DaBaby Credit: leor galil

The annual “Freshman Class” issue of XXL magazine aims to predict hip-hop’s future stars, but it increasingly spotlights artists who are already hot. The 11 rappers in the 2019 class, which was announced in June, include the two most sought-after MCs of the summer: Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion and Charlotte’s DaBaby. In the XXL Freshman Class freestyle cypher that the two rappers shared with YK Osiris and Lil Mosey, uploaded to YouTube at the end of July, they both scorch every second they’re on the mike; DaBaby, who claims about half the video’s four minutes and 30 seconds, tears through the dreamy beat like Wile E. Coyote’s Road Runner barreling across the desert. He brings a similar vitality to his debut studio album, March’s Baby on Baby (Interscope), where he often sounds energized by the act of delivering his punchy verses in his distinctively springy southern accent. On the hook of his hit “Suge,” he discharges muscular lines that ricochet off the blown-out, minimal bass—a combo that supersizes the song like Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk. In concert, DaBaby storms the stage with the relentless focus of a personal trainer. When I saw him in June at the Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash, he didn’t seem satisfied till he’d pumped up everybody in the crowd.   v