Amid the world’s current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had a lot of time to look back over the past year with the highs and lows of the music industry. Plenty of new music from artists we’ve known, and plenty of new music from artists breaking onto the scene for the first time. Breakout songs like “Orange Soda” by Baby Keem, “Thru The Night” by Jack Harlow, “Ransom” by Lil Tecca, “Valentino” by 24kGoldn, and “Camelot” by NLE Choppa all helped solidify these new artists into the industry not only for the year to come but for many years down the line.
The yearly XXL Freshman list always comes with its fair share of praise, but also a fair share of backlash. This could be due to their choices of artists in past years that did not reflect as to what the fans had wanted. At the end of the day though, you learn that in the music industry, you can’t make everyone happy. What’s done is done, with the only thing left to do is to move forward. 2019 was a great year for new artists, so coming up with a list of just 10 artists is no easy task as everyone deserves something. But this is what I believe will be the 2020 XXL Freshman Class.
1. Baby Keem
One could say that Baby Keem may already be too big for this list. Artists in the past that have turned down the offer to be one of the Freshman include: Juice Wrld, Young Thug, Drake, ASAP Rocky, and Post Malone to name a few. Baby Keem definitely has the numbers and discography to respectfully turn it down, but I have a feeling that he could continue to make waves being on that XXL cover. If you didn’t know, Baby Keem is also Kendrick Lamar’s cousin which had also gotten him placements on the Black Panther movie soundtrack, The Lion King soundtrack, as well as spots on Jay Rock’s “Redemption” and Schoolboy Q’s “CrasH Talk.” Being groomed for greatness he might follow in his cousin’s footsteps as Kendrick was also a XXL Freshman back in 2011. Excitement will follow Baby Keem wherever he decides to take his career next.
2. Lil Tecca
Say what you want about Lil Tecca, but the Internet Money artist is backing up his talk with non stop streams and it doesn’t look like he intends on slowing down any time soon. Breaking onto the scene with the help of Cole Bennett, the two released a music video for soon to be hit single “Ransom”, which to date has amassed over 231 million views on YouTube alone. The single would go on to peak at #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. At only 17 years old, he’s achieved more than artists who’ve been working at this their whole lives. That goes to show that when you got a hit, you got a HIT. We look forward to what the Internet Money front man has to come in 2020.
It’s often said that XXL usually has at least one female artist on their Freshman covers. With no shade towards previous years, Danileigh easily stands up on this list along with the other artists. Before her career had taken off, Danileigh was actually alongside musical legend Prince. The Purple Rain artist had her direct his music video for the single “Breakfast Can Wait” and had mentored her up until his untimely death in 2016. Over those next few years Danileigh worked hard to create a career for herself, with it all starting to pay off with hits like “Easy” featuring Chris Brown and “Cravin” featuring G-Eazy. We at Burd Mgmt actually got the pleasure of having Danileigh at Brick & Mortar for a sold out show in February of 2019!
4. Guapdad 4000
Bay Area’s own Scamzel Washington, Guapdad 4000 has had a wild 2019. With Guapdad being a Bay Area artist, we at Burd Mgmt have seen him grow to be the artist he is today. From being an opening act for Yung Pinch to becoming a RIAA Gold Certified, Grammy nominated artist in a matter of months. This all wasn’t just stumbled upon too, before anyone may have fully believed in him, Guapdad always knew he’d be in this situation, it was just a matter of time as to when it was coming. I’m sure his playful witty bars as well as his ability to create a catchy hook on the spot will secure him a powerful career going on.
5. Fivio Foreign
This new wave of New York drill type rap has taken over not only the streets of New York but all over the world. At the front of the lines you got artists like Fivio Foreign, Smoove’L, 22Gz, and the great late Pop Smoke. One thing that you notice about Fivio’s music at first glance is the hard hitting punch lines he delivers. With the cadence over the beat, his lyrics hit in the gut. We haven’t had a musical wave this strong coming out of New York since 2017/2018 when we had Florida pushing out artist after artist on their wave. It’ll be interesting to see how Fivio Foreign continues to push his agenda in a crowded landscape.
