When the rising rap talent of the mid-2000s—from Lupe Fiasco to Plies to Papoose—graced the November 2007 cover of XXL Magazine, no one foresaw the "Leaders of the New School" tagline evolving into one of hip-hop's most important institutions. Yet that was the pebble from which XXL's annual tradition, the Freshman Class, was built. Twelve years and 11 Freshman magazine covers later, XXL has knighted 124 promising rookies poised to become staples of the culture, word to Vince. (See a comprehensive list here).

At this point, you can set your watch to it. Every year in June, XXL unveils a new class of hip-hop neophytes that we've stamped as names you need to know (plus, for the past eight classes, one fan-voted pick per year). We're sticking to the script in 2019, presenting the 12th annual Freshman Class!

While we're celebrating hip-hop's future, it's only natural to dwell on the past—how far the franchise has come and which Freshman covers predate the latest. The 2009 cover is literally stacked, as the artists are divided into three dope ensemble shots laid atop each other to open the mag. In 2011, the class theme went literal, with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller portrayed in a school setting. By 2013, classes were being compared to those of the past (we wondered aloud (and on the cover line) if Travis Scott, ScHoolboy Q and Logic's class was G.O.A.T. level). Chance The Rapper sported overalls with no shirt in 2014. The 2016 and 2017 classes were color coordinated, with the former crew making like a Diddy white party and the latter artists rocking all-black on a set drenched in red.

This year, the likes of Blueface, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby were shot from above by OG photographer Travis Shinn, who has been flicking it up with Freshmen for nearly a decade. Take a look at all of the XXL Freshman covers over the years.

See Every XXL Freshman Cover Since 2007