Chicago rap has been rightfully represented on XXL Freshman covers since the franchise's inception. The city celebrated Lupe Fiasco's induction into the inaugural class in 2007, then came Chief Keef in 2013, Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby and Vic Mensa in 2014, Tink in 2015, and G Herbo in 2016. Now, Polo G continues to carry the torch for Chi-town hip-hop greats with his own entry into the 2020 XXL Freshman Class.
"Me coming up as a kid, before I ever knew I wanted to rap, before I knew what XXL was for real, I had seen a lot of artists from Chicago on the cover, and that made me wanna do it," shares the Columbia Records signee, who names Lil Wayne, every rapper that was coming out of Chicago and Meek Mill as artists he listened to on the come up. "I seen so many people from Chicago get on the cover, like [Lil] Durk, [G] Herb[o] or Chance [The Rapper], Tink and so many people from the city. So, that just made it a goal of mine to do the same thing."
As showcased on his 2019 platinum-selling debut album, Die a Legend, Polo G's been instilling nobility within himself without the need for outside approval for quite some time. "Told myself that I'm the greatest, I won't wait ’til they notice," the 21-year-old MC raps on "A King's Nightmare." Polo's skill as a rapper and songwriter derives from storytelling through lived experiences, walking through homicide puddles that leave blood stains on his sneakers, witnessing trouble in the hood and grieving friends' tragic deaths from bullet wounds. He doesn't sugarcoat reality in his rhymes; the battle scars are real and he's steady conquering the struggles.
Somber memories aren't all he's sharing though. Through his sing-song cadence and earnest words, Polo speaks from the heart on tracks like the endearing "Martin & Gina," an ode to his special lady and homage to the 1990's TV sitcom Martin. The accompanying music video finds the Chicago rhymer putting his acting chops and comedic timing on full display as the character Martin. Thespian level achieved.
When it comes to his 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle, Polo G leaves the laughter for the storyboard. This anecdote hits hard as he addresses the reality of life as a young Black man trying to see dreams become reality. "Summatime, out there slavin', we exhausted from the heat/Betta get a ride home ’cause ain't no walkin' when it's beef/They only wanna know his story when they chalk him in the street," he raps. "25 is just a age we don't often get to see."
Polo uses his music as catharsis, ditching the psychology session to face his demons in the booth. "Told bro to stay on point ’cause they'll knock ’em off to get to me/Stuck in my gangsta ways, I'm living lawless in the street/Ain't go to see a therapist, I just start talkin' to them beats/I'm just tryna be that baller that my dawg ain't get to be/I got bigger dreams ’cause I ain't doing all this shit for me," the 2020 XXL Freshman delivers, paying respect to fallen friends like Gucci, the man that inspired the "G" in Polo's rap moniker.
He then gives a nod to his own worth ethic before the pièce de résistance: "Always findin' somethin' to get into with my crook ass/Then I beat the odds ’cause I could come up with a hook fast/P-O-L-O G, that's just a name that you can't look past/I'm goin' No. 1 for all the times that we was put last."
Watch Polo G's 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by Rap Caviar, below.
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class