Picking the XXL Freshman Class is overwhelming. When anyone asks what the process is like, I explain that for a good few months we at XXL are really popular people. Everyone is our friend and wants to stop by the office and chill with us. Some are obvious about why they are coming around, and others try to play coy, like we don’t know what they are up to and why they’re there. But we go with it ’cause it gives us the opportunity to talk to pretty much everyone about what they have in the works.

Then word gets out in the industry that the Freshmen photo shoot happened, and those that weren’t there get tight. They realize they or their artist didn’t make the list, and some of them beef with us. Others understand that for whatever reason, they or their artist just didn’t make the cut. Some hate on us while others focus on getting placement in next year’s class. Then the cover comes out and the shit really hits the fan. That’s the fun part though.

This year’s class was a hard one to pick. Early in the process it seemed like there wasn’t going to be enough talent, and by the time we had to have the list solidified, there was too much talent to pick from. The hardest part was deciding who was right for this year and who would be a better pick for next year. Sometimes an artist needs to keep marinating a little bit before we make them a Freshman. They might not like that, but it is what it is. These days some of the new dudes think they are the biggest things on the planet even though they only have one song with a whole bunch of YouTube views. The bar for success is set at an even lower point every year, so achievements don’t need to be and aren’t as big as they used to be, and it takes less than ever for an artist to blow up. This is something XXL has to keep in mind when making our selections.

But we didn’t have that problem too much with this class compared to other years. All of the Freshmen on this cover deserve to be here. Young Thug was also confirmed to be part of the 2014 Class, but 11 hours before the shoot, one of Thug’s reps reached out and told us Thug wouldn’t be able to attend. We don’t know exactly why that was, but we kept it moving. The Freshmen shoot happens in one big day, and all the artists have to be in attendance in order to take part in all the content and festivities. Thug agreed to be a part of everything but unfortunately backed out last minute, so he’s not part of the Freshman Class this year. We wanted him there, and he was supposed to be there, but it didn’t work out. We did invite two R&B artists to be a part of the cover this year, and they came. The connection between rapping and singing is more prevalent than ever in hip-hop, so it only made sense for us to expand the brand coverage in honor of this special issue.

I really love this class. Everyone in it, the content that was made on the day of the shoot, the mixtape we’re putting together and everything in between. Best Class Ever? is the line on last year’s cover, but I wish we could use it for this one. If only we could’ve predicted the future.

“Roll them joints up big as fuck/They tell me slow my roll and chill”


Vanessa Satten