Exploring all of the 2019 XXL Freshman Candidates — Part 1

By Adil Siddiqee

I did this last year. I’m doing it again, but with a conscious effort to remove the snark and suburbia (it’s been a slow learning process). I’m embedding a music video per artist and linking to introductory songs in their blurbs, with a sample of lyrics that stuck out to me.

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1. Abby Jasmine

 
 

Staten Island’s Abby Jasmine was big on Vine as a teenager, and as an almost-21-year-old is currently on tour with T-Pain. Her style of melodic, typically sung trap occasionally leans into full-blown bangers like the above-embedded “No Hook” or contemporary R&B like “Relax”, but is often in the vein of sweetly smug kickback tunes like “Message” or “Tags”. She’s received a Rico Nasty cosign, No Jumper exclusives, and refers to herself as “Trap Mom Abby”. These are signs indicative of impending success, and her increase in output as of last year (that is, full-length videos and promo material outside of the occasional viral tweet) points towards the possibility of a major debut in the near future.

Pull up to the function, and I’m flexing on my exy
If you gonna try and diss me, say it with your chest B
Trying to link, I’m in the telly laid up with your bestie
If I get a nine I’m a motherfucking test it — “No Hook”

2. Asian Doll

 
 

Asian Doll is a Brooklyn-based Dallas native, the first female signed to 1017 Records, and is always beefing with Rico Nasty. I hate to make comparisons here — especially given the fact that they currently despise each other — but as a big fan of Rico Nasty I can’t help but recommend checking out Asian Doll’s “Lame Niggaz” and “Rock Out” if you are too. Though most comfortable utilizing her snarled, Southern drawl over bass-heavy street anthems like MAIN” and “Southside”, she’s explored more melodious avenues like on “Grandson” (above) and on features like Jay Sean’s “With You”A steady flow of mixtapes beginning in 2016 recently continued with October 2018’s So Icy Princess, and the current year’s stream of music videos, features, and major interviews suggest bigger things to come.

Uzi vert, oou I’ma skrt, Prada purse and I’m a flirt
Pop the trunk like it’s my cherry, leave your bitch ass in the dirt
Lying nigga, playing stupid, I’m not your hoe so I don’t curr
Creepin on the dick, he going swimmin now my stomach hurt — “Lame Niggaz”


3. Bali Baby

 
 

Atlanta-based newcomer Bali Baby fully debuted last year with an intriguing blend of emo-rap and pop-punk heard in songs like “Backseat” on an album incredibly named Baylor Swift. As of late, she’s returned to the contemporary trap sound found on her barely-earlier mixtapes, with songs like the above-embedded “AMBER ALERT” and “Big Bad Wolf” making up most of her releases. There’s a lightheartedness present throughout her nine-mixtape-two-album body of work, heard clearly in songs like “Professor Finessor” , but her interpretation of heartbreak and catharsis is also something to take note of (“Backseat, “Few Things”and watch out for as her network expands and resources become more varied. Sidenote: she is also a former Rico Nasty affiliate who really, really doesn’t like her anymore (“Enemies”). Rico’s lore is far deeper than I imagined.

Big bad wolf, bitch, I’ll blow down your tent
You better not touch me, my shoes cost your rent
When I get done with you, you’re gonna repent
Angel baby, I know I’m Heaven-sent — “Big Bad Wolf”

4. BamSavage

 
 

Coral Spring’s BamSavage is turning 19 this Fall, and his major label debut EP came out last month. A couple buzzing SoundCloud singles last year caught the attention of Republic Records, who signed him last summer and pushed out Yesterday’s Tomorrow astonishingly quickly. It’s a typical industry move to grab a trending young artist and gamble on short-lived success, but BamSavage shows potential for persevering — though the distorted headbanger “Commotion” (above) is what you’d expect from a Broward County resident, “Feelings Aside” is a departure from the style entirely and showcases surprisingly masterful trap-crooning in the vein of Yung Pinch.

