Although the issue was pushed back later than usual due to the pandemic, the publication unveiled both the annual freshmen class list and this year’s theme, officially dubbing the new class “Believe In The Future.”
The 13th annual list names NLE Choppa, Polo G, Calboy, Lil TJay, Fivio Foreign, Baby Keem, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave, Chika, Mulatto, Lil Keed, and 24kGoldn, as the ones to watch, before addressing fans concerns about the noticeable omission of Brooklyn-bred MC, Pop Smoke, who was murdered earlier this year in Los Angeles.
In a statement published in the magazine, XXL revealed that Pop Smoke was the first Freshman for the new class but “circumstances out of our control prevented us from including Pop as part of the cover posthumously.”
“One of the bittersweet memories of the 2020 Freshman process was meeting with Pop Smoke a month before his tragic death,” the statement read. “Pop was chosen as the first Freshman in the class, to which he happily accepted. Circumstances out of our control prevented us from including Pop as part of the cover posthumously, but to us, he is still part of the class. ”
In addition to the statement, the magazine noted that the issue features an unreleased interview from Pop Smoke’s visit in January where he discussed his career and the Brooklyn drill scene.
The publication also notes an added political aspect to the highly anticipated issue, adding that this year the group video interviews are hosted by activist Tamika D. Mallory, Mysonne, Angelo Pinto, and Linda Sarsour, cofounders of Until Freedom, a social justice organization with heavy ties to hip-hop. The Freshmen were open, honest, and passionate during the discussions on topics including the recent protests, racism, police brutality, social injustice, and features an interview with UF about the special group discussion and hip-hop’s role in today’s political movement.
The XXL Freshman issue hits stands everywhere on Sept. 1.