XXL Freshman Class 2020 Poster

It’s that time of the year again. Back-to-school ads dominate the airwaves, new faces fill school hallways, and XXL just released its annual list of up-and-coming hip-hop artists. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed some school traditions, XXL has followed through with their yearly promise to showcase youthful talent and stars on the rise in its 2020 Freshman Class.

From San Francisco to New York, pop to underground, and old-school to new, their picks come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, yet each artist shares an eagerness to change the rap game forever. With twelve new names and faces to familiarize yourself, we’ve put together an introduction and list of the Top 12 Best Songs by every member of the 2020 XXL Freshman Class. So drop the judgement, break your boredom, and get ready to see who’s on the next ferry to fame. 

 


 

XXL Freshman Class - Calboy

12. Calboy – “Adam and Eve” 

Born and raised in the wild wild (mid)west, Calboy the cowboy will lasso your ears and corral your interest. The Chicago stallion draws inspiration from a wide range of inspirational musicians, including names such as Chief Keef, Michael Jackson, and Tupac Shakur. Calboy began to use music as an outlet in the mid 2010s after the tragic deaths of multiple of his close friends. Though it is hard to define his style, his wavy autotune and mellow, washed out voice fits right in with the modern trend of melodic mumble rap. Off of his debut EP, “Adam and Eve” is an emotional yet youthfully energetic tale of loss and life. Filled with passion and perseverance, press play on Calboy’s love songs and languish. 

 

 

 

 

XXL Freshman Class - Rod Wave

11. Rod Wave – “Through the Wire” 

Pain, passion, and perseverance: Rod Wave’s music is a testament to both overcoming and succumbing to struggle. He has been criticized for his dark and difficult subject matter, but the Florida artist refuses to be shy when it comes to the tough truth. After a frightening car crash in early 2020, Wave released “Through the Wire,” named after the song that kickstarted Kanye West’s career. Rod raps about his depression, addiction, and confusion before and after his confrontation with death. If you need to reflect on the triumph and tragedy of life, let Rod Wave tell you his tale.

 

 

 

 

XXL Freshman Class - Lil Tjay

10. Lil Tjay – “Top of My Game”

Smooth and melodic, Lil Tjay’s mesmerizing music is the heartbeat of the 2020 XXL Freshman class. He’s been called a “hip-hop heartthrob” by Pitchfork and is locally known as the “Bronx Justin Bieber” for his sing-song sex appeal. Comparable to Usher and A Boogie wit A Hoodie, the 19-year-old is set to be the next pop star blurring the border between R&B and hip-hop. “Top of My Game” is a boastful bop accented with Tjay’s subtle autotune and framed by his smoothed vocalizations. Listen to Lil Tjay weave together rap, rhythm, and a little bit of blues, and you just might find yourself feeling some type of way.

 

 

 

 

XXL Freshman Class - Mulatto

9. Mulatto –  “He Say She Say”

Mulatto is a winner. From drag racing in high-school to competing (and taking first) on Lifetime’s reality show The Rap Game, she has once again won her way to a spot in the 2020 XXL Freshman Class. Her loud and proud energy has drawn comparisons to Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, yet Mulatto paves her own path with heavy trap beats and percussive bars. The Atlanta rapper did however feature in the “WAP” music video briefly with the two pop-stars. “He Say She Say” is a booming, boastful song on which Mulatto owns and flexes her unapologetic talent and confidence. She’s rich, she can rap, and she’s ready to take your speakers by storm, so check out Mulatto’s music as she rises to greatness.

 

 

 

 

XXL Freshman Class - Fivo Foreign

8. Fivio Foreign – “Drive By”

Following in Pop Smoke’s late footsteps, Fivio Foreign is the new face of Brooklyn Drill rap scene. The violent and aggressive trap sub-genre was first made popular in Chicago, took off throughout the United Kingdom, and has now pervaded into the modern artistic heart of New York. At 30-years-old, Foreign is the sage of the 2020 XXL freshmen. He has suffered and succeeded more than most of his classmates: his mother passed in 2018 yet he signed a lucrative seven-figure deal with Columbia Records a year later. Defined by short, spastic syllables and an explosive beat, “Drive By” is a quintessential Fivio drill song. As he takes the torch from his Brooklyn buddies and carries their legacy into a new age, listen to Fivio Foreign and an ever-expanding genre of trap.

