The days are over when appearing in magazine like The Source could make or break a rapper’s career. But print music journalism is not completely dead yet, since people still care about who shows up on the cover of XXL’s freshman class issue. Here’s a breakdown of every artist who is on the cover, so you can tell everyone you heard about them back when they were still a “freshman.”
Most Famous Project: I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In, the latest in a series of mixtapes with hilariously related titles: I Go In On Every Song, Still Goin In, and Still Goin In (Reloaded).
Style: Rich Homie Quan toured with Trinidad James and has been on songs with Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy and 2 Chainz. Supporters say he raps with a voice full of emotion, while detractors claim he sounds eternally on the verge of tears.
One Song You Should Listen to: “Type of Way,” probably his most famous song. Decide for yourself what you make of his voice.
Most Famous Project: Cilvia Demo, the debut EP he released this year after signing with Top Dawg Entertainment
Style: Isaiah Rashad tends to create low-key, thoughtful raps over mostly atmospheric production.
One Song You Should Listen to: “Heavenly Father,” off of Cilvia Demo. The song is introspective Rashad at his best.
Most Famous Project: Acid Rap, the mixtape that made Chance an underground sensation and probably guaranteed him a spot on this list.
From: Chicago, but Chance is not a part of the Drill scene
Style: Chance has some unconventional vocals and adlibs that some people find intolerable but his fans find integral to his unique sing/rapping style.
One Song You Should Listen to: “Paranoia” off Acid Rap. This song has a more somber tone than the standard Chance the Rapper song, but he still sprinkles in his trademark “ACH.”
Most Famous Project: Beach House EP, Ty Dolla Sign’s debut after joining Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang Records.
Style: Ty Dolla Sign is primarily a singer who can slide into sing-rapping with ease. He also produces music that walks the line between southern rap and house music.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Paranoid,” which features B.o.B. with a surprisingly decent verse.
Most Famous Project: Signed to the Streets, a mixtape with a fitting title for Lil Durk’s subject matter.
From: Chicago, and yes, he is part of the Drill scene
Style: Think of a Chief Keef who enunciates a little more clearly. Lil Durk sounds violent and usually mad about something.
One Song You Should Listen To: “ChiRaq,”which is actually a Meek Mill song, but listen to Lil Durk come in on the second verse and make it his.
Most Famous Project: My Grandma’s Basement, a studio album he released last June.
Style: Jarren Benton is a hard-hitting rapper, with a rapid-fire delivery who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Cadillacs & Chevys,” where it’s clear from the intro that Benton is a little different, but once he goes in, it’s clear he’s got some skills as well.
Most Famous Project: The Luca Brasi Story put him on the map,though Stranger Than Fiction and By Any Means are also relatively popular.
Style: He’s a singer/rapper who gets compared to Drake, but his songs of personal hardship have a little more credibility than a Canadian soap opera star.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Satellites,” a good exhibition of his singing and rapping.
Most Famous Project: New York City: The Album, his debut which he released back in November.
Style: As his name and album suggest, Troy Ave is a rapper who loves to talk about his city. He also loves rapping about dealing drugs. Not exactly groundbreaking subject matter, and he spits with a similarly familiar style.
One Song You Should Listen To: “New York City,” I wasn’t kidding, the man really loves NYC.
Most Famous Project: INNANETAPE, the solo mixtape he released after his band, Kids These Days, broke up.
Style: He and Chance are both members of the SAVE MONEY collective, and while they have their similarities, Vic’s voice might be a little more palatable for some.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Orange Soda,” a song that shows how capable Vic is of handling the hook and the verses in his songs.
Most Famous Project: Free Crack, his only mixtape. After appearing on the XXL cover, his forthcoming EP might be much more popular.
Style: Lil Bibby is another Chicago rapper in the drill scene, rapping about drugs, death and threats of death over pulsing trap beats. He is 19 and sounds 30.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Whole Crew,” a song produced by Hit-Boy.
Most Famous Project: Best In The World, a mixtape that uses the best of Kanye West’s beats.
From: Flint, Michigan
Style: Despite signing to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath, Jon Connor has remained mostly unknown perhaps due to a general lack of distinguishing features. He calls himself “The People’s Rapper,” maybe because he could blend into a crowd with ease.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Flashing Lights,” his version of Kanye’s song of the same name.
Most Famous Project: Testimony, which you might have heard of since it reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts.
From: New Orleans
Style: August Alsina is a singer in the strictest R&B sense: he makes baby-making music.
One Song You Should Listen To: “Ghetto,” a supremely vulgar love song featuring fellow 2014 XXL freshman Rich Homie Quan.