#48. Freshman Cover (XXL, 2009)

Issue: November 2009
Art Direction: Davina A. Lennard
Photography: Ben Watts

Music critics just love to play forecaster. For about as long as the craft has existed "Next Big Thing" predictions have been a favorite of music publications across the board. It's roughly the critical equivalent of "FIRST!" blog comments. XXL brought this mentality to newsstands everywhere with their "Freshman" cover. A reworking of "The Leaders Of The New School" cover from two years earlier, the spread was a selection of blog friendly would-bes across three covers.

Though their selections were hit or miss—the subsequent success of acts like B.O.B. and Kid Cudi are weighed down by embarrassments like Charles Hamilton and Ace Hood—the cover set a tradition for the magazine, launching thousands of lunch room arguments and half-baked Twitter beefs between up-and-coming rappers.