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Arts Playlist: Introducing the Women of XXL’s 2019 Freshman Class

XXL's Freshman Class of 2019
XXL's Freshman Class of 2019

Every year, XXL releases a list of the hot, up-and-coming rappers to watch — the Freshman Class. Since the first list in 2007, the class has not included more than one female rapper. This year’s freshman class is refreshingly talented, featuring three female rappers who have been shaking things up and providing much-needed diversity to a genre often dominated by men. Read on for an introduction to the music of the three women of XXL’s 2019 Freshman Class — Maryland rapper Rico Nasty, H-town hottie Megan Thee Stallion, and Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack.

Cocky Af” by Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion introduced us to a concept that we didn’t know we needed, but has proven to be a vital aspect of this break from the semester: the hot girl summer. “Cocky Af” is the anthem to that summer, and Megan’s confidence on the song is infectious. Listening to her spit rapid bars where she owns her sexuality and dismisses her critics could make anyone feel like a stallion.

Spaceships” by Rico Nasty

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Rico Nasty slows it down on this track, but nonetheless provides another banger with an infectious hook. With the repetition of the chorus “I’m riding in a spaceship / 15 for my shades bitch / pistol to his ear / I’m like what the fuck you say bitch,” she spins an intricate alternate reality completed by a futuristic beat.

Gloria” by Tierra Whack

On “Gloria,” the verse and chorus alternate between two rhythmic flows that contrast in tempo, a juxtaposition that mirrors two themes at war on the track: Tierra Whack’s insecurities about the authenticity of people in her life and her self-assuredness in her own talent. Lines such as “I ain’t even dead yet / why they want me dead?” reveal the complexity of fame that displays of confidence often mask.

Rage” by Rico Nasty

This bass-thumping track features Rico Nasty yelling ad-libs that pepper the background of her aggressive, delightfully arrogant verses. The refrain “I like bad bitches who be raging” contrasts with the sensitivity of Tierra Whack’s “Gloria,” reclaiming the anger of Black women in a positive light when it is so often used to demonize.

She Live” by Maxo Kream ft. Megan Thee Stallion

Megan joins fellow Houston rapper Maxo Kream on this catchy summer bop. In the chorus, the two trade verses about what they need in a partner, but Megan’s main verse flips the script. She makes it clear that she doesn’t need a man, it’s the other way around.

Bugs Life” by Tierra Whack

Clocking in at just 58 seconds, this song feels like a lullaby that you wish would continue forever. It’s the second track from her debut album “Whack World” which is 15 tracks long, each no more than a minute. Each song is accompanied by a music video, and the visual for “Bugs Life” features Tierra Whack staring into the camera with half of her face swollen in an allergic reaction, a visual that complements the song’s somber mood well.

Only Child” by Tierra Whack

Tierra Whack’s singing and rapping abilities both shine in this mellow track. Throughout the narrative arc, she is able to express her dissatisfaction with the disinterested way that the subject of the song treats her and move on, giving the smooth song a hopeful ending.

Cheat Code” by Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats ft. Baauer

This song is a change of pace from the slower tracks on the playlist, and it goes crazy. It starts with a sample from the “I am disgusted” meme originally from Love & Hip Hop, then quickly moves to Rico laying down rapid bars dismissing anyone that might try to come for her.

Stalli (Freestyle)” by Megan Thee Stallion

Freestyles are a big part of Megan Thee Stallion’s claim to fame, with her viral freestyles on radio shows gaining well-deserved attention. This two-minute long freestyle doesn’t disappoint, and it showcases her talent at effortlessly improvising fast-paced rhymes.

Sandy” by Rico Nasty

This is a track that needs to be blasted on car speakers with the bass all the way up. With lyrics like “Rico, ‘How you doing?’ Bitch I’m outstanding / You couldn’t get in, so you outside standing” the song is carefree, but delightfully cocky. Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats as a duo consistently drop bangers, and “Sandy” is no exception.

Unemployed” by Tierra Whack

After a brief piano intro, Tierra Whack delivers lyrics that allow her unbothered style, unique voice, and quick-witted wordplay to shine. In the chorus, she repeats a mumbled, but incredibly catchy hook: “Got a job I gotta do / I get down and dirty too / What it is? What it do? / Same shit, nothin’ new.” It’s a sentiment that is fitting for the three musicians this playlist is focused on. In an industry where talented female rappers are pitted against each other rather than appreciated for their skills, breaking into a man’s world is quite the job to do indeed.

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