XXL Magazine is the premium publication for hip hop and African-American culture.
Beginning in 2007, XXL released its annual “Freshman Class” list. The issue features ten artists-to-watch, all appearing on the cover of the magazine. The list has a history of showcasing underground rappers, as well as artists considered to be on the rise. The list creates notoriety among listeners and artists, and is credited for giving many artists their first taste of fame.
Some of the biggest hip hop artists in the world have had their start on the XXL freshman list such as Future, J. Cole, Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle, Chance the Rapper, Megan thee Stallion and Memphis’ own BlocBoy JB.
In recent years, XXL has given hip-hop heads across the world the opportunity to vote for the top ten spots, out of 100 nominees.
Memphis rap is in the midst of a special moment. Five of the city’s youngest and brightest talents including Duke Deuce, Paper Route Empire protege Key Clock, NLE Choppa, Jucee Froot and affiliated CMG/Heavy Camp artists Lil Migo are all nominated.
These five artists are actively developing their own distinct sound on what Memphis rap is, and showing that it can thrive beyond its region.
For nearly thirty years, Memphis hip hop producers have been crafting unique sounds, and those sounds have caught the world’s ear.
“The music attention surrounding Memphis feels like the beginning of an eruption,” said Anthony Lorenzo Holmes Jr., better known as HitKidd, one of Memphis’ hip-hop’s most in-demand producers.
HitKidd who is signed to Meek Mill’s “Dreamchasers Label” has produced songs for each of the Memphis’ artists nominated. “It feels great to know that each of these artists have a chance at making XXL,” he said.
Rapper Duke Duece said in an 2019 interview with The Commercial Appeal that, ”Hitkidd had this sound that reminded me so much of Three 6 Mafia; he got a Memphis sound but it’s new, it’s unique.”
“The very trap sound everyone in music is using to dominate the planet was born in Memphis,” said HitKidd. “I would personally say my beats sound a lot like an old Memphis sound, with a present spin to it. Artists come to me whenever they want that genuine Memphis sound”
Duke Duece has a classic crunk and dark, sinister Memphis sound, while adding his own bodacious energy to the mix.
Packed with larger-than-life punchlines over hard-hitting beats Key Glock is one of the city’s most prominent rising voices and his collaborations with Young Dolph only strengthen his course.
“We are the progenitors of everything: music, fashion, the culture,” said engineer and artist Clay “Krucial Perry III. “Memphis created the blueprint.”
Perry is behind some of the biggest hits to come out of Memphis in recent years. He has also worked closely and/ or has a relationship with all five nominees.
Krucial and Hitkidd recently collaborated on a song with nominee Lil Migo that quickly went viral, taking over tiktok.
Lil Migo is known for his bass rattling beats, clever flow, and trap Memphis sound. He has high energy and lyrics are relatable to life in these Memphis streets.
With a loyal following on social media, an undeniable ability to rap, and a powerful personal story, Jucee Froot is here to shake up the game.
Jucee Froot rebuts her male counterparts on a bar-for-bar basis.
“I never met Jucee Froot but she’s hard and she really puts on for the female hip hop artists from the city,” said Krucial.
NLE Choppa’s hardcore delivery, silly punchlines, and charisma makes him another breakout candidate and above all, a representation of the city’s personality. His music videos are racking up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube alone, and he’s just get- ting started.
With such massive trap stars leading the way, and mastering the production skills that thrive in Memphis, a new underground is now.