|Country||United States of America|
|Based in||New York City, New York|
In August 1997, Harris Publications released the first issue of XXL. It featured rappers Jay-Z and Master P on a double cover. In December 2006, XXL took over the struggling hip-hop producer and DJ magazine Scratch (another publication owned by Harris Publications), re-branding it as XXL Presents Scratch Magazine. However Scratch shut down less than a year later in September 2007.
Other titles with limited runs have been launched under the XXL brand, including Hip-Hop Soul, Eye Candy and Shade45. XXL has released many other special projects including tour programs, mixtapes and exclusive DVDs. XXL also maintains a popular website, which provides daily hip hop news, original content and content from the magazine.
The magazine's past editors include Reginald C. Dennis (formerly of The Source), Sheena Lester (former editor-in-chief of RapPages and Vibe music editor), Elliott Wilson (formerly of The Beat-Down Newspaper, ego trip and The Source, currently locked in at #7 slot on The Source's Digital 30 list.) and Datwon Thomas (former editor-in-chief of King).
In May 2009, Datwon Thomas resigned from XXL and executive editor Vanessa Satten, who had been with XXL since 1998, was named the new Editor-in-Chief.
In August 2005, Eminem and XXL teamed up to release a special issue titled XXL Presents Shade 45, and was designed to give maximum exposure to Shade 45 as a radio station, and at the same time give maximum exposure to the Shady Records label as a whole, as well as the radio DJs and G-Unit Records' artists.
XXL executive Publisher, Jonathan Rheingold, stated that typically magazines based around particular artists were not favorable, but "since Shade 45 is a truly authentic and uncensored rap radio channel, the marriage with the XXL brand made sense," with the feeling that it is what would interest rap fans.
In September 2006, XXL put a special 90 minute DVD called XXL DVD Magazine Vol. 1, which featured exclusive interviews and content with big-name rappers such as 50 Cent, Ice Cube, Fat Joe, Paul Wall, & Mike Jones.
On August 20, 2013 XXL released its 150th issue, also celebrating its sixteenth anniversary. The issue featured the first solo cover on the magazine from Drake, and rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and B.o.B reviewing classic albums.
Beginning in 2007 (skipping 2008), XXL releases its annual "Freshman Class" list. The issue features ten artists-to-watch, all appearing on the cover of the magazine. The list has a history of showcasing unknown/underground rappers, as well as artists considered to be on the rise. The list creates significant marketing buzz among listeners and artists alike, and is credited for giving many artists their first taste of fame.
The 10th spot winners are highlighted in bold.
|2007[a]||Saigon, Plies, Rich Boy, Gorilla Zoe, Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, Lil Boosie, Crooked I, Papoose and Young Dro.|
|2009[a]||Wale, B.o.B, Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, Cory Gunz, Blu, Mickey Factz, Ace Hood, Currensy and Kid Cudi.|
|2010[a]||J. Cole, Pill, Nipsey Hussle, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, OJ da Juiceman, Jay Rock, Fashawn and Donnis.|
|2011[a]||Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T., Cyhi the Prynce, Lil Twist, Yelawolf, Fred the Godson, Mac Miller, YG, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar and Diggy Simmons.|
|2012||Future, Kid Ink, Danny Brown, French Montana, Macklemore, Don Trip, Machine Gun Kelly, Hopsin, Iggy Azalea and Roscoe Dash.|
|2013||ScHoolboy Q, Trinidad James, Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Logic, Action Bronson, Kirko Bangz, Travis Scott, Dizzy Wright, Angel Haze and Chief Keef.|
|2014||Chance The Rapper, Rich Homie Quan, Isaiah Rashad, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Durk, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave, Vic Mensa, Jon Connor, Lil Bibby, Jarren Benton and August Alsina.|
