Masked Gorilla was founded in 2009, established as the definitive youth voice in hip hop, the only website to strictly cover emerging rappers. We created TMG under the belief that hip-hop was entering another golden-age and this new class of talent was being ignored. Even with that strong belief in mind, we could have never imagined the following 7 years would yield the quality of talent it has.
In 2011 we created our first official Freshman Class to better showcase some of this emerging talent. What started as a quasi-homage to XXL, quickly turned into a beast of its own. The list is free of: industry influence, personal vendettas, scheduling conflicts, and most importantly artist-opinion. Masked Gorilla’s Freshman Class is simply a list of 10 emerging-artists we believe will have the most success in the forthcoming year, all coming from the most dedicated and reliable source on the topic.
Without further adieu, we present you The Masked Gorilla’s 2016 Freshman Class.
We were early on Lil Yachty. Masked Gorilla was easily the first major publication to highlight the 19 year old Atlanta rapper. We told you “Minnesota” was going to be your new favorite song. But even we couldn’t have predicted the astronomic rise he was going to experience this year.
After buzzing around on the internet with help from Ian Connor, lol, Yachty really took the next step after taking on Gucci Mane and Migos manager Coach K as his own. His debut mixtape ‘Lil Boat’ launched him onto the trending topics on Twitter, and his appearance on Chance The Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ mixtape, on arguably the best song on the tape “Mixtape,” launched him onto a national stage. Yesterday Yachty announced his first headlining tour, and as you could guess, it’s all pretty big venues. Lil Boat!
Russ is so overlooked, it's insane. But the big dogs recognize his talent, so that's all that matters I guess. Rick Rubin and Mike Dean both took interest in the Atlanta rapper/ singer/ producer this year. Oh yeah, and Masked Gorilla too. We're on the same level as those guys, right? Anyway, Russ has been releasing music alongside his boy Bugus since forever. This year things really started to take off for him though.
Releasing a new single every week, his Soundcloud numbers soared, he started doing big numbers on Spotify and he sold out his first headliing tour. Russ recently inked a deal with Columbia Records and announced an even bigger headlining tour. His ability to create catchy hooks is insane, don't be surprised if you start hearing him on the radio really soon.
Dieuson Octave aka Kodak Black can’t stay out of jail. Young Octave also can’t stay off your Twitter feed. The 19 year old rapper started buzzing when “Skrilla” took off on the internet and really started blowing up after Drake Instagram’d a video of him dancing on a private jet to his song “Skrt.” It’s been all up for Kodak since. The Florida rapper recently dropped his latest mixtape ‘Lil B.I.G. Pac’ from behind bars.
If he can get his shit together with the law, maybe he’ll be up there one day with the greats that he compares himself to. Not like, up there up there, you know, but like I don’t know maybe a southern legend like Lil Boosie or some shit. You know what I mean?
Louisiana rap duo $uicideboy$ is comprised of real life cousins Slick $loth and Ruby da Cherry. It was only two years ago that they were submitting their music to Masked Gorilla. Last week they kicked off our UNMASKED Concert Series for this summer with a concert they could have literally sold out 5 times in a row. The underground duo are killing it right now, selling out merch and concerts with their unique take on a classic hip hop style.
They’re dropping a Getter prodcued EP called ‘Radical Suicide’ on iTunes later this month. But the real push is for their official debut album ‘Eternal Grey’ and we’re sure an insane nationwide tour in support. They’re easily among the biggest names in the emerging hip hop scene right now.
20 year old Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier has been rapping forever. Does anyone remember this? We first covered Cartier way back in 2010 when he was enrolled in a private high school, on his frat-rap wave, and filming music videos from his classroom wearing his school uniform.
Thankfully Cartier grew out of that phase and really grew into his own, releasing his mixtape 'Marauding In Paradise' and solidifying his spot in the emerging rap scene with the release of ‘Hotel Paranoia’ earlier this year. His live shows are pretty insane too. Don’t be surprised to go to his show and find him climbing through the rafters. Also, Lil Wayne literally just called Jazz's latest release, appropriately titled "Lil Wayne" his "new favorite song." Yeah, Jazz Cartier has come a long way.
