So far, 2020 has been a wild ride. COVID-19 changed how life works and slowed everyone down. It almost prevented us from putting together this year’s Freshman Class. But, a pandemic couldn’t stop the process. Sure, the magazine might be coming out two months later than usual. That’s because we had to figure out the best way to put the whole thing together.
Hip-hop from many regions is highlighted this year. NLE Choppa calls home to Memphis while Polo G and Calboy represent Chicago. Lil Tjay and Fivio Foreign hold it down for New York. Baby Keem rests his head in Las Vegas. Jack Harlow is a proud Louisville, Ky. native. Rod Wave hails from the bottom of the map in St. Petersburg, Fla. Down South gets love from Chika in Montgomery, Ala., and both Mulatto and Lil Keed are hot in the streets of Atlanta. San Francisco rapper 24kGoldn earned the most fan votes to land the title of the Freshman 10th spot winner.
One of the bittersweet memories of the 2020 Freshman process was meeting with Pop Smoke a month before his tragic death. Pop was chosen as the first Freshman in the class, to which he happily accepted. Circumstances out of our control prevented us from including Pop as part of the cover posthumously, but to us, he is still part of the class. The issue features an unreleased interview from Pop’s January visit with us where he discussed his career and the Brooklyn drill scene. R.I.P. Pop Smoke.
This year’s photos were shot by Travis Shinn, cover collage and lettering created by Rich Tu and video direction by Travis Satten. Over the next month, we will be releasing freestyles, cyphers, interviews and more. The 2020 Class has a couple of extra highlights that are new to the Freshman platform. Multiplatinum-selling producer Jetsonmade serves as the first-ever music curator crafting most of the beats used in the video content including the much-anticipated cyphers.
Also, the group video interviews are hosted by activist Tamika D. Mallory, Mysonne Linen, Angelo Pinto and Linda Sarsour, cofounders of Until Freedom, a social justice organization with heavy ties to hip-hop. The Freshmen were open, honest and passionate during the discussions on topics including the recent protests, racism, police brutality, social injustice and more. And the magazine features an interview with UF about the special group discussion and hip-hop’s role in today’s political movement.
The Freshman issue hits stands everywhere on Sept. 1 and includes stories on TikTok’s power to elevate hip-hop songs both old and new and the complicated, competitive journey to a No. 1 song or album these days, plus interviews with Freddie Gibbs, T.I., Casanova, Tee Grizzley, RMR and Denver Nuggets player Jamal Murray, plus more.
Now it’s time to celebrate. Congratulations to the 2020 XXL Freshman Class: NLE Choppa, Polo G, Chika, Baby Keem, Mulatto, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave, Lil Tjay, Calboy, Fivio Foreign, Lil Keed and 24kGoldn.
Believe in the future because the 2020 XXL Freshman Class is here to make their mark.
Meet the 2020 XXL Freshman Class