Ranking the XXL Magazine 2018 Freshman Class Freestyles and Cyphers

Every year, the hip hop magazine XXL releases a list of (usually) 10 rappers on the rise– artists they feel will succeed in the (near) future.

This announcement has cemented itself in the hip hop world as a place for up-and-coming rappers to gain exposure. Many of the biggest names in rap today have gone through this rite of passage: the 2010 Class featured J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Jay Rock; the 2011 Class featured Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, and Mac Miller. Read the full list here.

On June 12th, the XXL Magazine announced the 2018 class. The most recognizable name is the notorious Lil Pump, but others include Ski Mask the Slump GodSmokepurppJ.I.DStefflon DonBlocBoy JBYBN NahmirWifisfuneral and Trippie Redd.

Let’s see who’s the best and who’s the worst and everyone in between.

Rankings are from best to worst.


  1. J.I.D and Ski Mask the Slump God

This cypher was the clear winner. Arguably the two most talented rappers from the freshman lineup,

J.I.D flaunts an impressive, rapid-fire flow with clever wordplay, wide variety of vocab, while maintaining clear articulation and attention-grabbing delivery. J. Cole definitely didn’t make a mistake in signing him to his Dreamville Records. Ski Mask’s turn was short, but his a cappella was full of clever name-dropping coupled with plenty of well-deserved confidence.

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 12.55.15 AM.png

2. YBN Nahmir, Stefflon Don, Wifisfuneral

All three of them rode the beat well. Their lyrics were pretty good (read them here), too. If they work on developing a captivating stage presence and more of a personality, they can become big names– they have the basic talent.

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 12.53.07 AM

3. Lil Pump, BlocBoy JB and Smokepurpp

Unfortunately the video that will get the most views, even though it shows least talent.

Lil Pump stalled for such a long time… The first 25 seconds of this video was full of “ooh”s. Then it was a slew of rushed, mushed up sounds. Lil Pump literally sounded like he was eating the mic– the articulation here is nonexistent. It didn’t even sound like English to me. Recycled lyrics from previous songs litter the 25 seconds (I’m not kidding) of “actual” rapping here… He’s only on this list because of his popularity, not any talent.

BlocBoy JB is slower. BlocBoy JB will go onto disappoint in his solo freestyle (scroll down), and his cypher is similarly unmemorable here.

Smokepurpp also opts for a slower flow, but his delivery is definitely the most captivating. In this sad trio, Smokepurpp is the only glimpse of hope and talent.

This cypher was mostly three things: 1. “ooh”, 2. Lil Pump throwing money, 3. Rappers doing the shoot.

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 12.48.47 AM


  1. J.I.D: He was able to hold on for two minutes– the longest freestyle from the class (other than Trippie Redd, but their flows were like day and night). His ability to switch between flows was INCREDIBLE. He never messes up while going quickly, and I heard “habeas corpus,” “rigamortus,” “bygones and buy guns,” “Zion,” “don’t matter like black lives.” Wow. 9/10.
  2. Ski Mask: He switched up his flow a lot, and he completely owned his fast tempo. Definitely impressed. 8/10
  3. Wifisfuneral: So everyone keeps on saying Wifisfuneral has been slept on for too long. I can see that. He was pretty lyrical, and his flow developed nicely over the course of the freestyle. He cut off abruptly, but what he showed us was promising. 7/10
  4. Stefflon Don: She kind of gives off a still-in-training vibe, but with some time, this may change. She remained calm throughout. She was pretty lyrical, had a nice variety of vocabulary. 6.5/10
  5. Trippie Redd: he was alright, I spotted some wordplay, but it’s nothing mind-blowing. He mostly stuck to a simple rhyme scheme with ends of each line. 5/10.
  6. YBN Nahmir: He went for storytelling, which is difficult. Often this means foregoing rhymes; he kept it short, but I see potential here. A little more confidence and it can be good. 4.5/10.
  7. Smokepurpp: He cheated on rhyming by just repeating “b-tch” for most of his lines. He was okay but forgettable. 4/10
  8. BlocBoy JB: Man, this was just sad. It was short, slow and simple, same flow throughout, banal topics, no charisma. 2/10 because he didn’t pause.
  9. Lil Pump: This was not a freestyle. He literally quoted an entire verse from his existing song “Esskeetit.” Lots of “ooh”s to fill in gaps, name-dropping brands, unintelligible pronunciations, this is just very tiring. 0.5/10 because it’s ironically entertaining.


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