Exploring all of the 2019 XXL Freshman Candidates — Part 2

By Adil Siddiqee

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9. Bobby Sessions


As a musician, Bobby Sessions has a scattered, quiet past. Searches bring up pieces of history — he was part of a Dallas collective known as ‘Brain Gang’, posted now-deleted music videos shared on blog posts from 2011 to 2015, and released two projects prior to signing to Def Jam in 2018. From here we pick up with last year’s XXL Freshman candidacy, where Bobby’s available catalog included a single music video for the distorted, exasperated “Like Me”But today, it’s expanded to a variety of creative hardcore and conscious hip-hop releases, including the defiant protest cut “Politics” and soapbox-simulator “Black Neighborhood” featuring Killer Mike. Who does he sound like? I badly want to say Kendrick Lamar and J Cole. Louder, more on-the-nose, and very clearly through influence, but he is similar: lyrically, in cadence, and in delivery. His talent to exposure ratio is criminally low. With a recent ELEVATOR feature for “Dirt On Your Trophies”, I pray for a more rapid Bobby Sessions comeup.

I see an end for the antics, while CNN show reactions
The activist versus analyst panel, let’s have a fight
Pan a camera, the people ask is Kaepernick in the right
It’s a domino effect, every issue ain’t black and white, but a lot are — “Politics”

10. Boogie


Boogie hails from Compton and sounds like an Los Angeles summer weekend. He isn’t a new face: his brand of vibe-heavy West Coast hip-hop (“Sunroof”“Nigga Needs”)has racked up solid view counts for years now. A distinct voice and powerful command of storytelling make him an engrossing listen and versatile talent, and one of my favorite artists in the running. He’s also received cosigns from Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, which are potentially worth considering above mine. Though his 2017 signing to Shady was rightfully viewed with uncertainty, given the label’s lack of star-forging prowess, it at least came with a free Eminem feature on his now most popular single, “Rainy Days”Hopefully this, alongside a stream of well-received singles like the recent “Soho” with J.I.D and this month’s “Skydive” can net him a spot in the class.

Word to the feelings I channel, I lose ’em as quick as a fuckin’ remote
Don’t be callin’ me woke, I cheat on my queen for a ho
That’s how shit go, she keep sayin’ we chill, she gon’ come out her shell
Ain’t no pushin’ my buttons, when all of my feelings is stuck on “oh, well” — “Rainy Days”

11. Bri Steves


Philly’s Bri Steves shies away from her contemporaries’ overwhelmingly trap-focused musicianship in favor of a bouncy, melodic style reminiscent of hip-hop’s female golden age. Her soulful cadence and charismatic delivery brings to mind icons like Lauryn Hill (“Jealousy”, above) and Foxy Brown (“Miami”), with occasional aggression akin to Missy Elliott (“Ain’t Shit), albeit on more contemporary sounding instrumentals and Atlantic-backed production. That’s not to say she’s just a vessel for prettily-produced music — Steves is a producer, sound engineer, and multi-instrumentalist who often takes care of the entire process herself. Though not at the forefront of Philly’s current mainstream offerings, she’s a clearly talented musician with a promising career in front of her. And she has a Kendrick cosign, by the way.

They fuck with the vision, yeah, heard I gotta die in the kitchen
They ain’t know I was vicious
I’m a savage, baby, fuck around and bag your baby
Why you mad? Philly maybe — “Late Night”

12. Caleb Brown


Atlanta’s Caleb Brown attempted last year’s XXL Freshman Class with a limited and relatively lowkey body of work, resulting in a pitch video littered with dislikes and negative comments. Today, Brown’s catalog includes a few more music videos, but is still without much traction, with most songs sitting under 50k views on YouTube. That being said, his brand of distorted, murmured (sometimes yelled) SoundCloud trap (“DIE A LEGEND”is a solid representation of the scene, and worth listening to if you enjoy the mainstays of the genre.

We ain’t itching for no trouble, having fun just want to laugh
Keep a mac up on his hip in case them haters mug him back
We came up on cash money, UGK, and death row
All the folks be pouring lean, smoking weed, and clutching fours — Hangin’”

13. Cee Kay


Pine Bluff, Arkansas may have their first big export in hip-hop on their hands. It’s difficult to pinpoint where Arkansas hip-hop draws from: “Deja Vu” is reminiscent of golden era drill a la Chief Keef in its nihilistic violence, though the song’s atmospheric production (and that of “No Remorse” embedded above) results in a more sluggish, cloudy experience. Another infant Republic pickup (except he’s got a City Morgue cosign), Cee Kay evokes YoungBoy NBA in his darkly melodic murder-trap anthems. Speaking of which, he’s hit 2 million views in a month with the video for March’s “Pressure” ft. YoungBoy himself — an outstanding collaboration that displays a real confidence beyond his 19 years.

Pull up, it’s DOA, I’ma shoot that lil’ bitch in his face
Then I go MIA, I’m shootin’ out to another state 
Then hit up Nobu, where you at? Go get that dirty K 
I just fucked around and sent me a nigga up to heaven gates — “Pressure”\

14. Chris Matic


If nothing else, please just watch this freestyle by Kingston, Jamaica’s Chris Matic. It’s very good and he sounds like a patois Jay-Z. Unfortunately his very sparse body of work doesn’t allow for much of a profile. There are bits and pieces of quality, nostalgic boom-bap (“Calories”) and some assorted trap (“Extendo”), but I don’t believe it’s enough to make Chris a contender.

Family trynna function outta poverty
Mama trynna be the Daddy caz the daddy had to leave
You know daddy caught a body did a couple robberies
But the person that he killed was trynna kill him for his keys — “Calories”

15. Coi Leray


At 21, New Jersey’s Coi Leray is exploding with charisma and self-assurance. The above-embedded “Huddy” is nothing less than an objective bop, with Leray’s music video presence suggesting real confidence on the screen and potentially on the stage. One of the more popping recent Republic signees, there’s a definite sense of songwriters in the picture, with melodic endeavors like “Good Day” showing up recently. Her energy is more palpable on trap joints like “Tricks”however, and is significantly more interesting. Some assorted recent Billboard and All Def features are signs of positive momentum — let’s hope her relationship with Trippie Redd doesn’t ruin it.

Lookin’ at my future, it’s on beast mode
I don’t trust these niggas, I just play it by the G-Code
Got a nine for you, put it in my peacoat
Bust down, run now, nigga that’s that gun sound — “Huddy”

16. Comethazine


I feel like Illinois’ Comethazine is the very last SoundCloud rapper. As quickly as the wave of loud, eccentric, hook-centered trap took over, it already seems to be taking its leave, as Lil Pump’s view counts begin to dip and various participants find themselves in jail or dead. Comethazine has fun songs, for sure — I can see how the above-embedded “Walk” could start moshpits and “NONSENSE” could help you hit your PR. But it already feels impermanent, trendy, and at times overdone. And given his viewcounts and current appeal, this isn’t to say Comethazine doesn’t have a great chance of being a part of this Freshman Class, delivering a solid freestyle, and participating in an explosive cypher performance. I just feel as if it’s necessary to take note of what Comethazine represents, what with his reduction of trap bangers into minute-long catharses (“DeMar DeRozan”) and focus on extended hooks: if this kind of sound is what you want, then Comethazine is as pure as it’ll ever be.

Pop out on a pussy, nigga, what the fuck up?
Gas pack strong as fuck, my blunt be doing push-ups
If you ‘bout that action, tell that pussy nigga buck up
You be talkin’ hella tough on Twitter, pull the fuck up — “Walk”

Edward Chao