Skip to main content

See also:

XXL Editor Vanessa Satten Explains the Science Behind 'Freshman Class'

Vanessa Satten on the Throne
XXL

As the editor-in-chief of XXL, Vanessa Satten's credibility is every bit as important as the artists she's getting her facts from. So when it comes to the magazine's coveted "Freshman Class" list, fans can bet that each artist has been profiled by her editorial staff more thoroughly than by the hip hop police.

"I don't think there's anybody out there who's familiar with what's going on or new people coming out in hip hop like XXL, just because of the research we do," said Satten, who is currently in her fifth year as the magazine's editor-in-chief.

"We start about September or October," she added. "We talk to industry people we cross paths with, we look at live shows, we look at every Youtube video possible. We go all over Twitter. We speak to a lot of the industry. And we have a lot of rappers come up and play music for us and give us their pitch," she added.

The "Freshman Class" started out as a MC's only affair, but with so many new artists blurring genre lines, Satten and the rest of the editorial staff decided it was time to broaden the horizon's on this year's list.

"We introduced R&B for the first time this year," she explained. "So we still have 10 rappers. And then we added two R&B artists for the first time (Ty Dolla $ign and August Alsina) so that's why there's 12.
Ty's sound is sort of a blend of hip hop and R&B and August is more traditional R&B, she added.

One of the prerequisites for prospective artists to be a part of the list is that they haven't released a major label debut. While Satten maintained that regret is not a part of the process, she indicated that some artists could benefit from being a part of the magazine's all-rookie team.

"A$AP Ferg is a good example," noted Satten, who started her career with XXL as an intern, when she was only 19. "It'd be cool if he was a part of the class, but he already threw an album out between last class and this class, and that's when he blew up."

Satten, added that she feels being on the list could have taken the Harlem MC to an even higher level than he's at.

"I kinda wished he hadn't put the project out," she remarked. "And he'd be in this class. I almost feel like it could've made that album even bigger. There's a few things like that where you envision the class to have certain people and it didn't have it, and that's the bigger disappointment,"

With the rise of social media's influence on popular culture, hip hop has become inundated with new artists, making it more difficult to decipher the one-hit quitters from the evergreen talents. But according to Satten, an artist's longevity remains the result of his or her ability to go beyond their own comfort zone."