The South Carolina producer discusses being the musical curator for the 2020 XXL Freshman Class.
Words: As told to Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands soon.
I was ecstatic [to be a part of the XXL Freshman experience] just ’cause I always watched the Freshman freestyles every year. That’s hard. And I know how many young people I’m finna inspire with this. Every year is always crazy just ’cause it’s always that big debate. This is one of the biggest debates in hip-hop every year no matter what. I don’t care what’s going on in the world. It’s gonna always be a debate on who shoulda been on [the cover], who shouldn’t have been on there. So, it’s one of those big staple pieces in my life.
I fit because I don’t feel like I’m a part of the class, I feel like I’m on the same side as XXL. I’m just the musical version of XXL because if you pay attention to my career and how I always bring people in, that’s what I stand on. The same thing that XXL are tryna push forward is the same thing I represent. So, I fit in perfectly because we want to do the same thing: predict the next superstars in music.
I wanted to come totally different [with the beats I produced for the cyphers]. A lot of times, people hear my beats and they’re kinda like, happy and jolly, and stuff like that. I wanted to come so you could really hear [the artists] rap. I ain’t want it to be about the Jetson beats. I wanted it to sound like a real song that really be talking to people. ’Cause right now in the world, we not in that. It ain’t that right now. It’s about the artists and what they got to say.
NLE Choppa, man, he got it sewed up for the young, turnt crowd. When it come down to that energy, he at the top of his rank. Chika, she different. She in her own lane. And, I feel like I always love XXL for doing that because there’s always that one person who got their own thing going on in hip-hop that people may forget about because, you know, we got social media and stuff like that. [Lil Tjay], man, everybody say brother like my twin or something. He hard though. He’s doing his thing for the young crowd. He represents going against the grain, feel me?
Rod Wave hard. He’s bringing real soulful music. He one of them artists you could connect to musically who is really giving you something personal and real. Those type of artists tend to stay in the game for a long time. [Mulatto], she the female rapper I’m most excited about. I see Mulatto having a lot of more years of growth in front of her. I like [Fivio Foreign] and his swag. He don’t got to do too much extra-ness. I feel like he as well, he pioneering that new New York sound. Rest in peace, Pop Smoke. It was like them two boys was really pioneering this. I feel like [Fivio] taking over the wheel now and doing his thing.
[24kGoldn] hard. Different. That’s the rapper that y’all pick that’s the real wild card. I feel like he gon’ be big. Calboy one of the few people that I really rock with personally. So, I’ma automatically connect with his music. I was a fan before I knew him. He bring you that soul from the Midwest. [Baby Keem], he just hard. I don’t really know too, too much about him, but I’m just a fan of his music without even knowing anything about him. When XXL told me that he was on there, that was the first time I went and looked up his Instagram. Like, let me see how he look. Before that, I’m just a fan of his music.
[Polo G], hard, underdog. Real rap. I rock with Polo G for sure. I love working with [Lil] Keed. He was probably one of the first artists out of Atlanta that I really tapped in with and made some good music with. [Jack Harlow], my White brother. That’s my boy. I ain’t being biased. I feel like Jack the one out the bunch for sure. He got a lot to prove. You see what we going through now with Black Lives Matter. So, he got a lot to prove ’cause in the hip-hop game, it’s predominantly Black people. So, he got a lot to prove, but he gon’ do it.
People are gonna have a lot to say about this class because, right now, the world is very opinionated. Just like they said what they had to say about the 2016 class. And look, every one of them artists major, you get what I’m sayin’? It’s gonna be a debate about every artist, but I feel like this is the perfect class ’cause it represents where we at right now.
Check out more from XXL magazine’s Fall 2020 issue including our 2020 XXL Freshman Class interviews with NLE Choppa, Polo G, Chika, Baby Keem, Mulatto, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave, Lil Tjay, Calboy, Fivio Foreign, Lil Keed and 24kGoldn, and a Hip-Hop Junkie conversation with Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class