 

 

 

 

24kGoldn

7. 24kGoldn – “Been Here Before” 

From child actor to frat star to international music sensation, 24kGoldn is not your usual struggle-to-success rapper. The San Francisco artist first burst onto the rap scene in 2019 following the release of his viral hit, “Valentino.” The 19-year-old sensation combines an alternative pop sound with sing-song rap, citing inspiration from Black Eyed Peas, T-Pain, and Akon. 24k’s style is evident on “Been Here Before,” where he melodically moans over fast-paced hi-hats and a looped guitar. Before he takes over Tik-Tok with yet another viral hit, familiarize yourself with the shining star that is 24kGoldn.

 

 

 

 

Chika

6. Chika – “Industry Games” 

If it is authenticity you seek, CHIKA is your gal. The queer black rapper from Montgomery, Alabama meshes old school flows with outspoken lyrics, fighting for the underrepresented groups with which she identifies. She isn’t afraid to drop a bar about her bisexuality, her immigrant parents, or even her plus-size modeling career. Throughout her recent Industry Games EP, CHIKA refuses to cave to the standards and expectations thrust upon her by society. The headlining song of the same name features her rapid-fire flow, poetic prowess and unwavering confidence. So go and check out CHIKA, the rebel who can rap.

 

 

 

 

NLE Choppa

5. NLE Choppa – “Neighborhood Watch” 

Youth brings energy, and energy—whether on the beat or in a music video—brings attention. NLE Choppa has an infectious, almost inspiring liveliness that only a teenager could champion. At the age of 17, the Memphis trap star has already racked up multiple certified gold and platinum singles. This zest has attracted a viral following across both his music and social media, especially for his dance-filled YouTube videos. “Neighborhood Watch” highlights the ferocious flow and vivid lyrics seemingly years ahead of his age. As he rattles off strings of rambunctious rhymes, take a moment to appreciate his adolescent energy and outstanding energy.

 

 

 

 

Lil Keed

4. Lil Keed – “Nameless” 

If you aren’t careful, you might just mistake Lil Keed for Young Thug. Their falsetto flows and melodic bars sound nearly identical, and they even grew up on the same Atlanta street. Yet the 22-year-old freshman separates himself with his poignancy and patience on the beat, choosing his words and notes carefully. Bursting with potential, “Nameless” is a loud and proud southern trap song uniquely topped by Keed’s distorted singing. As he follows in the footsteps of a trap legend, you can follow his rise to fortune and fame in XXL’s Freshman Class.

 

 

 

 

Baby Keem

3. Baby Keem – “Honest”

Baby Keem might be a youngin’ in the rap game, but he has earned the respect of his older peers. At the ripe age of nineteen, he has worked with Kendrick Lamar and other Top Dawg Entertainment artists on projects such as the Black Panther soundtrack. His nuanced self-production skills allow Keem’s flow to be relaxed no matter the aggressiveness of the song. “Honest” is a dreamy, disorienting song that encapsulates the feeling of those lashes only a loved one can leave. With the support of fellow and famous Southern California artists, Baby Keem will entrance and excite you in his own slacked and slow style.

 

 

 

 

Jack Harlow

2. Jack Harlow – “Rotten”

Though Jack Harlow is a new member to the mainstream, his creativity came long before the Billboard charts. His casual delivery and deep discography gives the feeling that Harlow has always known he was destined for greatness. Armed with a ferocious and versatile flow, the Louisville native laces every beat with his effortless braggadocio. Harlow flexes his creative rhymes and callous bars on “Rotten,” an underrated banger from his 2019 album Confetti. As his fame continues to grow exponentially, pay attention to the voice that is here to define the decade.

 

 

 

 

Polo G

1. Polo G – “Through Da Storm”

Though it could be argued that Polo deserved to be in last year’s XXL Freshman class, he earned his spot in 2020. The Chicago star has already released two hit albums, Die a Legend and The Goat, the latter of which dropped earlier this year. On “Through Da Storm,” the Polo G exudes maturity with his reflective lyrics despite being only 21 years old. Rapping about overcoming life’s obstacles with his family, the song is an excellent example of the young sage’s flow, fearlessness, and vivid lyricism. Immerse yourself in the dark lullaby of “Through Da Storm” and prepare for Polo’s impressive career.

 

 


 

Stream the best songs from the 2020 XXL Freshman Class below, and be sure to follow us on Spotify for the hottest new music.