Every year XXL has the same challenge: to pick the new artists that we believe are the stars of tomorrow’s hip-hop. It’s difficult to predict the future but we do our homework. We listen to countless hours of music, meet with aspiring Freshmen every day—multiple times a day—for almost six months, attend a plethora of live performances, visit with artists at different studios and even travel out of town to catch up with them. And we ask everyone we come across who they would pick for the class and why. Then we battle it out in many long closed-door sessions, taking turns writing feverishly on a whiteboard, erasing names, adding them back in then crossing them out until we’ve narrowed it down to the final list.