XXL Freshman 2014

Having already served up #TheFirstFive of my 2014 XXL Magazine Freshman Class predictions, here are the remaining five – no less credible than those who came before them, but perhaps a little less well-known than #TheFirstFive. XXL is known for switching things up a tad with a more obscure pick than the rest of them, and if there IS an “11th Freshman” this year – which I highly doubt, but still – that title likely will fall upon Fat Trel or Gunplay in the Maybach Music Group camp.

But for now, here are the #NextFive rappers I believe SHOULD make up the second half of XXL’s 2014 Freshmen.


Casey Veggies_XXL

Casey Veggies

State His Case: Casey Veggies is probably the only person in these predictions who has a point to prove and a bone to pick. His Customized Greatly mixtape series has been consistently superb, and with Veggies’ long-awaited debut album slated to drop this year, 2014 looks to be his proving ground. Casey’s versatility on beats is second only to his penchant for clever punchlines, and as far as delivery goes, he ranks with the best of his peers. An XXL pick will finally put Veggies on the deck for the national attention he’s been deserving of but never quite gotten just yet.

The EvidenceAnything Goes, F*ck Withchu


Jon Connor_XXL Freshman

Jon Connor

State His Case>: The Michigan man’s penchant to terminate – sorry, couldn’t resist – any given instrumental caught the eyes and ears of producer Dr. Dre, who signed him to Aftermath Records late last year. But expect young Connor to take a Kendrick Lamar-esque, “Dre’s cosign doesn’t define me or make me any less hungry” approach to the music. Connor’s flow flourished over his series of taking over other people’s beats, whether they were Eminem’s or Kanye West’s (the latter of which – his take on selections from Kanye West’s six-album solo catalog – was an entertaining listen intro to closer).

There’s been no timetable yet for Jon Connor’s Aftermath debut album, much less a first single, but that should certainly arrive in the weeks to come, especially with Jon’s #ConnorSeason social media promotional movement on deck. For now, the rap world should get fair warning that resistance to Jon Connor’s sound at this point is all but futile.

The Evidence: Blame Game, Cleaning Out My Closet


Raven Sorvino_XXL

Raven Sorvino

State Her Case: The short answer is that XXL is overdue for a Freshman Class that has two female rappers on it and that spot involves a dead heat between Raven Sorvino and Nitty Scott, MC. I’m deferring to the former, if only because in 2013, Raven Sorvino got tired of waiting for people to notice her, and simply took advantage of the year to make herself noticeable.

The unapologetically gangster sum of parts taken from Houston and California powered through multiple delays to drop a fresh EP, Queen of HeArtz, a short but sweet collection of songs that showed Raven’s rhythm and hood-ratchet sides. She also toured the nation, often making surprise appearances and turning a clothing store into a strip club with 40 ounces on deck and utterly shaking things up with her laid-back appeal and rugged flow. With her “Queen of HeArtz” project set to resurface in 2014 as The Supreme LP, Sorvino is in the driver’s seat to cause problems in the second half of the year.

The Evidence: Trill B*tches, Bucket Hatz LO


Vic Mensa_XXL Freshman

Vic Mensa

State His Case: You could make the case that Vic Mensa was only noticeable because Chance the Rapper made you notice him. And that’s fine, except Vic all but emerged into his own force in 2013. Unlike The Migos, who couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity Drake created for them by hopping on the “Versace (Remix),” The Save Money man effectively turned an appearance on Chance’s “Family” song into a springboard for his own project, The INNANETAPE, a fan favorite release in 2013.

Still not convinced? Peep our own Kelsey McDaniel’s “tutorial” of sorts in Mensa 101 and see if you don’t think Chicago’s other eclectic emcee doesn’t deserve your attention.

The Evidence: When A Fire Starts to Burn (w/ Disclosure), Suitcase (f. Chance The Rapper)


Gerald Walker_XXL

Gerald Walker

State His Case: Milwaukee’s finest, who has damn near released an average of one mixtape per year for the last four years (including Christmas mixtapes), is easily the hardest working man in rap music next to Ryshon Jones. Walker played the background for most of 2013, teasing us with more growth from his Believers Never Die/One Step At A Time Music imprint and the prospect of an album (FINALLY!) in TARGET; TARGET got an additional boost in promotion from Walker’s mini-tour across the States. When armed with beats from Cardo and Sledgren and the occasional feature from H-Town’s own Jack Freeman, Walker and his conversational flow can really do no wrong on wax. Which is why 2014 should make for his most focused year ever – a focused year XXL SHOULD be a part of, or they’ll be mad they missed the boat.

The Evidence: Gravity (prod. by Cardo), The Inspiration