When the nascent rap talent of the mid-2000s, from Lupe Fiasco at Folds at Papua– featured on the November 2007 cover of XXL Magazine, no one had foreseen that the slogan “Leaders of the New School” would become one of the most important institutions in hip-hop. Yet it was the pebble from which XXLThe annual tradition of, the Freshman Class, has been built. Fourteen years and 16 Freshman magazine covers later, XXL knighted many promising rookies ready to become culture staples, according to Vince.
At this point, you can set your watch on it. Every year in June, XXL unveils a new class of hip-hop neophytes we’ve tagged as names you need to know (plus, one fan-voted pick per year). We’re sticking to the script in 2021, featuring the 14th Annual Freshman Class.
As we celebrate the future of hip-hop, it’s only natural to dwell on the past – how far the franchise has come and the covers of Freshman predate the last. The 2009 cover is literally stacked up, as the performers are split into three dope wide shots stacked on top of each other to open the mag. In 2011, the class theme became literal, with people like Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller represented in schools. In 2013, the classes were compared to those of the past (we wondered aloud and on the cover line if Travis Scott, School Q and Logicthe class was at GOAT level). Chance the rapper shirtless sports overalls in 2014. Classes 2016 and 2017 were color coordinated, with the old crew make like a Diddy white party and these last artists all in black on a tray soaked in red.
In 2020, the likes of Polo G, Wave Rod, NLE Choppa, Lil tjay, Mulatto and others were photographed by photographer OG Travis Shinn, who has been browsing it with Freshmen for almost a decade. Shinn also photographed the Outstanding Artists for the 2021 XXL Freshman class, which includes artists 42 Dugg, Iann Dior, Coi Leray, Winnie the Pooh, Flo milli, Morray, Pink Ruby, Blxst, Toosii, Lakeyah and DDG. Take a look at all XXL Freshman covers over the years below.
A look at each XXL First year coverage since 2007.