On Monday, XXL announced its 2016 Freshman Class—a group of 10 rising hip-hop stars the magazine thinks will shape the future of the genre. Among the cohort are some familiar names: Desiigner, Anderson .Paak, Lil' Dicky, Dave East, Denzel Curry, G Herbo, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage and Kodak Black are all on this year's list.
One big caveat though: No women made the cut this year, a discouraging change in course from 2015, when Tink and Dej Loaf were prominent in the mix.
Criticism usually flares up when XXL releases its annual list. In 2015, many decried the rapper Kid Kid's inclusion, noting that he'd been in the game for too long to be considered a "freshman." The issue of female inclusion has also been divisive. Women are less represented in male-dominated hip-hop industry, so it's natural that fans express discontent when a male-only group graces a coveted cover. In 2012, Iggy Azalea was the first woman to be named on the list, which at that point was in its fifth year. Two years later, MTV offered a pretty exhaustive look at which MCs could've been included in the freshman class, but weren't.
The annual honor is a career catalyst for many of those included. Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla $ign and Kid Cudi owe some degree of their early career fame to XXL. All of this begs the question: Could we see a better balance among rap superstars if the magazine gave more women the freshman class honor?
At the 15-minute mark in the episode below, hear the Back of the Class podcast discuss female artists in the hip-hop landscape today, in the past and in the future: