The annual Freshman issue of XXL magazine isn't due on newsstands for about another month but after the cover was leaked online by Eighty8 Clothing — with the T-shirt company's watermark prominently displayed over the image — XXL posted an official high-resolution look at the cover on its website.
The magazine's 2011 freshman class, featuring the best emerging hip-hop talent as selected by its editors, is made up of Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T., CyHi Da Prince, Lil Twist, Yelawolf, Fred the Godson, Mac Miller, YG, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar and Diggy Simmons.
And those that made the list represent a wide spectrum of rap talent across regions and styles. Meek Mill is from Philadelphia and recently signed to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group, CyHi Da Prince hails from Atlanta and is signed to Def Jam (and also aligned with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music), while Mac Miller is a white, Jewish rapper hailing from Pittsburgh. Interestingly, this is actually Yelawolf's second consecutive XXL cover: The Alabama MC appeared on the previous issue, along with Eminem and fellow Shady Records signees Joe Budden, Royce Da 5'9", Joell Ortiz and Crooked I of Slaughterhouse.
After the cover was posted, many fans, artists and critics took to Twitter — "XXL Freshman" became a trending topic — and other sites to congratulate those selected but also to debate about who should and shouldn't have made the list. While the final group is usually limited to only 10 acts, this year 11 were selected.
The annual issue is one of XXL's most popular and most debated. The inaugural XXL Freshman class of 2007, then dubbed Leaders of the New School, consisted of Lil Boosie, Lupe Fiasco, Saigon, Rich Boy, Plies, Gorilla Zoe, Young Dro, Joell Ortiz, Papoose and Crooked I. The class of '09 featured Ace Hood, Curren$y, Wale, Asher Roth, B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Charles Hamilton, Blu, Corey Gunz and Mickey Factz. And last year's picks were Nipsey Hu$$le, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, Pill, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, OJ Da Juiceman, Donnis, Jay Rock and Fashawn.
What do you think of this year's Freshman class? Tell us in the comments!