Truth on Being a 2017 XXL Freshman: “I’m really happy and grateful XXL did this for me because I feel like it’s definitely going to put me in the door, a door some people wouldn’t have wanted me in. It’s almost like with this XXL cosign, regardless if people want someone like me mattering to hip-hop, they don’t really have a choice. I feel like this opened the door for me to come in and keep doing this, keep being like, ‘I don’t need to fit the stereotypes, I’m going to just do me unforgivably.

I feel like [this cover] will be one of those ones that does [go down in history]. I feel like this cast of people here is dope. I think the internet is really strong right now in the sense that the internet is completely deciding who’s famous and who’s not, and what songs are crackin’ and what’s not. The internet doesn’t tell any lies. It’s true, genuine fans. So, I feel like this cover truly represents this era of hip-hop and what these kids are listening to on a daily basis, who they’re fans [of] right now. There’s power in that. I just feel like, it’s real so this cover’s going to be remembered for a long time. I feel like the kids who are going to buy this magazine or who are subscribers to hip-hop culture in general are going to be like, ‘Yeah, I used to listen to all those people.’ And I think on this cover for sure, there’s not a lot of the same shit. Every single rapper on here is completely different.

Our publicist called me and told me, ‘Yo, I got some good news.’ I was like, ‘What is it?’ He was like, ‘You got the cover’ I was like ‘What!?’ I was eating a banana and I just chucked it. I threw that bitch across the room at the wall. I smashed everything. I was at a rehearsal studio rehearsing for my tour. Yeah, and when I got the call I just started fucking shit up. I started throwing shit everywhere, screaming. I threw the banana. Banana smashes everywhere. It was awesome. It was like the 17-year-old me inside was like, ‘Oh my god, my nigga, we lit!’ And I was like, ‘Yes, we are!’ So, yeah, I was excited as hell when I found out. So excited, I would’ve and might’ve destroyed some shit that’s not mine. I don’t vandalize nothing and I started vandalizing shit instantly.

I think it’s a stepping-stone. It’s the biggest benchmark for a rapper at my level because for like, any rapper, a lot of rappers, probably 95 percent of rappers, we don’t just pop overnight, you know what I mean? Even if it looks like that. We work really [hard] for a lot of years to think we’re doing a lot of big shit, only to realize we’re not really doing too much. Slow and steady grind. And then making the cover kind of validates that your grind matters. You really matter right now. This is really your year, it’s your time, you’re really out here doing things that are making an impact and being noticed.”—Sidney Madden

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