With the release of the 2018 edition, the highly anticipated XXL magazine “Freshman Class” gives us a new crop of fresh talent. This group seems to represent the Soundcloud rap culture that faces heavy criticism from Hip-Hop’s old-heads. Below, I have prepared quick descriptions of this new rotation and a playlist to enter the rabbit hole through.
Ski Mask the Slump God
With high-speed, comical bars bordering on ridiculous, Ski Mask comfortably sits as this class’s second most gifted lyricist and most technically skilled by a country mile. You Will Regret and Beware the Book of Eli are great for those looking for a trap tone that avoids a generic Soundcloud rap template.
Songs to check out: “Like a Soccer Mom,” “Baby Wipe,” “Catch me Outside.”
As one of the few members of this list that grew their following outside of the SoundCloud world, J.I.D carves a niche for himself as the best lyricist. On his project, The Never Story, he boasts his rapid-fire flow layered over synth-like beats and a dark noir tone. The Dreamville signee is likely to turn many heads with his cypher.
Songs to check out: “NEVER,” “8701,” Hasta Luego.”
Take a natural intuition for bangers and the flow of Sean Paul, put it over bouncy house music and we have Stefflon Don. She commands tracks with her explosive bars and grime influence on her latest project, Real Ting Mixtape.
Songs to check out: “16 Shots,” “Narcos,” “Senseless.”
With breakout hit “Rubbin off the Paint,” YBN Nahmir merges a more traditional style of rap that focuses on sharper enunciation, slower pace, and conservative instrumentals with the modern trap theme. Part of the YBN gang, expect Nahmir to heavily focus on group production with Cordae and Almighty Jay.
Songs to check out: “Rubbin Off The Paint,” “Bounce Out With That,” “Breadwinners.”
Probably the most successful of the class (so far), Lil Pump has already established himself with chart topping hits like “Gucci Gang” and “Esskeetit”. He pairs his energy and nonsensical lyrics with high adrenaline beats to produce some pretty catchy workout/party jams.
Songs to check out: “Flex Like Ouu,” “Esskeetit,” “Iced Out.”
Often commercially shadowed by Lil Pump, Smokepurpp has been striving to differentiate himself in their shared niche. He does so by presenting drug trap through a darker lens and slightly heavier emphasis on clever lyrics. His most recent project “Bless Yo Trap (w/ MurdaBeats)” shows this digression from his contemporary with a few real bangers.
Songs to check out: “123,” “Fingers Blue,” “Do Not Disturb.”
This one is not like the others. Although Trippie Redd has had a similar career trajectory, (through Soundcloud) as his peers, he does not share their style. Although he tries to distance himself from the “emo rap” label, he opts to use his unique vocal range far more and capitalize on melodic wails to create hooks reminiscent of early 2000s punk.
Songs to check out: “Dark Knight Dummo,” “Love Scars,” “Can you Rap Like Me.”
If you have a friend who consistently swings his fist and kicks out a leg to a beat, you can thank Blocboy JB. JB broke onto the scene with the newest viral dance craze, and then, with the help of a catchy Drake feature, established some legitimacy with the hit single “Look Alive”. His recent mixtape, Simi, released to good reception but the best of Blocboy still remains to be seen.
Songs to check out: “Look Alive,” “Shoot,” “Nun of Dat.”
A member of the expanding Florida rap scene, Wifi on the surface might seem to be simply another member of the current wave of lean rap and nothing more. A deeper dive into his music will show his significantly darker take on the use of the drugs Lil Pump and Smokepurpp rap so gleefully about. The 21-year old, who actually overdosed on codeine during the creation of his first mixtape, Black Heart Revenge, raps about his struggles with substance abuse and depression.
Songs to check out: “It Don’t Matter,” “2 Step,” “Lil Jeff Hardy.”
Check out a playlist with all of the essentials from this year’s XXL Freshman class.