2017 XXL Freshman List – A Data Driven Look

I originally wrote this for a hiphop community on reddit.

Disclaimer: I also don’t know shit. But y’all kind of do. Let’s talk about it.

So a while back I had a project called Rappers to watch from every state in 2017 to feature some lesser known artists in every state. I figured I’d go the extra step and actually track the growth of my artists to see what sort of nostradamus ability I had. Spoiler alert: Might as well have thrown darts at a fucking board because as it turns out – I do not know dick about cock. Still give it a read if you want, there’s some great artists in there.

In addition to the 50 artists I wrote about, I also tracked over 150 others, either from y’alls suggestions or the XXL nominees, some runner ups for my project and just some random picks I wanted to make. I tracked their Soundcloud, and if I could find it, Spotify followers. You can see the raw data for that in the sheet below.

Raw Rapper Data

So we’ll skip right to it because I utilized my word count for the year on the last project. I analyzed the rappers based in 4 groups. The first group are the 50 rappers from my project, the second are my personal picks and the XXL Freshman nominees, the third group was y’alls picks, and the fourth group were just some bigger artists so we’d have a baseline for the growth an already successful artist would expect.

167 Cover Freshman FINAL copy.indd

Here’s these 4 groups in graph form.

Soundcloud graphs

Spotify graphs

Any really major falls and rises are attributed to an artists soundcloud url changing/me being a dumbass and grabbing the wrong one in the first place.

So how did the stats for all artists compare? Well, the median artist initially had 19719 followers and improved by 10.9% over their time period, or at 0.12% per day. The average artist improved by 22.04% over their time period, or at 0.24% per day, showing that there were definitely a solid set of outliers. A lot, actually. Turns out a lot of people really don’t make it. Check it out.

Average growth per day for each artist

Definitely not a normal distribution huh? Alright so let’s use the average value to compare again. How many artists were over the average? 56. So not too bad. Let’s see how that compares to my list and the XXL Freshmen.

My project is a pretty quick overview. Exactly 3 passed the average on soundcloud – Warhol.ss, Khalid, and Caedo, in that order. On spotify we’re doing a bit worse, just 2 – Warhol and Khalid. But only 21 artists were above the average of 0.141% growth per day for spotify. Spotify was much more affected by outliers. Thanks Bill $aber, for your whoppin 300 follower growth

How about these new XXL freshmen though? Out of the 10, only 4 beat the average in soundcloud – XXXtentacion, PnBRock, Playboi Carti and A Boogie. In Spotify it was understandably worse with only 2 making it, XXX and Carti. With the XXL list representing 10 people in this list of about 220 artists, just randomly selecting artists would have at least 2 in Soundcloud and 1 in Spotify. While it can be forgiven to a point – XXL can’t predict the future, the wealth of resources they have and the effect they have on the growth of artists, you would expect a more accurate selection.

So, looking at the data, who chose well? and who should the freshman list actually be?


Well, y’all chose well. Redditors beat the average in soundcloud and spotify, with the average growth per day being 0.39% and 0.425% respectively. With the Bill $aber outlier, this drops to 0.131% – significantly larger than spotify without Bill $aber at 0.078%. So congrats guys.

What should the XXL freshman class actually look like then? Well, this is definitely a discussion to have, since this is just the first year of me doing this, but up to this point the list should be (in no particular order).

Artist Followers (SC) Followers (SP) Growth/Day (SC) Growth/Day (SP)
Tee Grizzley 71292 75269 4.18% 4.55%
Lil Pump 279116 63595 2.20% 12.63%
XXXtentacion 999766 375166 1.21% 3.27%
Playboi Carti 352218 134847 0.48% 2.67%
6lack 186354 213180 0.52% 1.27%
Ski Mask the Slump God 279456 49877 1.11% 3.98%
Smino 64895 36793 0.40% 1.48%
A Boogie 428220 327317 0.30% 0.88%
Nav 327437 102640 0.20% 3.70%
PnB Rock 259799 232541 0.38% 0.82%

All decisions were made in a combination of existing fanbase and regular growth. I was a bit hesitant to include Nav since it seems he’s petered out since his release. Also hesitant to release Smino due to his fanbase size but he’s also been gaining a lot of traction and getting a ton of press lately so I figured I’d have one homer pick in there. While I realize for many of you this is the worst list you’ve seen, I’d just like to take this moment to direct you back to the 2015 freshman class.

This shit is by no means a comprehensive list or the definitive answer – I can understand subbing someone out for YFN Lucci, Rich Chigga, NBA Youngboy, or others, but I feel like this is at least a start towards a better list.

Let me know what y’all think and if you have any questions.

edit: congrats to /u/zapcannon , /u/scholoy [+1], /u/____25____ for guessing XXXtentacion, Khalid, and Lil Pump which I’m gonna call the artists with the most growth in the first 3 months in the year, from this I’ll hit y’all with gold or a $10 donation to a charity of your choice within the week, just send me a message if you want a charity.


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