Revisiting XXL Freshmen Ten of The Past – Where Are They Now

XXL Freshman 2007 - Every XXL Freshman cover

Revisiting The Inaugural XXL Freshmen Class of 2007: Their Success & Where Are They Now

The annual XXL Freshmen list and accompanying magazine cover has become a staple in Hip-Hop; something of lure. It’s all about the list, but those names are eagerly awaited on every year. While being on the list doesn’t guarantee anything, but a bit of extra buzz, some hype around your next project and a concert alongside the other freshmen, it does offer some extra validation from the “Hip-Hop on a Higher Level”.

Since 2007 the XXL Freshmen list is something to talk about, something to debate, something to over analyze—for at least a couple weeks, but careers have to play out before anyone can truly determine if the artists were deserving of the “accolade”. We decided to go back and look at some of the Freshman classes of the past to take a second look at just how successful those artists were and where those artists are now.

Here’s A Look At The Class From The First XXL Freshmen Cover – The Leaders of the New School

Although plagued by numerous setbacks and delays, Saigon, née Brian Daniel Carenard’s, then highly anticipated debut solo LP, The Greatest Story Never Told, finally arrived back on February 15th 2011. Largely produced by Just Blaze, with additional beats courtesy of Buckwild, Scram Jones and Kanye West, as well as high profile features from Black Thought, Bun B, Faith Evans, Jay-Z and Q-Tip, among others, TGSNT entered onto the Billboard 200 at number 61 selling 11,000 copies. Two additional solo album entries would come in later years, part 2 and 3 of his Greatest Story Never Told Series, but the first album would be his most successful.

Saigon would go on to make appearances on HBO’s ‘Entourage’ series and the 4th season of ‘Love & Hip Hop: New York’ – all in a 5 plus year time span.

Where are they now?

The Spring Valley, New York, emcee seems to be laying low as of late. Aside from forming his very own boutique imprint, Squid Ink Squad Records, in ’14, there has yet to be an official announcement pertaining to what should become his upcoming still untitled fourth studio effort.


Plies dropped 4 albums in 4 years starting with his 2007 debut album, The Real Testament.

Where Are They Now?

Despite not dropping a proper solo project since June 2010, Big Gates Records founder Algernod “Plies” Washington, who hails from Fort Myers, Florida, has had a career resurgence of sorts lately due to his staggering popularity on the social media network, Instagram. Displaying his crazy personality, and at times crazier antics – one must witness his weekly ‘Sweet Pwussy Satday’ series for proof – on the trendy internet platform has definitely elevated his “star” power as further evidenced by the amount of followers [4 million] he has amassed in a relatively short time frame.

However, all is not quiet on the musical front either, and as Plies works feverishly on his eagerly awaited next solo outing, Purple Heart.  He has a mixtape, Ain’t No Mixtape Bih 2, out now driven by its lead offering “Ritz Carlton,” which has also spawned the brand new dance craze that Plies has appropriately dubbed ‘Ran Off Da Plug Twice.’


Rich Boy
Mobile, Alabama’s Rich Boy – born Maurice Richards – is most famously known for his mega-popular smash hit single “Throw Some D’s,” and it’s even more impressive Lil’ Jon laced remix, which sports appearances from André 3000, Jim Jones, Nelly, Murphy Lee, and The Game. but  ever since his self-titled Zone 4/Interscope debut, which also spawned two additional chart toppers; “Boy Looka Here” and “Good Things,” was unveiled way back on March 13th 2007.  He released follow-up independent releases in 2013 and 2015 but he has never matched the hype of his first single.

Where Are They Now?

Maybe unbeknownst to some the now 32 year old rapper has continually been on his “music” grind.  Fast forward nine-plus years since his debut and Rich Boy, who has remained active on the mixtape circuit, is working on a still untitled new release slated to be released soon.



Lupe Fiasco
At one point Lupe had a legitimate chance at being one of the top five emcees in the game.  Album delays and some questionable decisions decreased the hype and the music seemed to never reach the height of his 2006 debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor and the follow-up, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool released just nine months later.

Where Are They Now?Last year saw the release of his fifth studio set Tetsuo & Youth, the follow-up to his Grammy nominated Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 [2012] which garnered mostly positive reviews from fans and critics alike… and now Lupe Fiasco is returning yet again with not one but three purported albums in the works. The chief executive officer of 1st & 15th Entertainment, who cites in no particular order, Nas, Jay-Z, Common, AZ, De La Soul, N.W.A., Mos Def, Pharrell Williams, A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr as his biggest musical influences, recently unveiled that he would be releasing a new album titled Drogas Light, the first of the trilogy series, which also includes Skulls and Roy. In addition, the “Superstar” lyricist runs two clothing lines, Righteous Kung-Fu and Trilly & Truly.  He has also designed sneakers for Reebok, as well as having previously been involved with charitable activities; including the Summit on the Summit expedition. It has also recently been reported, amidst rumors of a subsequent retirement plan, that the Chi-Town wordsmith’s last hurrah, so to speak, will be a sequel; The Cool 2.

Boosie Badazz, formerly Lil Boosie
Boosie jumped on the scene in 2001 via the Pimp C created Trill Entertainment.  By 2007 he and Webbie, the label’s main acts had begun to really make noise.  In 2006 he released his major label debut, Badazz and the follow-up in 2009, Superbad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz became what is still his best performing album yet.

After pleading guilty to drug charges, Torrence Hatch, p.k.a. Boosie Badazz, was sentenced to eight years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. After spending 2009-14 behind bars, the artist formerly known as Lil Boosie finally emerged a free man on March 5th 2014.  He released an album, Incarcerated, while in prison, but with no real promo, it went under the radar.

