It was no easy feat to come up with this year’s contenders for XXL‘s notorious freshman class. In the past, we relied on an A&R and word of mouth to spread the word about new artists. We blindly trusted the insight of industry professionals and tastemakers when they introduced new music into the sound waves and valued their opinion.
With the continued rise of streaming platforms like SoundCloud, never before has it been easier to access the work of new artists. With this newfound accessibility, the theoretical A&R torch has been passed into the hands of the masses. A vast majority, if not all, of the players in XXL‘s list maintain large followings and high engagement rates on their SoundCloud platforms and have established a solid fan base in the process — most without the assistance of a label.
In March, we touched on a few prospective picks for the 10th slot on the roster. Now, we continue to speculate the full list of candidates as the date to announce the winner quickly approaches. Many of the artists seem to have already achieved a bit of mainstream success, so we’ll leave them out. Please note this list is not necessarily based on our personal music preferences, but rather the artists’ track record and anticipated trajectory based off of recent projects and buzz. The following individuals are 15 key players in the running to make the top 10 cover and will surely receive even more industry recognition in 2017. To learn more about them, click their name to hear why they may take that 10th spot!: