Every year, hip-hop magazine XXL awards ten to twelve up-and-coming rappers, and last year singers, as XXL Freshmen. This is one of the biggest honors a new hip-hop artist can receive. Official voting for the 2015 Freshmen will begin on March 16, but before then I decided to create my own Freshman List
1. Mick Jenkins
If you haven't heard of Mick Jenkins yet, you will. The Chicago rapper is following the same path of last year's freshmen picks Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, and is pushing past the drill sound of Chicago to the national spotlight. His latest project, The Water[s] is nothing short from fantastic, and I've been listening to it more than anything else from 2014. Jenkins spits every conscious verse with passion, has an array of original flows in his pocket, and a knack for lush and polished production. Don't sleep.
2. Vince Staples
I'm very surprised that Staples wasn't awarded last year. He's been steadily increasing his lyrical prowess, and is a force to be reckoned with. He's worked with everyone from Earl Sweatshirt to ScHoolboy Q to Common, and his West Coast sound deserves to be awarded
Raury only has one project under his belt, but that one project was great. He sounds like a more rock-oriented Andre 3000. XXL might not award him since his sound doesn't perfectly fit with hip-hop, but to me, that ability to push the boundaries of a genre is something fantastic.
Another musician with only one, unique project, GoldLink crafted a brand new sub-genre: future bounce. It's basically a mix of hip-hop, lounge music, and EDM. GoldLink doesn't have the greatest lyricism, but his flow and new sound are tremendous.
5. Young Thug
I mean, how can you not award Young Thug. The dude is everywhere. I don't need to explain who Young Thug is, you know who he is. The only way he would be awarded is if he's just too big.
6. Rome Fortune
Rome Fortune is another eccentric artist from ATL. But what makes Fortune stand out is that he can rap over basically any beat, and while some ATL rappers can just be too much, almost everything that Fortune drops sounds good. Just look at his Soundcloud, he releases a new project almost every month and each one is good.
7. OG Maco
OG Maco took probably the most basic production, and turned it into the monstrous banger that is "U Guessed It" (Rome Fortune is the guy with the blue beard in the video). But Maco has become more than just a one-hit-wonder. He's been steadily working and has, like Fortune, released many solid projects. One of the most notable is his "Breath EP", a small project about race and politics, that actually brings up a lot of very good points.
8. Fetty Wap
I'm gonna be honest, I have really listened to any song besides "Trap Queen", but oh my god that song is amazing. "Trap Queen" should win a damn Oscar.
Signed to J. Cole's Dreamville Records, Bas has one of the most mature sounds of everyone on this list. His most recent album Last Winter sounded extremely polished. I don't think Bas is the most original artist in the game, but he raps extremely confidently.
10. Bishop Nehru
Bishop Nehru is signed to Nas's label, and had a collaborative album with MF Doom last year. If these two greats support him, you should too. He's only 18, but Nehru raps well past his age.
The TDE songstress broke through last year with her amazing EP Z. She's perfected the neo-soul sound. Be on the lookout for her next project A, which will be dropping very soon.
12. BJ The Chicago Kid
You may not recognize his name, but you have definitely heard him. From Kendrick Lamar to Joey Bada$$ to Big K.R.I.T. to Chance the Rapper, BJ The Chicago has worked with everybody. He's an expert at the classic r&b sound, and is moving to a more pop sound. This up-and-comer definitely deserves more recognition.