XXL magazine's annual Freshman Class issue is a bellwether of mainstream rap trends. The inaugural 2007-2008 class didn't make much noise, as it was weighted down by street rappers with little crossover appeal, such as Saigon, Papoose and Crooked I. The franchise didn't really become popular until the following year, with a group that included future stars Kid Cudi, B.o.B, Wale and Curren$y. Since then, the rap industry has dissected, celebrated and criticized the annual list for selections that range from uncannily spot-on (Macklemore, then mostly known among backpacker circles, made the 2012 list) to woefully off the mark (see Fred the Godson from the 2011 list). Alumni include Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole and Future. The most egregious omission may be Drake, who wasn't included in the 2008-2009 class, and has since become the most successful new artist of the past five years.
Each year usually blends artists with a heavy underground/Internet following alongside prospects buoyed by major-label connections. The Freshman Class of 2013 includes Trinidad James, Kirko Bangz, Travi$ Scott, Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Angel Haze, Logic and Dizzy Wright. The magazine also selected an 11th bonus pick, Chief Keef. This playlist surveys a group whose future seems bright, but is far from assured.