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Right now the headlines are filled with room-temperature takes on “The internet is mad at XXL‘s Freshmen List,” as they are every year because the internet is in a constant state of anger. Despite the fact that your friend who raps didn’t make the list and you maybe aren’t familiar with some of the names, there’s actually some gems on this year’s list that are absolutely worth hearing.
Here’s our five favorites!
Kamaiyah – “How Does It Feel?”
From: Bay Area, CA
The two biggest criticisms of XXL‘s choices over the years have been a stark lack of 1) women and 2) Bay Area representatives. Checking both of those boxes is our favorite of the list, Kamaiyah. A stellar syllable-stacking lyricist with a deep arsenal of flows and an impeccable ear for beats, her performance on “How Does it Feel?” absolutely slaps.
Aminé – “Caroline”
From: Portland, OR
If you recognize one name on the list, it’s probably Aminé, who had a genuine massive hit in “Caroline” and destroyed Soundset a few weeks back. As fun of a jam as that track is, it was his amazing performance on Fallon shortly after the election last year that made us realize that he’s a tremendous talent.
Kyle – “iSpy (Remix)”
From: Ventura, CA
If Kyle seems like he came out of nowhere with his catchy springtime earworm “iSpy,” you might be forgetting his previous buzz under the name K.i.D. Looking to pull a 2 Chainz with a successful re-name/rebranding, one listen to the Yachty-free “iSpy” remix displays Kyle’s skills as a solo artist, even outshining last year’s freshman Kodak Black.
Kap G – “Ay Yi Yi”
From: Atlanta, GA
Kap G’s album SuperJefe unquestionably has this year’s best cover art. Unfortunately, it also has the distinction of dropping the same night as Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. Temporarily overshadowed, hopefully his refreshingly unique persona and compelling ear for influences can finally get some shine under the Freshmen banner.
Ugly God – “Bernie Sanders”
There’s something about living in a post-meme world that few artists can really tap into. Ugly God gets it, and despite personally having a smaller internet presence than just about any Freshman in history, his limited released material has gone viral almost instantly. More than just an “influencer,” Ugly God’s comedic timing with his punchlines are some of rap’s most potent, making him absolutely one to watch.