A few years ago Playboi Carti was rising through the ranks of the Atlanta rap scene, making a name for himself within the Awful Records crew. It wasn’t until more recently however when he switched up his style to the now patented mumble-rap, and signed to some sort of deal with A$AP Rocky, that Cartireally established himself as one of the most prominent emerging rappers out. Now every Soundcloud link you click on sounds like the rapper forgot the lyrics and is mumbling through the verse. What? What? You can thank Carti for that.
He scrubbed all his old music off the internet and has like 6 songs on Soundcloud, but he’s dropping a new mixtape this summer. Is this breaking news? Are we breaking news on our 6th annual freshman list. Too amped up to Google if anyone else has talked about this yet, so let’s just chalk this up as a Masked Gorilla exclusive. What? What?
21 Savage’s menacing yet infectious sound first grabbed the larger majorities attention with his song “Skrrt Skrrt.” I think critics, or like college intern bloggers or whatever, immediately compared him to Chief Keef. I mean I guess the video sort of looks the same, in that all his friends are standing behind him? I don’t know. I do know that the song is tight as fuck though.
Real life story I saw 21 handing out mixtapes on Fairfax like only a few months ago. Savage doesn’t need to do that anymore though. He’s the go to emerging Atlanta trap-rapper, with a Metro Boomin collab project on the way. Yeah, we want some more. Oh fuck, that was the worst dad-joke ever. Next slide.
Pouya kind of blew up so fast and dropped his debut album right after, that he doesn’t technically qualify for this list because of that, but there’s no way we could leave him off. Pouya was floating around underground circles, buzzing in the scene, since he was in high school. We can trace him back on Masked Gorilla as far as 2012, appearing on a random Raider Klan compilation project. His 2014 project Stunna established him as his own force in the scene, but 2015’s 'South Side Slugs' really propelled Pouya onto a nationwide stage, with his own nationwide headlining tour, and subsequent UNMASKED concert, in support of the tape.
Since then Pouya has released his debut retail album ‘Underground Underdog’ and is ready to hit the road for huge tour in support of the record. Pouya is an underground superstar now, which I guess makes him a mainstream underdog? Yuh!
Rich The Kid
Atlanta by way of Queens, New York rapper Rich The Kid is another Quality Control success story. Rich has been releasing mixtapes since 2013, establishing his Rich Forever crew along the way. But it wasn’t until more recently when he switched up his personal style from trap-rapper to more Supreme influenced streetwear-rapper that his personal brand and style seemed to rise. Does that make any sense? Probably not. But that’s what happened. And guess what? His most recent mixtapes 'Trap Talk' and 'Rich Forever 2' bang. Oh yeah, we should probably mention the 23 year old rapper recently inked his own Rich Forever record label imprint deal with 300.
Lil Uzi Vert
21 year old rapper Lil Uzi Vert has been floating around for a few years. It wasn’t until he fully embraced his inner-weirdo that he really took off, though. Co-signs from resident rap weirdo Young Thug got his name out to the masses. His latest mixtape 'Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World’ really cemented his place in the scene however, leading to sold out shows in huge venues immediatly following the release.
You can find your local old-head on Facebook or Twitter claiming Uzi is murdering hip-hop because he can’t freestyle and his hair is green. If having green hair means you’re killing hip hop, then lets all dye our hair neon green and burn this motherfucker to the ground because Uzi makes some really fun and catchy music and I don’t want live in a world where that’s wrong.
Did we miss your favorite rapper? Chances are we already included them in previous years classes. Check them all out right here:
Masked Gorilla's 2015 Freshman Class
Masked Gorilla's 2014 Freshman Class
Masked Gorilla's 2013 Freshman Class
Masked Gorilla's 2012 Freshman Class
Masked Gorilla's 2011 Freshman Class