On June 13th, XXL Magazine dropped their highly anticipated Class of 2017 Freshman cover. Since 2007, the hip hop publication has been stirring controversy with each cover, sometimes hitting the nail right on the head and other times missing the mark completely.

The wait is over. Introducing the 2017 XXL Freshman Class, Generation Next! #XXLFreshmen https://t.co/SueW5esJ1a pic.twitter.com/MfFZkAAKAh

This year’s class featured Kamaiyah, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, PnB Rock, MadeinTYO, Playboi Carti, Aminé, Kap G, Kyle, Ugly God and XXXTentacion. While I was happy to see a couple of my hard working favorites, Kamaiyah and Amine,  on the cover. I was disappointed to see only one woman featured in the class, especially since this has been an amazing year for new female MC's. This year's list was filled with rappers with catchy songs and even catchier production, but not many that have longevity.

Sure, the beat to some of these tracks goes off when you're turning up with your friends, but how many of these artists will be around next year or the year after?

It's become unclear to me if the XXL Freshman List is for artists who are popular right now or those who we should be on the look out for right now. So as an avid lover of all sides of hip-hop—old, new, underground, and everything in between here's a list of popular and underground rappers whose grind isn't going unnoticed! 

Cardi B


Let me be completely transparent, there's no way you can have a Freshman Cover without having Cardi B on the list. Not only has she gone from Instagram to Love and Hip Hop: NY to the Summer Jam stage, her latest project GBMV2 has solidified her place in the hip-hop scene today. Though it's possible she could've turned down being on the cover, let's not front like she doesn't have any hits under her belt. With "Lick" featuring her rumored boo, Offset of Migos, at 1.2 Million listens on Soundcloud and her lasted single "Pull Up" gaining popularity, it's clear that Cardi will be around for a long time.

While the Bronx rapper is busy sharing stages with Remy Ma, Lil Kim, and Queen Latifah, listen to her latest project, GBV2 below.

Cardi B GBV2.

Princess Nokia


With no label, no manager, and no problem selling out a show, Princess Nokia is a one woman army. Though she's been on the scene since 2010, her album 1992 put on the map and brought the attention of many. Princess Nokia was nominated for the 10th slot of the Freshman List, but she's not letting the snubs top her shine. 

The "Tomboy" rapper is currently embarking on her summer world tour before re-releasing 1992 with additional tracks. Listen to the tape below.



Before you judge, just hear me out.This Chicago rapper has been on her grind since 2012. Her hyper-sexual lyrics are no different than what you hear today from your favorite rapper and no different than what we used to hear from the likes of Trina or Khia. CupcakKe's mixtapes, Cum Cake and S.T.D., respectively made The Rolling Stone's "Best Rap Album of 2016" and "40 Best Rap Albums" list.

With the recent release of her album, Queen Elizabitch, the 20-year old rapper is currently hitting festival stages like Gov Ball with Charlie XCX to perform their collab, "Lipgloss." Take a listen to her mixtape, S.T.D. below: 


Kelow LaTesha

Washington Post

Prince George County's very own Kelow has been holding it down since 2012. Using her lyrics to not only to help express herself but to also turn up, Kelow has been featured on tracks with Goldlink and featured Lil Uzi Vert on the remix to her hit, "Finna."

While she's currently working on her forthcoming project, Flight Attendant, listen to her standout track, “Finna” below. 



After working with artists like Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, and many more, Noname finally dropped her debut, Telefone. Since its release, Noname has been spitting her poetic flows and selling out shows all over the country.

If you've been sleeping, wake up and listen to the Chicago native's critically acclaimed mixtape, Telefone  below:


Pigeons and Planes

If you've been following the rap scene this year, then you've definitely heard of the latest rapper coming out of St. Louis, Smino.  His debut album, blkswn,  featured appearances from Rayvn Lenae, theMind and many more.

If you're into more of a soulful sound when it comes to your rap, you'll definitely want to check out blkswn below:

Tate Kobang


After his hit "Bank Rolls" took over airwaves all over the country, Baltimore's very own Tate Kobang has been on a roll. Since collaborating with artists like Rich the Kid, Swizz Beats and others, the 300 Entertainment signee has dropped two mixtapes since the release of his hit in 2015 titled "Since Were Here" and "Lord of Da Trenches." 

Back in March, the 25-year old rapper dropped Silent Waves to prove that he's here to stay. Take a listen below. 

Jimi TentsFader

One of New York's most promising artists is a 21-year-old Brooklyn native by the name of Jimi Tents. The rapper has been bubbling on the scene since the release of his debut project, 5'O Clock Shadow. Influenced by the gentrification in his neighborhood and inspired by greats like OutKast, his second project, I Can't Go Home, proves that Jimi is one to keep your eye on.

Listen to I Can’t Go Home LP:

Topaz Jones


New Jersey rapper and NYU grad, Topaz Jones deserved a spot on the XXL Freshman list for his critically acclaimed mixtape, ARCADE. Fusing his soulful raps over melodic, fresh, and bounce-filled production, his standout tracks "Motion Sickness," and "Winona" can be played anywhere from the cookout, to a block party, and has even been heard on the runway.

Listen to ARCADE below: