There are so many questions surrounding the 2013 XXL Freshman cover, but rather than speculate on why the hip-hop print staple made its picks, MTV News decided to go straight to the source and get the answers on the most talked-about hip-hop magazine cover of the year.
"The goal we try to make with Freshman is to show that we support new talent [and] to give opportunities to people who will kind of take a long time for them to come around and get that opportunity or be on the cover," XXL Editor in Chief Vanessa Satten told MTV News on Thursday (March 28).
The first XXL Freshman cover dropped in 2007 and forecasted 10 MCs who were expected to make an impact in 2008. Lupe Fiasco, Plies, Saigon, Lil Boosie, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I were among the first crop of rookies spotlighted, while rap stars like Wale, Ace Hood, J. Cole, Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore would follow in subsequent years.
For this year's 2013 class, there are predictable picks like Trinidad Jame$, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Kirko Bangz, Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson. Then, as there are every year, XXL has a few less popular picks like Angel Haze, Dizzy Wright, Travis $cott and the lesser-known Logic. The fact of the matter is, it's impossible to predict success for 10 new rappers in a single calendar year. Some MCs take a little longer to blossom, and others completely fall off the map. XXL Freshman alumni Charles Hamilton and OJ Da Juiceman are far less popular then they were when the magazine first spotlighted them.
Still, Satten has enough experience to understand that she and her staff have to let their picks play out before succumbing to fan pressure and public outcry. "I can't tell you how many people said to me, 'What's a Macklemore?' " she said of the 2012 Freshman who has since gone on to hoist multiplatinum plaques for his hit single "Thrift Shop." "Now, I can't tell you how many people say, 'Yo, Macklemore was the best pick of the class last year.' "
Of course Satten credits Macklemore for all his hard work, but her publication was an early supporter and has been part of his success story. This year, many fans seem to question Logic, the 23-year-old Maryland MC who fancies himself a young Frank Sinatra. Satten, however, is quite confident in the little-known spitter's future. "I think that you guys are going to be surprised by some stuff with Logic, I think from the business deals and situations that he's got going on that are unannounced," she said. "The world was open to Mac Miller, so I don't understand. They're not the exact same thing, but they go in a similar lane."
In addition to the 10 MCs who were photographed for the annual hip-hop tentpole, Chief Keef received an honorary nod as the 11th Freshman. It was a move that left many scratching their heads, considering that the Chicago rabble-rouser already released his debut album, Finally Rich, in December. "We locked Chief Keef down as one of the first Freshmen, and that was back in October," she said before reminding fans that Keef's six-day jail bid prevented him from being part of the shoot in New York City. "There was no album, there was no jail bid, there was no legal drama. So that happened after we locked him down."
Unsure of how Keef's legal situation would play out, Satten and her staff decided to keep the "I Don't Like" rapper on as an honorable mention and have since gotten a post-jail interview with him that they will spotlight in the issue when it hits stands April 8. As for that little album he dropped in December, Satten isn't sweating it. "Sometimes rules are meant to be broken," she said. "We felt it was wrong for him to not be part of that group."
Who is your favorite XXL Freshman pick? Let us know in the comments!