Where Are They Now?
His star studded long time coming / “comeback” collection Touch Down 2 Cause Hell [Trill Entertainment/Bad Azz/Atlantic Records] was released in May of last year. The native Baton Rouge, Louisiana, father of seven, who recently revealed he has been suffering with diabetes, is presently focused on a slew of forthcoming projects; another solo album, a joint effort, Penitentiary Chances, with another incarcerated rap artist, C-Murder, as well as his respective Bad Azz Entertainment and Bad Azz Music Syndicate rosters. Lastly, after being diagnosed with kidney cancer in November ’15, and eventually undergoing surgery to remove said tumor, thankfully Boosie’s cancer is now in remission.

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Gorilla Zoe
Looking back at it Zoe is one of the artists that sticks out as being questionable for the mention in the first place.  The former Boyz N Da Hood album did take Jeezy’s spot in the group and was signed to a solo deal as part of the Bad Boy South/Block Entertainment situation.  It can’t be forgotten that he released a couple of signature hits as well, “Hood Nigga” and the Yung Joc assisted “Juice Box”, both taken from his Welcome to the Zoo debut.  His follow-up album, Don’t Feed The Animals featured another banger, “Lost”.  Still he didn’t have the pedigree of some of the other artists on this list, but he had all the makings of a potential star.

Where Are They Now?

Although it has been five long years removed from King Kong, the third solo album from ATL rapper Alonzo ‘Gorilla Zoe’ Mathis, that in no uncertain way means that he has hung up the microphone for good. As a matter of fact Zoe actually returned this past February with the frenetic party starter “Red Cup,” featuring Flo Rida – to whose label, International Music Group, he is now inked to – and Afrojack. Even though the sound is a departure of sorts from his early music, it just goes to show that Zoe is quick and easy to adapt to the current musical climate.


Joell Ortiz
Brooklyn, New York, spitter Joell Ortiz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, first rose to fame as a veteran on the underground rap battle circuit. Following two high profile recording contracts; Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label, both of which unfortunately nothing tangible resulted from, Ortiz opted instead to take the high road by embarking on a now highly notable independent solo journey.  Respectfully so, Joell is also one fourth of the Shady Records super-group Slaughterhouse.

Where Are They Now?
His fifth and latest endeavor, That’s Hip Hop, bowed this past March. The lyrically gifted Slaughterhouse quartet’s third studio LP, Glass House, is also due out later this year. #Yaowa


Crooked I
Another alumni, alongside the above mentioned Ortiz, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9″ of the Slaughterhouse collective, West Coast – Long Beach, CA, to be exact – rhyme animal Crooked I or Kxng Crooked as he prefers to be called, has a storied history – to say the least – in the music industry. Haven gotten his start during the Virgin Records era of his career where he appeared on compilations released by Big C-Style’s imprint, 19th Street, and soundtracks to movies such as Ride and Caught Up, pairing him with the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Eastsidaz and The Luniz… to the infamous Death Row second dynasty – their “dying” days – where he put in much work on Too Gangsta For Radio and Dysfunktional Family comps, as well as Tha Dogg Pound’s 2002, Ja Rule’s The Last Temptation and 2Pac’s Nu-Mixx Klazzics.  The mention as an XXL Freshman in 2007 was a good look, but honestly it was probably an insult for someone who had already been in the game for soooo long!

Where Are They Now?
His most recent body of work, Statik KXNG, is a collabo with producer Statik Selektah. Kxng Crooked is also CEO of his own record labels, Dynasty Entertainment and C.O.B. Digital, and Senior Vice President of Treacherous Records.  Crooked is expected to release his new project, Good vs. Evil in the coming weeks.  His show, a BET Rap search competition, One Shot is also premiering soon.  


As, then, one of the brightest new additions to Hip Hop, Papoose, née Shamele Mackie, literally broke into the rap game like gangbusters largely due to the release of his “Alphabetical Slaughter” gem. From there, and with the help of DJ Kayslay, Pap was soon able to secure a lucrative – to the tune of $1.5 million dollars – recording contract with Jive Records. His at that time proposed – not to mention highly anticipated – debut, The Nacirema Dream (ed.note: American backwards), was ultimately shelved causing him to permanently cut ties with Jive. The label went through a merger with Sony, so his ties to the industry were all but gone.  In 2012, the Bedford–Stuyvesant wordsmith landed a deal with Fontana Distribution, finally releasing his long time coming “official” first solo album in 2013.

Where Are They Now?

Papoose married rapstress Remy Ma in May ’08, while she was locked up.  The couple share recurring roles on VH1’s popular ‘Love & Hip Hop: New York‘ TV vehicle.  He released an album in 2015, but the buzz, hype, hope, whatever it was, has long faded for the emcee.


Young Dro
After making a huge splash with his regional hit song, “Yes Sir,” from his 2002 indie LP, I Got That Dro, D’Juan ‘Young Dro’ Hart was fortunate enough to be able to align himself with another Atlanta based rap artist and then budding music mogul, Clifford ‘T.I.’ Harris, Jr., who ultimately signed the hungry upstart to his, then, fledgling Grand Hustle Records roster. Dro’s major label outing, Best Thang Smokin’, contains his highest charting single to date the catchy “Shoulder Lean.”  He released his next album, High Times 7 years later in 2013.  That album featured the club bangers, “FDB” and “Strong”.

Where Are They Now?

The native Bankhead Georgia MC returned in September ’15 with his fourth full length studio opus, Da Reality Show [Grand Hustle/eOne Music], which has since been met with mostly positive reviews.  That featured another club anthem, “We In Da City”.  He’s maintained his lane and as long as he continues to have the backing of T.I. he will be okay.

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