I am fucking tripping, girl, I’m ‘bout to lose my mind
I just want to love you but the drugs enter my mind
I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to waste your time
I can’t feel no love, shawty, I already died — “Feelings Aside”

5. Bandhunta Izzy

 
 

Baltimore’s Banhunta Izzy can be found in LA these days, but was popping the hardest when he was back home a year or two ago. That being said, his output is consistently entertaining and his work ethic is apparent with singles being released as recently as last week (“Big Boss”). His cadence shifts between hushed threats and rapid flows on top of drill, trap, and gangsta rap instrumentals, working most fluidly on cuts like “BBB” (above), “Rumors”,and “I Got It”His Code Blue mixtape is solid throughout, and while his recent output hasn’t reached the same level of exposure as the previously mentioned, the quality has in no way dipped (“Dead Man Can’t Type”).

Ain’t no question who the hottest niggas coming up in the city they know who it is
Young niggas, boss status, with some reputations from the shit that we did
Play with my niggas we hitting ya head, turn the casket to a nigga new bed
I don’t never talk, I ain’t saying no words, so a nigga don’t say they heard shit that I said — “BBB”

6. Benny the Butcher

 
 

Buffalo’s Benny the Butcher is a Westside Gunn affiliate, Alchemist collaborator, and nostalgic, grimy 90’s New York hip-hop revivalist. His storytelling is classic NY — murder tales snail-paced over paranoid boom-bap, with clever lyricism punctuated by long-winded ad-libs [*GRRRRRRRRR!*]. The Griselda Records crew has long since carved a lane of their own, receiving critical acclaim and nods from major publications, but may not carry the same mainstream appeal a many of the artists on this shortlist. That being said, Benny is a rarity and a professional at his craft, exemplified by cuts like “Broken Bottles” and “Rubber Bands & Weight” (above).

Y’all like these rappers, but I don’t find it amusing, no
I don’t buy they movement, so I don’t buy their music
I wrote get rich manuals where I provide the blueprint
And with pride, I preach this new shit, just like I’m inside a pulpit — “Broken Bottles”

7. Bhad Bhabie

 
 

God bless. I said Boynton Beach’s Bhad Bhabie would disappear by the end of last year. But I also said that part may not be true, so I get partial credit. She’s still doing her thing — that is, attitude-riddled club trap with addictive hooks linked up with excellent features — and consistently racks up tens of millions of views, so to be perfectly honest I don’t think Bhad Bhabie even needs to be a Freshman. She’s a fucking professional, that’s for sure. (“Juice”“Bestie”)

Comin’ out hard like ’88, make a bitch levitate
Babyface savage, bitch, I don’t play Patty Cake
Charms in the carrot cake, carats in the Patek face
Cop a new coupe, no top, that’s the Cali’ way — “Babyface Savage” (above)

8. Blueface, baby

 
 

If all you’ve heard from LA’s Blueface is “Thotiana” and the other “Thotiana”I unironically insist you watch (yes, even the first half) & listen to “Respect My Crypn” (above). First, his fingers are spiders — amazing. Second: the charm, self-assurance, and moments of undeniable flair are clearer than they’ve been for any hip-hop star in years. Outside of being unfairly good-looking for a goofy, briefcase-and-mop carrying Crip, Blueface’s utilization of offbeat flow, earworm adlibs, and clever one-liners makes him a legitimately excellent entertainer. I’d hate to see him cemented as a one-hit wonder and remembered only for “Thotiana”, because I really do believe songs like “Bleed It” and “Deadlocs” are tracks that couldn’t have been made by anyone else. [*Yeaaaight*]

Fuck a handgun, bitch, I brought a MAC in (MAC in)
Gotta keep a technical in case a nigga hackin’ (Hackin’)
Glock with a dick on my lap, I’m in traffic (Traffic)
My pistol bloated, ready to unload it (‘Load it) — Bleed It”

Edward Chao