Coi Leray, DDG, Lakeyah, and Morray kick off the 2021 XXL Freshman Cyphers for this year’s class, each bringing their own unique style to a beat produced by algorithm master Nick Mira. DDG opens proceedings with a typical West Coast/Michigan swing flow, then cedes the floor to Lakeyah, who undoubtedly delivers the best straight-up rap verse, hunting for the sort of credit that only comes from being an expert technician. Morray splits the balance between his signature crooning and some off-the-dome rhymes bigging up his cohorts.
That leaves Coi Leray, who is quite possibly the most controversial addition to this year’s list. Despite having three years of tried-and-true material including a handful of viral hits to her name, it was her song “No More Parties” that first exposed her to the wider mainstream audience, drawing comparisons to both Dej Loaf and Playboi Carti in the process. It’s also, oddly enough, the song least like the bulk of her output, so it seemed going in that the Cypher would be her chance to lay skeptics’ doubts to rest.
She absolutely does not do that, instead opting for a choppy, Carti-esque delivery on a relatively short verse that does little to allay the concerns about her placement before giving up and resorting to her trademark twerking. It’s an unusual choice for a rapper who is under fire and facing a make-or-break moment with all eyes on her. While it’s pioneering, to be sure (Megan Thee Stallion once pointed out that a female rapper would face a ton of criticism for rapping like Playboi Carti, and for all intents, it appears she was correct), and a boundary has been broken to allow women to branch out more stylistically, I can see Coi taking a lot more fire now — with this verse undermining much of the evidence that supporters could use to defend her.
It’ll be interesting to see how this Cypher will be received on social media as well as how it affects future installments and the ongoing debate about whether the Freshman Class even needs a Cypher anymore.
Watch the 2021 XXL Freshman Cypher above.