|2015||Fetty Wap, Dej Loaf, Raury, Kidd Kidd, OG Maco, Shy Glizzy, K Camp, Vince Staples, Tink and GoldLink.|
|2016||Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, Denzel Curry, G Herbo, Dave East, Lil Dicky, Anderson Paak, Desiigner and 21 Savage.|
|2017||Kamaiyah, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, PnB Rock, Playboi Carti, Aminé, Kap G, Kyle, Ugly God, MadeinTYO and XXXTentacion.|
|2018[b]||Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, JID, Stefflon Don, BlocBoy JB, YBN Nahmir, Wifisfuneral and Trippie Redd.|
|2019||Comethazine, Tierra Whack, DaBaby, Lil Mosey, Roddy Ricch, Cordae, YK Osiris, Rico Nasty, Gunna, Blueface, and Megan Thee Stallion.|
|2020[c]||Polo G, Chika, NLE Choppa, Jack Harlow, Lil Keed, Lil Tjay, Fivio Foreign, Calboy, Rod Wave, Baby Keem, 24kGoldn and Mulatto.|
|2021||42 Dugg, Flo Milli, Morray, Pooh Shiesty, Lakeyah, Coi Leray, Toosii, Blxst, DDG, Rubi Rose, and Iann Dior.|
[a] - From 2007 to 2011, there was no such thing as a 10th spot winner.
Occasionally, the Freshman Class list may contain extra additions to include more rappers. The 2011, 2013, 2019 and 2021 Freshman Class lists, for example, had 11 rappers. In the case for the 2013 list, XXL added an honorary extra spot for Chicago rapper Chief Keef due to the artist being in a six-day jail stint and therefore being unable to attend the photo shoot in New York City. In 2014 and 2020, the Freshman Class lists included 12 rappers.
|Year||Artist(s)||Reason for removal||Ref.|
|2010||Drake||Respectfully declined and felt they were chosen too late in their respective careers.|||
|2012||ASAP Rocky||Respectfully declined. Schedule was too slim due to touring.|
|2014||Young Thug||XXL claims he never showed up to the photoshoot.|
|2015||ILoveMakonnen||Not responsive to XXL.|
|Post Malone||Stated he was tired and was not up to flying to New York for the photoshoot. XXL editor-in-chief Vanessa Satten claimed Post's publicist stated that Post did not want to be boxed in as a hip hop artist.|
|2017||Young M.A||Felt beyond the list. She asked to have a solo cover but they disagreed and said that she needed more attention to her name before that could happen.|||
|YFN Lucci||YFN Lucci initially refused to play music for XXL. He later changed his mind days before the shoot but it was too late.|
|Cardi B||XXL was not sure if Cardi had a better television career or rap career at the time and felt she was leaning more towards television.|
|Famous Dex||XXL stood away from adding Famous Dex after there was evidence shown that he beat up his girlfriend.
They further spoke on XXXTentacion's addition to the 2017 list (as it was controversial), saying that although he was accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend, the incident was not caught on camera, XXXTentacion had not been found guilty, and that he was arguably having a major influence on his generation.
|2018||Lil Skies||On Instagram Live, he explained that he respectfully declined due to him apparently being asked to be on the list before the voting process began. Although he respected some decisions made on the 2018 list, he claims that the list was mostly rigged.|||
|Rich the Kid||He "happily declined" after hearing he would be replacing Lil Skies.|||
|2019||Juice Wrld||Respectfully declined.|||
|Benny the Butcher||He was asked by Jay-Z to not accept because Jay thought declining would be for the better.|||
|2020||Pop Smoke||Pop Smoke agreed to be on the cover but he was murdered before he could attend the shoot. XXL did everything to try and add him on the cover to honor him, but Pop Smoke's team asked them not to do so. Although XXL was not able to add him on the cover, they were able to add an unreleased interview to honor him in the issue.|||
|Don Toliver||Don Toliver only wanted to be on the cover and did not want to take part in other aspects of the list, such as the freestyles and cyphers.|||