Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier dropped one of my favorite albums of last year in Hotel Paranoia, so to see his name on the list of eligible “Freshmen” is rather surprising. On that project, he brought some unique vibes that don’t usually come out of the 6.
Plus, he dropped a single “Tempted” in 2017 that is one of my favorite tracks at the moment. Cartier carries a very tight-knit fanbase, and it’s obvious why. He’s one hell of a young creative who’s doing big things at the moment.
It’s only right that I put on for the UK, and by shoe-ing Little Simz into my freshmen list, it’s for good reason. While many may not know, she has been making huge waves in the music scene in London for quite some time now.
She has multiple mixtapes and EPs, so it’s clear that she’s already established as an artist. However, with a nod from XXL (which should happen), it could globalize her music even more.
Little Simz perfectly combines rap with singing, a talent that is hard to come by nowadays. Filled with skill and talent, she should be a no brainer to make this year’s list.
I first heard of Nav when he appeared on Travis Scott’s “biebs in the trap” record off Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight; and from that point, I knew he had some serious potential. From the moody tone of the track from Birds, it made me not only rewind the song several thousand times, but it made me dig into his music.
The Weeknd signed him to XO Records earlier this year, and his career was essentially set. Featuring Abel himself on “Some Way,” Nav released a self-titled debut project that was pretty fire. Tracks like “Myself” and “Up” prove that he can make some serious tunes.
Nav’s unique voice and darkness towards his music gives it a different appeal than most rap. It seems about right that he signed to XO because it reminds me of early Weeknd records (circa HOB, Echoes of Silence). There’s also a mystique around him, which makes his character even more fascinating.
Unlike a lot the artists on my list, Atlanta‘s own Madeintyo has received some pretty notable cosigns and features, propelling him into the spotlight. Most known is his “Uber Everywhere” track that took the streets by storm last year before receiving a Travis Scott remix.
Tokyo has also collaborated with 2 Chainz and Big Sean on different tracks, giving him some credibility from the very start. The Sean-assisted track “Skateboard P” is one of my favorite tracks at the moment. The ode to Pharrell is just so damn catchy and the beat is so fire.
It seems rappers out of Atlanta come in waves, and Madeintyo is leading the very next one.
Culturally, Playboi Carti is the most important artist on my list. Officially part of the A$AP Mob, Carti not only pushes culture forward in terms of music but also fashion. He plays a part in promoting the VLONE brand, but he still is creative musically as well.
Fitting perfectly into the style of the A$AP Mob, Carti is the next Lil Uzi Vert/21 Savage kind of artist. He hasn’t debuted any projects himself yet, but he brings that street voice to music similar to the artists of last year’s XXL Freshman Class.
Carti is currently the face of the youth and is pushing forward street culture at an unbelievable pace right now, earning him a spot on my list.
My first experience with Saba was his countless appearances on records with fellow Chicago artist, Chance the Rapper. Specifically for me, the “Angels” record really influenced me to check out Saba. Something about that track appealed me into Saba‘s music, and I haven’t looked back since.
His album Bucket List Project was one of the best unknown albums of last year, and in my opinion, didn’t receive the recognition it deserved. Saba gives me that typical Chicago feel out of his music. From the way he raps, to the production of his music, it’s very distinct and very impressive.
The last artist on my list is also a Chicago artist, and I love to include artists who can both rap and sing. I will go out on a limb and say Noname‘s Telefone project from last year was one of the top 3 best female albums of the entire year. Her voice is truly one of a kind and when I hear it on tracks, it never ceases to amaze me. If you haven’t checked her music out yet and haven’t heard her album yet, do that ASAP.
Here are some of my favorite tracks from my XXL Class. Enjoy!