Interscope debut back in January, but you can read about them on page 50).

Also in the issue there is an interview with Bobby Shmurda, who we weren't able to select as a Freshman this year based on his current legal circumstances but who we still support (page 60). Fellow Big Apple rapper Troy Ave is also in the mag discussing his indie movement and new album (page 74). And we caught up with the Migos, who have a new LP called YRN: Tha Album on the way in July (page 64).

Plus, Gucci Mane fills out Doin' Lines for us and I think some of his answers are amazing, particularly numbers 10, 13 and 19 (page 98).

And with all that, it’s on to the next one.

“I can’t hear what you sayin’ right now, my weed too loud and I know it”

Vanessa Satten



Check out all our 2015 XXL Freshmen freestyles, videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes photos right here.