Last week, XXL launched its Vote for the 10th Spot campaign, allowing fans to make the decision on who receives the 10th and final spot on the 2018 Freshman Class — the publication’s annual much-talked-about list of 10 up-and-coming rappers that XXL believes are the next big stars in hip-hop. In past years, Dallas rap fans bemoaned the exclusion of some of the biggest acts the North Texas region has to offer, but this year, two Dallas artists were included in the Vote for the 10th Spot Campaign — Bobby Sessions and Tay-K.
At this point, it’s unclear if they’ve been voted in (voting closed Sunday), and it’s possible one of them could’ve already been selected to be in the 2018 Freshman Class. The fan voting, for the most part, was to begin drumming up talks surrounding the list, and we must “stay tuned to find out which artist with the most votes, that hasn’t already been chosen for the 2018 XXL Freshman Class, wins the coveted 10th spot.”
Dallas rap fans have desperately yearned for this type of national recognition as the city continues to swell with burgeoning talent, and this inclusion feels like a monumental moment. Sessions and Tay-K come from two different sides of the hip-hop spectrum. Sessions is revered as a classic hip-hop artist who uses his platform to spread messages, both positive and hard-to-swallow, with cerebral lyricism that is refreshing for hip-hop purists.
Tay-K lives in the contemporary side of hip-hop and is the poster child for a wave of youthful rappers making names for themselves off grandiose personas and actions that lead to viral success. There are also a ton of talented artists in the area who live within those two worlds, and it’s inspiring to realize that there are more legitimate contenders for the Freshman Class than the last time we did this exercise in 2016. And with that, here are Dallas’ top eight 2018 Freshman Class contenders.
8. Go Yayo
When Fort Worth’s Go Yayo burst onto the local landscape in late 2015 with hard-hitting aggressive tracks like “Boom” and “Dammit Man,” it really felt like he was on his way to mainstream stardom. Yayo’s viral tunes quickly made their way to the likes of Soulja Boy, 50 Cent and Migos, who all made plays at signing him. In an interview with SayCheeseTV, Go Yayo told Shawn Cotton that Quality Control (an independent music label representing Migos, Lil Yachty, Rich the Kid and other high-profile hip-hop artists) offered to sign him, but it came at a time when Yayo’s ceiling seemed nonexistent, and he turned down the offer.
Because of moves like that, he’s lost steam in the national landscape and most likely his chances at being considered for XXL’s 2018 Freshman Class, but there’s still a real opportunity for him. He’s still young, and he has the voice, style, looks and fan base the publication is looking for. If Go Yayo can drum up national attention in the next year, 2019 feels like a real possibility.
7. Lil Cobaine
Lil Cobaine is another artist who has all the toolsXXL
is looking for . It’s no secret thatXXL
has a penchant for Soundcloud rappers these days, a term that can be seen as both pejorative one and a sign of the times. Lil Cobaine is most certainly a Soundcloud rapper whose autotune-assisted falsetto and atmospheric beats are trendy and ear-catching. Quality Control signed Lil Cobaine a few months ago and while Lil Cobaine would certainly fit right in with any and all of the members of this year’s upcoming Freshman Class, it’s almost a guarantee QC will work tirelessly behind the scenes to get the artist ready for 2019.
6. Bobby Sessions
With rumors flying about who may or may not make this year’s Freshman Class — 6ix9ine, Lil Pump, Tee Grizzley, Trippie Redd and more — it’s hard to see where Bobby Sessions fits in. Past classes have featured traditional acts like Lupe Fiasco, Dave East, Raury and Isaiah Rashad, whom Sessions aligns with, but he’s also missing the national attention those artists possessed at the times of their selections. Sessions’ star power is limitless, and he made a wonderful splash at SXSW this year , but his inclusion in the Vote for the 10th Spot campaign feels like a move by Def Jam, his record label, to garner attention for the newly signed artist. Still, it’s amazing to see a Dallas artist receive the recognition.
