The publication stated that due to "circumstances out of our control," Pop Smoke's name couldn't be included on this year's list.
The announcement of XXL's 2020 Freshman Class caused quite the stir. As the rising rappers patted themselves on the back for nabbing a spot on the coveted list, there were hip hop fans who took to social media to challenge the publication's choices. Even Royce Da 5'9" was dissatisfied with the list and wrote, "Next time y’all ask me to do a interview, Ima go missing like Detroit is from this blasphemous freshman cover @xxl. Still love y’all tho."
Pop Smoke fans couldn't believe that the late rapper wasn't included, but according to XXL, they did offer him a spot. "One of the bittersweet memories of the 2020 Freshman process was meeting with Pop Smokea month before his tragic death," the outlet wrote in their article. "Pop was chosen as the first Freshman in the class, to which he happily accepted."
XXL suggested that it wasn't necessarily their fault that Pop Smoke didn't join this year's Freshman. "Circumstances out of our control prevented us from including Pop as part of the cover posthumously, but to us, he is still part of the class," they continued. "The issue features an unreleased interview from Pop’s January visit with us where he discussed his career and the Brooklyn drill scene. R.I.P. Pop Smoke." How are you feeling about the 12 artists chosen this year?