XXL 20th Anniversary Cover Rankings
Happy 20th Birthday XXL. XXL has been a mainstay in hip-hop for the past two decades. They've helped push the culture by exposing and reporting on it, and more importantly, by doing it first. They're always the first to put the world onto the artist of the future and have helped launch the careers of numerous others because of the annual Freshman Cover. To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, XXL linked back up with the photographer of the 2017 XXL Freshman Cover, Travis Shinn, and shot 20 special edition covers.
But who had the best cover? WhyToby?
Birdman's impact in hip-hop will forever be etched in stone. Without Birdman, we probably don't get Lil Wayne, and that alone would cement Birdman's legacy, but he's also done so much more. Cash Money Records, The Hot Boyz, and Juvenile, he even gave Wayne the blueprint for Young Money, so he highkey brought us Drake and Nicki too. Birdman and XXL have each put on so many artists, so it's only right he's on the anniversary cover doing his iconic Birdman hand rub.
19. The Lox
Rap's holy trinity. Well at least of the 90s. Sheek Louch, Styles P, and Jadakiss formed this iconic New York trio in '94, linked up with Diddy and Bad Boy and took off. The laid down the blueprint for future rap groups and showed how to be successful as a solo act. And for that, they belong on the cover.
18. Tech N9ne
The OG of weird rap. Everything about Tech N9ne screams different. From his look to his lyrics to his flow, Tech N9ne proved it's cool to be different and that being weird can work. Without Tech, we probably would've never gotten rappers like Tyler, The Creator, Hopsin, Vince Staples and all these other out-the-box rappers. Originality is one of the keys to rap game today, and Tech N9ne embodied that entirely, so it's only right he's on the anniversary cover throwing up the 9.
Pink fur got Nori dressin' like Cam! The Pink Maven, the first guy to make rocking pink wavy. Cam'ron is a rap legend. Came in the game in the 90s, made waves in Dipset with Jim Jones and as a solo artist. He transcended rap with his iconic performance in Paid In Full, giving only more reason to put him on this anniversary cover. The only thing that would've made this cover more iconic is if Killa Cam brought back out the pink fur.
16. Pusha T
Smooth criminal, no priors. Pusha T used his cocaine slinging background and turned it into an empire. He burst onto the scene with The Clipse where he got his first taste of success. He then went solo and continued to drop fire with his Fear Of God tapes and released one of the best albums of 2013 with his solo debut 'My Name Is My Name.' Let's not forget he's the president of G.O.O.D. music. Not many rappers can see Pusha T on the mic and in the business world, so his spot on the anniversary cover is more than warranted.
The Bay Area legend. Not many rappers have a catalog as deep as E-40's. 27 projects and hundreds of songs have made E-40 a household name. His come up is so much appreciated because it took him nearly a decade to break out to the mainstream, serving as an inspiration to all upcoming rappers to just keep grinding.
14. Run The Jewels
Who would've ever thought rap's unlikeliest duo would become one of the most successful? Killer Mike and EI-P, both successful solo rappers in their right, came together in 2013 and have been dropping fire since. RTJ's have some of the cleverest bars in the game and make sure to do their due diligence to the community by bringing some conscious rap to the table. Killer Mike and EI-P have been all over XXL the past 20 years but never on a cover, so it's only right they make their debut together on the 20th anniversary.
The king of the south. Atlanta has always been the center of rap music, and at one point T.I. was undeniably Atlanta's finest. When he dropped 'Papertrail,' he was arguably the hottest artist in the world. He was hot before it as 'Papertrail' was his third straight number 1 album and he's remained relevant after as now T.I. has become more politically active and business savvy. T.I.'s place in XXL history is unquestionable.
12. Snoop Dogg.
Snoop D-O-double-G. A true OG in the game. Not many rappers have the respect and admiration that Snoop gets and deservedly so. He's been a fixture in the rap game since the 90s and has remained relevant since. He's turned his weed habit into a business, got his own hit cooking show, and has never switched up on the culture. He deserves his spot on the cover, and I just wish he was toking a blunt on it.
