The time has finally come. XXL's coveted Freshman cyphers have arrived, and with this particular group from the 2020 XXL Freshman Class, it's a meeting of the bars from the South (Memphis, St. Petersburg, Fla. and Montgomery, Ala.) all the way up North to the Bronx, N.Y. And while gimmicks and stunts have managed to keep vise grip on the rap game in recent years, rapping off the top of the dome is still an essential aspect in hip-hop. NLE Choppa, Rod Wave, Chika and Lil Tjay are a foursome that have proven this to be a pure fact—no cap.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic forced a number of unforeseeable adjustments onto the rap game, but the lyrical content delivered by these four rappers during the cypher was unaffected. Grammy Award-nominated, South Carolina producer Jetsonmade produced the piano-driven beat that each of these Freshmen slide over.
Seventeen-year-old Memphis native NLE Choppa is first up to bat on the beat. Holding the mic close to his mouth, Choppa leaves no room for his words to be misconstrued.
"Grew up around the killing and all the dealing and all the drilling/I just be putting my heart in all of my songs," he spits while taking minimal breaths in between his bars. "I make sure y'all niggas feel it/The nigga, he ratted, we cutting his tongue/Look like paintballs when we hit ’em/Lord forgive me, I'm a sinner and a winner/Rockin’ chinchilla eating at dinner/Know where we lay and we know where we stay/Wet the whole house up, if you play/Fuck that ho shit/Talk what I said/I don't need no mouse hole in my face."
Next, Rod Wave switches up the flow. It's soothing, yet captivating as he casually offers a melodic spin on his rhymes. He uses his smooth delivery to tell how he's risen above his childhood hardships.
"’Member I was broke, I ain't have nothin’/Kicked out of the house, livin' with my cousin/Bank account, car stop runnin'/Problems kept comin', mama kept prayin'/Prayin' God got her baby, it's crazy/One apartment, fo’ niggas/Air mattress got a hole in it," he recounts. "I remember, nigga/All them cold Decembers, nigga/I can't believe that I'm finally winning, nigga," Rod adds.
Chika is accompanied by a special guest, her dog Vision, throughout the cypher. Spitting in a softer, more tranquil tone than her counterparts, the Alabama native raps about her come up and advises listeners not to count her out—all while her dog rests on her chest the entire time. It's endearing, to say the least.
"Do I have a story to tell about glory?/A nigga defeatin’ the odds/Got used to a budget, but now I say, 'Fuck it' in stores," she spits. "I don't care what it costs/I gotta admit it, I never envisioned a life where I wasn't the boss/I think of my ex and the level of stress/He be feeling a hell of a loss/I'm in no position to floss/I'm in no position to plead/I knew I was runnin’ the course, but dammit I'm taking the lead/I'm comin’ from sweeping the floors/To rollin’ a blunt with a lease/When they put my name on the board/Make sure its in permanent ink."
And lastly, Lil Tjay hones in on his mid-tempo cadence while dripped out in a black-and-red Louis Vuitton matching two-piece set to close out the cypher. He, too, tells his story of overcoming adversity in the Bronx hood where he's from.
"Yeah, a nigga really made it out the hood/I got through them rainy days/I still got some real niggas in the cell/They sent the whole gang away/Guess I'm a real nigga from the start/I guess I was trained this way, trained this way/The Audemars, I got a Rolls/Finna cop out on a Rolls/I done seen so much, so, so much shit, should pay a toll/So I be smokin’ all the dope/It kinda help my demons show," he croons.
Watch NLE Choppa, Rod Wave, Chika and Lil Tjay's 2020 XXL Freshman cypher below.
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class