Truth on Being a 2017 XXL Freshman: “I always watch the XXL freestyles, [ever] since J. Cole’s class with Nipsey Hussle. I always studied the whole way it works. I would put myself in the position, if I ever made it on XXL Freshman cover, this is what I would do and this is what I wouldn’t do, just hypothetically. When you do things hypothetically, you never think it would come true but it’s a great feeling.

[When I got the call that I was a XXL Freshman] I was actually in the studio, finishing up mixing 'REDMERCEDES' and we were in the parking lot at the studio in L.A. I was recording with my engineer, my actual red Mercedes' car sounds to put in the actual song. So when you hear the actual song, the clean version, there are car doors closing that are from my actual car. So, while we were doing that I got a call in the middle of that saying I made it. It was pretty cool.

[XXL Freshman issue] is just culturally relevant. Twitter has a ball when they see the cover. It’s both negative and positive but that makes it hip-hop, it creates a discussion. It’s not whether if you like it or not, it’s XXL that chooses [the artists] and picks the Freshmen. I used to watch the reaction on Twitter when the cover drops so I’m definitely watching that with my friends and just chilling. I’ll probably be in the studio finishing up a song nine times out of 10. That’s all I do.

It’s a huge tastemaker thing and it’s influential because you look at the class and you see who makes it and who fell off and who went on to do even bigger things. You see like, Chance The Rapper go from being on the cover of XXL Freshman to winning a Grammy. Chance is such a great example with what he’s doing for his city. It’s super inspirational. I definitely want to bring so much light into Portland. There’s a lot of Black culture that’s been taken from Portland. There are Black neighborhoods that are getting gentrified right now. If I could gather Black communities in Portland more, that would mean so much because I see it trickling down and people are moving away.

I’m just a kid from Portland. I made music in my room. I didn’t really go to parties and do things. This is what I worked for. This is what I wanted to do for the past four years of college, just making music and staying in my room. Everybody knew, if you know me, I’m not the big turn up guy who’s trying to go out every night. I just stay home. And to be from Portland and see everything that happened this year, it’s just been cool. I always knew I wanted to be the first person from my city, especially to be on the XXL Freshman cover and go double platinum and to do all these things I never thought I would’ve done eight months ago. So it’s crazy and weird. It’s dope, I’m just thankful for everything that’s happening so far.”—Emmanuel Maduakolam

See Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Aminé at 2017 XXL Freshman Shoot