Every year XXL magazine stirs up a fiery debate when they drop their annual freshman cover to the Hip Hop masses. J. Cole, Lil Uzi Vert, Chance The Rapper, Mac Miller and Travis Scott are just few of the artists previously featured on the list that went on to have huge careers but the road to finding the next wave of upcoming rappers destined to impact the rap game isn’t easy. Inspecting countless mixtapes and freestyle videos to find the freshman class has evolved to filtering through artists who not only have a buzz in their respective cities, but also have some online clout and a couple million streams on SoundCloud. While we’re a few months away from the official release (XXL tends to drop the cover in June) potential finalists are making their pitches for a spot and the internet can’t help but notice that there’s an overwhelming amount of female talent to pick from this year. Female rap has had it’s fair share of lackluster years with labels and fans fueling the stigma of only one woman being able to shine in the genre at a time.
Before Nicki Minaj made her bid for the crown in 2009 after signing with Young Money and dropping a Grammy nominated, critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album called Pink Friday, the female representation in Hip Hop was scarce. 2019 feels like another golden era in female rap with women dominating the genre with a variety of sounds, flows and styles. The sex driven anthems that originated from legends like Lil Kim, Trina and Foxy Brown can be heard and felt from newcomers like Megan Thee Stallion, CupcakKe and Junglepussy. Alternative and left-leaning artists like Tierra Whack, Rico Nasty and Doja Cat effortlessly blend multiple genres to show Hip Hop shouldn’t be contained to one sound or formula. Plus we can’t forget all the dolls… From Kash Doll, Asian Doll, Cuban Doll and DreamDoll showcasing what talent and some IG clout can get you. With most of these rappers amassing millions of followers a piece, the demand for rap music from a woman’s perspective is definitely being met so the question has to be asked, should XXL’s 2019 Freshman Class be all female?
When I look back at the successful female rappers of the past or even the women killing it today, talent, hard work and originality remain the common themes for the artists that have longevity in their careers and offer up iconic moments in Hip Hop that continue to be talked about today. Fans are still waiting for MTV to recognize Missy Elliott’s visual masterpieces and give her the Video Vanguard Award that’s been given to visionaries like Kanye West, Hype Williams and Michael Jackson. Lil Kim’s debut album Hard Core was a celebration of sex positivity and asserting her dominance in a male driven industry and it continues to influence women today that want to show the power they naturally possess. While one hit wonders and rap gimmicks can live on the mainstream charts for a couple months, it truly takes more than a pretty face and a Tay Keith beat to solidify yourself as a rapper. Which isn’t the same story on the male side of the genre with various rising stars under the YBN and Lil pseudonym generating Billboard charting singles that sound very similar to each other.
A woman rising in the Hip Hop ranks can’t be ignored and when she makes an impact that helps her reach mainstream status, the history books basically write themselves. Cardi B is the most recent example of a strip club riches to mainstream, household name riches success story and the way her come up was chronicled through reality tv and Instagram bred a different kind of star power that will definitely shape and inspire the successful women to come after her. XXL’s freshman covers have been notoriously lax on acknowledging female rappers on their annual lists. Out of the 11 years the Hip Hop magazine has been declaring the best of the new pack, only four women have been chosen. With the amount of undeniable talent this year, it’ll be interesting to see who they give one or two spots to. But the real game changer would be to shake up the boys club status quo and add a significant level of estrogen into the mix.
Having an all female class in a year where male rappers like DaBaby, Lil Mosey and Blueface have the streaming numbers and following to back up their spot on the list could rile up the traditional Hip Hop heads that don’t want to hear a woman spit. But aside from this being an easy way to drive magazine sales (which all publications need), I would love to see a publication like XXL shake some tables and give a more progressive outlook on the current landscape of Hip Hop. There are too many women pushing their pen, having to outwork the boys and deliver refreshing music that truly puts them in their own lanes to be ignored. Like other respected awards including Grammys, ASCAPs and Billboard Awards, the gatekeepers and music don’t always get it right but when they do the wins are as satisfying as hearing Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Monster” for the first time.
Article By: Marcel “The Messenger” Jeremiah