6. Quando Rondo
Never Broke Again’s first artist signee, Quando Rondo, has not missed a step since stepping onto the scene in 2018. Being apart of YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s label imprint with Atlantic Records they’ve focused a lot of their attention pushing their forefront artist. Releasing his debut album “QPac” in January it had already peaked on US charts at the 22 slot, a respectable outing for his debut. Often garnering comparisons to his label head artist, he’s solidified his own lanes as an artist that will be gathering hits for years to come.
The Bay Area has more artists than the run of the mill hyphy wave that the Bay is often associated with. One can hope that artists of this lane don’t feel discouraged due to lack of support from their hometown. Many times your own city won’t hop on your wave till you are already on. This may be the case of 24kGoldn, a San Francisco artist at only 19 years old who has taken over the internet by storm. Breaking onto the scene with hits like “Valentino” and “Games On Your Phone” his catchy hooks and crafty cadences took over viral dance videos across social media. One of the first artists we’ve seen use Tik Tok as a marketing platform, 24kGoldn a pioneer in his own right, has others following his path towards success. His numbers don’t lie, and neither do we, 24kGoldn deserves a spot on this year's XXL Freshman list.
8. Lil Keed
I hesitated adding Lil Keed to this list, not due to my lack of confidence that he belongs on this list but more so he’s too big to be on the list. A part of the YSL Records, Lil Keed is on the forefront of the always growing Atlanta music scene. Like YSL founder, Young Thug was also a highly sought after artist to be on the XXL Freshman in 2014 but decided to turn it down but on the other hand other YSL member, Gunna had decided to join the historical magazine in the 2019 edition of the list. So it comes back to will the XXL Freshman list help Lil Keed’s career? Probably not as much as it could other artists, but nonetheless any type of promotion can be beneficial for any career given it’s done right.
9. Iann Dior
The self proclaimed Industry Plant, Iann Dior may not garner your attention depending on the type of music you surround yourself in, but to the people paying attention Iann Dior may be the whole package that labels are often looking for in today’s day in age. With artistry comparisons to those who are melodic based such as Juice Wrld, Lil Skies, and Trippie Redd, we are seeing artists incorporating their singing into the rap industry. But that’s not to knock the bars that fill in the gaps, Iann Dior is crafty enough to bring every song together with all the tools available. The relatable lyrics to the unspoken youth is what has his streaming numbers up to 5 million plus monthly on Spotify. Iann Dior hopes to make this year's XXL Freshman list alongside Internet Money label mate Lil Tecca.
Aye Aye! Is what I believe Capolow’s response would be if he were to make it onto this year’s XXL Freshman list. Another Bay Area artist on this list goes to show how much the Bay Area scene is a force to be reckoned with. Apart of New York’s Cinematic Records that shares the ranks with artists like Joey Badass, Flipp Dinero, and Yungeen Ace, Capolow is making all the right moves to push his way into stardom. Riding off the success of his latest release Room 304 that features ALLBLACK, Guapdad 4000, and Yungeen Ace you see glimpses of stardom throughout. Don’t underestimate a crafty hook, cause that crafty hook can take you farther than you’d ever think imaginable. A perfect blend of the Bay Area’s notable sound as well as his own twist of things, it’s not an afterthought to think that Capolow can take this industry by storm with or without an XXL Freshman placement.
11. Notable Mentions
There’s a lot of artists that deserve an XXL Freshman slot every year. Unfortunately only 10 spots can be given out. Leaving us with a handful of artists every year being left out. It’s no disrespect to their artistry, if you really have it in you, you’ll make a great career with or without the list. Some artists either are too big for the list or aren’t big enough to garner the attention that XXL is looking for. Artists such as Don Toliver, who I had a hard time leaving off this list. Don Toliver may be one of those artists too big for the list, with his sound sonically being his own, it’s hard to label him and hard to tie him down to anything. Female artist Coi Leray is another artist left off, while making huge waves on social media and music videos popping off, streaming numbers is what had us leaving her off. While probably a strategic plan for her marketing, the people may be looking for more from her from the time being. Lists are hard for anyone to make, everybody deserves shine, other notable artists left off were Jasiah, Jack Harlow, Lil Tjay, Luh Kel, NLE Choppa, Polo G, Matt Ox, Rod Wave, Shootergang Kony, $not, Xanman, AZchike, and Sada Baby. Best of luck to all the artists involved. Remember to wash your hands and stay healthy!