The best-dressed man in rap. Young OG. The Punchline king. Fabolous impact in hip-hop is undeniable. He released his debut album in 2001 and has been blessing us with heat since. Fabolous real impact lies in what he did for mixtapes. The SOUL Tapes, There Is No Competition series, and both Summertime Shootouts proved you can go years without an album and remain relevant. His anniversary cover is Fab to the T; blacked out suit, waves swimming, and chains hanging. Clean and Cozy.
10. 50 Cent
How many people have had a bigger overall impact in rap than 50 Cent? At a point, 50 Cent was so hot the only other rapper I can think of that reached that level in their prime is '08 Wayne. 50 himself said it best in his XXL 20th Anniversary interview "I have a decade. I have ten years that nobody's better than me." Not to forget he's been on more XXL covers than any other artist., making him the XXL GOAT. Why not have 50 Cent giving a death while rolling dice in some fucking Timbs, can't get any more 50.
9. Yo Gotti
The definition of consistency. Yo Gotti has been making hits since before I was born. Dropped his first album in '96 and has always found a way to make his street sound pop, no matter what the current wave is. Speaks for itself 21 years and Gotti has a top 15 song in America. Consistency is something Yo Gotti and XXL share, so of course he deserves a fire cover. Literally.
8. Rae Sremmurd
They thought Rae Sremmurd would be a one-hit wonder. That 'No Flex Zone' would come and go and they would be forgotten about. Na, instead Swae Lee and Slim Jimmi have become the Black Beatles. Rae Sremmurd transformed the dynamics of a rap duo and went platinum twice in the process. They're trailblazers, and XXL knows a little something about that.
The Mogul. Where would rap be without the contributions of Diddy? No Bad Boy, no Notorious, hell, no Ciroc. Diddy has given many artists a platform to get their music out, something that XXL also does. While doing that, Diddy has built up an empire and resume so accomplished that he has a case for not only the most successful black man in music but the most successful man period.
Atlanta's current hip-hop king. Future has the wave right now. Whatever he drops, the scene eats up, and it's easy to see why. Future said it best. He's a trendsetter. Everything he does, people copy. Whether that's the sound, his fits, or just the way he carries himself. Future has birthed a generation of sons with his sound and made himself one of the biggest artists out in the process. 2017 has been a celebration for him, so it makes complete sense he's pouring up on the cover.
5. Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi made his first appearance on XXL last year on the 2016 XXL Freshman Cover. A year later, he's already worthy of being one of 20 artists on the anniversary cover. That says it all. Lil Uzi Vert is the face of this new generation. His music is different, the OGs don't like it, but at this point, you have to respect it. He turned his alternative sound into a number one album, outselling some of the biggest names today. Now he's on his way to transcending rap altogether. Lil Uzi Vert's anniversary cover is unquestionably deserved.
4. Wiz Khalifa
To my generation, there might not be a more influential artist than Wiz. Whatever Wiz did, the youth did. The blonde hair patch, camo shorts, hell, Wiz the reason we all smoking weed now. Besides his influence, his music was fire. 'Kush & OJ' is a classic, 'Black and Yellow' will forever be an anthem, and he's closing out 2017 with a new tape. And of course, he got the kush blazing on the cover.
3. Nicki Minaj
She's absolutely right. She made women relevant in rap again. There was a period when Nicki Minaj was top 5 in the rap game, and I don't think no other female rapper can ever make that claim. She is the greatest female rapper ever, and I don't think it's close anymore. Her resume and following speak for itself. That's why Nicki didn't have to respond to 'SHEther,' no matter what negativity or criticism is sent her way, Nicki is so established that she is untouchable. Just like XXL.
2. Gucci Mane
Mr. 1017 himself. XXL dubbed him the Comeback Kid, and the name is fitting. No man in history has moved as smoothly out of jail as Gucci. He dropped multiple projects, landed numerous deals, and even wrote a New York Times best-selling Autobiography. Everybody has respect for Gucci Mane, just like everybody has respect for XXL. Fittingly, he's suited up on a cover that drops on his wedding day.
1. The Migos
Nobody has had a bigger 2017 than the Migos. Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff went from the Nawf to international superstars, and they did it with their signature flow and sound. It's undeniable, Migos created a style that the entire rap game has stolen and used just as frequently as them. They are the most prominent group on the planet, and The Migos reign isn't slowing down anytime soon.
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