Visual by Ryan Henry.

It’s that time of the year again; the infamous unveiling of XXL’s Freshman List. As expected, it has received an ample amount of mixed reviews and caused controversy across the music realm. Compared to previously released XXL Freshman Lists, 2017’s edition is contentious and debatable. Many people took to social media voicing their opinions as they do every year, bashing the list’s credibility while others praised the finalists and called the cover “expanding the rap scene”.

We decided to take matters into our own hands and construct a list in which we placed artists we thought so rightfully deserved to be recognized. This would include artists who did not make the XXL list but (in our eyes) deserved to, as well as the some artists who did make the XXL list and rightfully deserved their spot. Now, we’re not saying that some artists who are on the XXL list didn’t deserve a spot, because that simply isn’t true. All of the artists on the list worked their asses off to earn that spot, and we respect the artistry and hustle.

But enough chit chat.

We present to you, the CXS FRESHMAN LIST 2017.


Cousin Stizz / via Rap Favorites
The 25 year old Dorchester native has been popping as of late. Cousin Stizz has been on a very hard grind. Most recently, he just finished up touring with XXL Freshman, Kyle, as well as releasing a track “Headlock” featuring Migo’s Offset. Stizz is on his way to the top, and he is not letting anyone stop him.


Smino / via Saint Heron
St. Louis native, Smino, is one of the most talented artists in the game right now. Since the release of his debut project this year, blkswn, Smino’s recognition has been long overdue. However, that’s about to change. Smino has been in the game for a little bit of time now, but has just recently busted onto the scene with hit songs like “Netflix & Dusse” and “Anita”. From just wrapping up a tour and selling out his home town, it’s safe to say that Smino is killing it right now. His spot on this list is well deserving.


Madeintyo / shot by Robert Kisby (via Billboard)

It’s about damn time Madeintyo made the XXL list. He has done features with artists such as A$AP Mob, Roy Woods, Big Sean, Travis Scott, and plenty others. He is arguably the most popular and successful artist on the list (granted he’s been mainstream for almost two years). There isn’t much else to say about the talented musician except for — it’s about damn time!


Young Ma
Young Ma / shot by Cait Oppermann for FADER.
Young Ma emerged onto the scene about last year when she released her track “OOOUUU”, which became popular for her bar “You call her Stephanie? I call her Headphanie!”. That bar went on to be the core of thousands of memes across the internet. However, it’s not only her meme-worthy bar that gained her mass attention. Ma has set fire to microphones with her unique voice, flow, and lyricism. She will continue to blossom further into her artistry as time goes on.

7. 6LACK

Atlanta native, 6lack, has been on the come up ever since his catchy hit single “PRBLMS” hit the billboards back in June of last year and then went on to sign with Interscope Records, where he would later release his debut album, FREE 6LACK. Although he wasn’t on XXL’s Freshman List, he deserves to be on ours for his exceptional growth over the last year. His album debuted at number 68 on the Billboard 200 list and peaked at number 34. He was a guest performer for The Weeknd’s Legend of the Fall Tour. He then went on to collaborate with artists such as JID, Jhene Aiko, and Syd of The Internet.


Tee Grizzley / shot by Bobbi Digital for XXL
Southside Detroit native, Tee Grizzley, has recently made a big splash on the scene through his music. His first single, “First day Out” has amassed millions of views across platforms, allowing him to be heard all across the country. He recently signed with 300 Entertainment, which is supported by major record label, Atlantic. While under 300, the artist dropped another hit, “From The D to The A” featuring Lil Yachty, as well as a mixtape titled “My Moment”. A new accomplishment Grizzley can add onto his list of major early achievements is a Twitter shoutout from the one and only JAY Z as he listed his inspirations after receiving the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award for Songwriting.


Urban Outfitters Teams With Rapper Taylor Bennett on Pride Collection
Taylor Bennett / photo credit: Urban Outfitters (via Hypebeast)
Ah, the one and only Taylor Bennett. This young artist is mightily deserving of a spot on the CXS Freshman List. He’s had one hell of a year. Back in February, he released his second album, Restoration of an American Idol, which was brought into this world with nothing but praise and high acclaim. The youngest of the Bennett brothers has been working his ass off to take his crown in rap, and he’s inching closer by the minute.


Kevin Abstract / shot by Tyler Mitchell for FADER.
The Texas native has burst onto the scene this year with both his solo work and his boyband, Brockhampton. From landing a show on Viceland to performing at Tyler, The Creator’s annual festival, Camp Flognaw, Kevin Abstract is living out his dreams as the American, teenage misfit who is showing the word what it really means to be an artist. His debut album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story changed everything for him. The subjects of the album resonated with many teens and boosted his influence across modern youth culture.


Playboi Carti / shot by Valerie Chiang for FADER
From Milly Rocking in New York to waking up to n*ggas talkin’ like him, Carti has been having the time and growth of his life over the last year. Of course he was on the XXL Freshman List, but we couldn’t help but put him on ours as well. Although Carti took a nice long hiatus from the scene, he made a strong return with his self-titled debut, Playboicarti.


XXXTentacion performing at Rolling Loud.
Although Jaseh was included in the original Freshman List done by XXL, he has done so well over the last year that it wouldn’t be right to not include him in ours. As a matter fact, for most of the last year, X was doing jail time. The fact that an artist can build a cult-following from a jail cell says something. Jaseh Onfroy, or as you probably know him as, XXXTentacion, exploded onto the scene with his hit loud and heavy-bass hitting track, “Look At Me”. The artist proved himself to be exactly that — an artist. His versatile catalog includes songs that fall into the genres of rap, rock, pop, R&B, and even some that don’t even have a genre yet. He’s one of the rare artists who are truly pushing the culture and the sound forward.


Noname / shot by Lyndon French for FADER.
Musical artist, Noname, hails from Chi town, molding a refreshing and alternative image for women in the hip hop industry. Rather than rapping about the generic topics circulating in the top 40, Noname preaches good vibes and constructs meaningful lyrics, separating herself from the other stereotypical female rap artists. Since 2010 she’s been into writing, performing in local poetry slams and events around Chicago. The artist is no stranger to the music scene, having had the opportunity to work behind the scenes on many different projects including Mick Jenkins’ The Water[s]. She also contributed to fellow Chicago native, Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape Acid Rap, with her soothing, soulful, and serene vocals. Noname then went on to drop her debut mixtape, Telefone, last year with guest appearances from artists such as Smino, Saba, and Raury, rippling a jump in her musical career. Lately she’s been doing shows, progressively ensuring her poetic and conscious work gets the recognition it deserves. With a steadily increasing fan base, Noname is on the rise and definitely earns a spot on our list.

List curated and written by Ryan Henry, Benji Bloom, Kennedy Smith, Lucy Batcheller, and Drew Hutton

Cut x Sewn Magazine Founder & Creative Director.


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