From the very first Freshman class in 2007 to this year’s 15th anniversary, every artist inducted over the last decade-and-a-half share one thing in common: this milestone moment in their careers helped serve as a catalyst for their stardom.
Over the last 15 years, XXL has proudly and confidently assumed the responsibility of predicting the next rap stars to take over hip-hop. Every day, new artists burst onto the scene with the makings of the next J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar, two former XXL Freshmen from the 2010 and 2011 classes, respectively. Annually, a group of artists, whether it’s 10, 11 or 12 (and one year even nine), grace the cover after showcasing the qualities of a hitmaker, becoming a long-standing artist, possessing respectable rapping skills and more. No two artists are the same. Since 2007, XXL has highlighted and provided a platform for these buzzing talents, who eventually become hip-hop figures in their own right.
The question of what makes a Freshman is often asked, but when assessing the 159 artists who proudly hold the coveted title, each rhymer or rap-adjacent artist offers something different and unique to themselves, as well as the music community as a whole. And if you handpicked a quality out of a hat, whether it's cerebral lyricism, dynamism, grit, eclectic bars and then some, there's an individual in the Freshman family that offers just that, and then some.
For the 15th anniversary of Freshman, XXL takes a look back at what each class of artists have offered from their induction year to now.