5. Yella Beezy
Yella Beezy’s inclusion in this list is simply wishful thinking. The Oak Cliff star is achieving new peaks in his career this year off the strength of street anthems like “That’s On Me” and “Up One” that have made him a household name in parts of the city and a mainstay on hip-hop sites like Worldstarhiphop, but he doesn’t have the traction for this year’s list. Yella Beezy’s greatest asset is his unabashed, unique-to-Dallas southern delivery, but he’s also starting to make the right moves. He's is hardly ever left off a lineup featuring a high-profile artist performing in Dallas, and he posted a video to his Instagram last week of him playing pool with Chris Brown. IfXXL
can overcome its Northern bias, Yella Beezy would be an exciting addition to a Freshman Class and the national landscape.
4. Diego Money
Whereas Sessions doesn’t seem to fit in with the crop of talentXXL
is looking for, Diego Money almost feels like an obvious choice.As we wrote about the artist last year
, Diego Money is a pioneer of the Soundcloud movement that’s sweeping the country. His 2017 “Blue and Green” song and video are a perfect example of this. The track was produced by Stoopidxool of Beat Pluggz, a collective of producers who have transformed rap’s trap subgenre with their signature style and have become some of the most sought-after beat-makers in the country.
Diego Money was one of the first rappers to work with Mexikodro, the founder of Beat Pluggz, and he helped propel the infamous “Plug!” tag in the tracks. The video was shot and directed by Cole Bennett of Lyrical Lemonade, one of the most in-demand hip-hop videographers. Diego Money also possesses the fashion and musical style the magazine is looking for. It’s just a shame that the pioneer is hardly ever the one who reaps the rewards. Now there’s a whole generation of artists who have played off the efforts of Diego Money and garnered a much larger national following.
3. Asian Doll
Asian Doll is the first artist on this list who may or may not already be one of the 2018 Freshman Class picks byXXL
. The Dallas rapper seemingly possesses all the criteriaXXL
is looking for. Asian Doll is one hell of a rapper, as she’s demonstrated time and time again, but most emphatically on her “Murda” track. But skill isn’t enough. Popularity matters, and Asian Doll is garnering it. Earlier this year, she was featured on Bhad Bhabie’s “Hi Bich” remix. She stole some of the limelight from Bhad Bhabie, and the two became friendly after working together on the music video and are on tour together. Asian Doll's style is impeccable, and it’s one of the reasons the rapper has amassed nearly 700,000 followers on Instagram — somethingXXL
is certainly taking into consideration. If there’s anything holding her back from this year’s list, it might be the lack of major label representation.
If Tay-K is one ofXXL’s
choices for the 2018 Freshman Class, it’ll be a huge stunner. And it’ll be equally stunning if Tay-K’s not one of this year’s picks. Weird, right? That’s the awkward, conflicting and polarizing space Tay-K’s career exists in. His impact on hip-hop in 2017 was undeniable. “The Race” was a viral, platinum hit that earned remixes or shoutouts from artists like Lil Wayne, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty and Playboi Carti, and his music career has had an impressive start to 2018, with releases like “#AfterYou” and “Hard.”
But for all the accolades Tay-K earns for his music, it’s almost negated by the troubling legal issues Taymor McIntyre, the artist’s real name, is facing while incarcerated on capital murder charges. The Fader eloquently outlined this paradox when it listed “The Race” as the best song of 2017: “The feasibility of ethical consumption is among this era’s most enduring, unanswerable questions. This year, The FADER chose not to cover certain artists out of a concern that generating clicks on their behalf would equal complicity for their crimes. When we look back at 2017, and how it has reshaped the way we all engage with the producers of culture, it's songs like 'The Race,' and stories as complex as Tay-K’s, that will stand out the most.”
1. Cuban Doll
If Cuban Doll isn’t onXXL’s
2018 Freshman Class, it will be one of the most egregious omissions in recent memory. The stars have aligned for Cuban Doll. In the past six months, the Dallas rapper has earned media attention from a laundry list of high-profile, influential publications such as Noisey,The Fader
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all proclaiming her hip-hop’s next star after the release of her Aaliyah Keef mixtape at the end of 2017. Her single “Bankrupt” is a hit with more than 5 million views on Worldstarhiphop.XXL
has been busy promoting Cuban Doll, too. She visited the publication’s offices (something lots of rappers do) and was interviewed for The Break, a feature for up-and-coming artists. If all that weren’t enough of a case for the 19-year-old, she just signed a record deal with the 740 Project and Capitol Records.