Last month, 10 up-and-coming MCs started getting fresh like it was their first day of school. They had to be camera-ready to shoot the annual "Freshmen 10" issue of XXL magazine. The special edition of the publication has become a hip-hop tradition, as they give the nod to 10 mic masters they feel will be the next big stars.
In 2008, names like Saigon, Lil Boosie and Plies made the cut, while last year, B.o.B, Charles Hamilton, Wale and Asher Roth graced the cover. Other members of the '09 class were Kid Cudi, Ace Hood, Curren$y, Blu, Mickey Factz and Cory Gunz.
XXL Editor in Chief Vanessa Satten said the editorial staff started deciding the 2010 class two months ago. Besides their own research, they also took recommendations from the magazine's editors at large and freelance writers.
"It's always interesting to assemble the guys, because you don't know what kind of vibe you're gonna get," Satten said about the photo shoot. "The first [class in 2008], they were kinda brooding. They were kind of boring on the actual shoot. The second one, they were exciting. This year, we didn't know what to expect from them, because the first two [classes] were so opposite of each other. You never know what you can expect when you get those 10 rappers together. It could be pretty much anything.
"You're not dealing with divas like you normally do with a bigger cover," she added. "But at the same time, you're dealing with people who've got these insecurities, who are not used to the situation and not as recognizable. You gotta get them to be a bit more animated and be a little bit more interesting so the photos could be spectacular. It's a little different when you put a bigger star on the cover."
Satten played it close to the vest when asked who some of the names were, but she did say the new set is different from '09.
"Last year, in general, the class was more Internet-driven," she said. "It was kind of a different class. The office would make fun — it was more of a nerdy class. The rappers involved might get offended by that, but it was definitely to the direction of the Internet audience, the Internet rappers. This [new] class is a mix of that and a little bit more street. And more of hodgepodge."
A question Satten said she hears a lot is whether Drake will be on this year's cover. Some fans where shocked that was omitted from the '09 class. But as Satten pointed out, his So Far Gone mixtape came out just about the same time as the issue hit newsstands.
"As of right now, he doesn't have an album," Satten said of Drake. "But he is technically a freshmen to us. He might not think so or think he's beyond that now."
The "Freshmen 10" issues lands on stands in March. Satten said there will be a DJ Whoo Kid mixtape to promote the issue sometime in the near future, as well as a party and a tour with some of the artists.