Andy Mineo, KB, Bizzle, Swoope, Canon, Eshon Burgundy and S.O. are some of the most important artists in Christian hip-hop, and they all were members of the inaugural Rapzilla.com Freshmen class in 2011.

With each of its Freshmen classes since, Rapzilla has continued its tradition of highlighting top artists before they become top artists. This year’s selections are as promising as ever.

The list of talented nominees was long, but Rapzilla’s staff fought through the pain and trimmed it to 15. These 15 fulfill the only two qualifications to be honored: They have yet to release more than one retail LP (solo or group), and they make dope music.

Here are the Rapzilla Freshmen of 2016

Aaron Cole

Of the 15 members of the 2016 Freshme

n class, Aaron Cole has been the quietest this year, but few may make as much noise as him over the next 12 months.

Christian hip-hop legend Da’ T.R.U.T.H. signed a 15-year-old Cole to his record label, Mixed Bag Entertainment, in 2014, but they have since agreed to part ways. Other than a feature on new Gotee Records artist Hollyn’s self-titled EP in October, the now 16-year-old Cole has dropped little music during the label shuffle.

As soon as he is “back,” though, the hype around him from a year ago will return.

Follow him on Twitter @IAmAaronCole.

(Cole raps the last verse of “Run It Back”)

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Well, I started rapping when I was three, and I started singing at seven and was actually doing Christian music because my dad and my uncle had got saved and were writing me rhymes at three. But, you know, as a kid that young, you don’t really know what you’re doing. You just do what you’re taught, so the first time I decided for myself that this is what I wanted to do with my life was in 7th grade, and I was about 12.

I would go to school and get picked on because I was the pretty much good kid — didn’t smoke, drink or anything like that, and I made Christian music, so majority of the kids would just single me out. And I spent many nights at home while all my friends were at parties and games and hanging out and, being totally honest, that would get to me. I remember coming home to my parents wanting to quit doing everything. But that’s when I started really seeking God for myself, and He told me this was my purpose and why I was put here — to make music to glorify him and inspire others to live their dreams.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

I think my most memorable moment of my career so far is probably going to be shocking because it’s not a big show or a chart or anything like that. It was probably being in the studio with Dirty Rice and Derek Minor. I looked up to these guys when I was just doing music in my house as a young buck, and for me to be in a studio with them, and they’re excited about working with little old me, I’m just grateful for an opportunity like that. The vibe was just right, and they were both just dropping knowledge to me and giving me the game.

What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2016?

A lot of people have been asking me what’s taking me so long to release, and all I can say is I have a lot of stuff coming up, and I’m just getting it all in order! But MAN! All I can say is be ready. I’m thinking bigger. The stuff that I’m making is not like anything out or like I’ve done before; and definitely more singing. A lot of people have been asking me to sing more, and with this new stuff, I have a very good balance of both. I’m really excited. Stay tuned!


Adrian Stresow

Adrian Stresow is a 17-year-old rapper/producer based in Frisco, Texas. Many rappers twice his age haven’t been as visible on Rapzilla this year.

When Stresow released his 16-track mixtape Senioritis in April, he wasn’t done dropping music in 2015 — not even close. All while still juggling school with music, he followed the project with several solo singles (“Safe,” “Close to You,” “Kinda Wanna” and “Never Know”) and a couple tracks with Rapzilla 2015 Freshman Levi Hinson as the collective Young Minds (“Rookie” and “Help”). His production credits are nearly as abundant.

Stresow does not look like he will slow down in 2016. Next week, he will release another free project, Pajama Day.

Follow him on Twitter @AdrianStresow.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

I accidentally opened GarageBand when I was on my mom’s computer, and after that, making beats was like a hobby. Then one day in 8th grade, I just decided to make a mixtape. It was trash, but I eventually got better over the years — praise God.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

So, earlier this year, I performed at a 17-plus bar when I was still 16 years old and nobody knew. During one of the songs, I forgot my lyrics and freestyled the rest of my verse and nobody noticed. It the most epic night of my life.

What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2016?

My free album Pajama Day drops Jan. 8, but I’ll be working on new material all year, so you never know what to expect!


Aha Gazelle

Many Christian hip-hop listeners discovered some guy named Aha Gazelle featured on one of the most popular songs from Ki’Shon Furlow’s Keep an Open Mind mixtape in October for the first time. An even larger co-sign came weeks later with another feature on the physical version of Alex Faith’s album Bloodlines.

If Gazelle’s new fans are good with Google, they will not have to wait for new music. He has released several free projects over the past few years — #TeamGMG, Greenbeans and Tuna, Beemo and I, Beemo and I 2 and his latest effort Free Barabbas.

Follow him on Twitter @ahagazelle.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

I decided I wanted to pursue music at the age of 14. There was a time I stayed over at a friend’s house who had a “studio” in his bedroom. That was my first time ever recording anything, and I guess … I just never stopped.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

The most memorable moment of my career so far would have to be the first time I heard myself on the radio. I was on my way to work one morning and “Sauceallonmeh” came on. It literally gave me chills! There was no one with me to witness the moment or anything like that, but it didn’t matter to me … That’s just how excited I was! Of course, I recorded a selfie and posted it on IG (laughs). (Shoutout to all the radio stations that are currently supporting my music. I truly appreciate it.)

What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2016?

I honestly can’t say … I really want everyone to eat on everything that I have cooked up thus far. There is enough out there now for them to get to know me and learn who I am through the music. I feel like what I have released on my SoundCloud hasn’t reached even a fraction of where it will reach. We live in a “microwave generation,” where everything is happening so fast … Trust me, I could be that guy to just start flooding music, but no. I refuse. I love the art too much. I’m in no rush.


A Star

Rapzilla interviewed a few well-informed figures in UK Christian hip hop at the top of 2015 and asked for some artists to watch. A Star’s name repeatedly came up.

Months later, the London-based rapper released his debut retail EP Revolutionary and displayed the aggressive flow that I was warned about. That flow, as well as his accent and grime influence, have given him a recognizable voice in Christian hip hop.

Follow him on Twitter @AstarMusicUK.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

I decided to pursue music when I was 15. It was in the era of the birth of the grime genre. I fell in love straight away and picked up a pen ever since then.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

My most memorial moment was releasing my first ever project independently and charting at No. 4 in the iTunes hip-hop charts and No. 4 in the official UK Christian & Gospel charts; also touring around the UK on the back of the EP success.

What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2016?

In 2016, fans should look forward to me releasing the follow up EP, Revolutionary 2; more freestyles, more videos and more features, too.


Brother 3 (now known as THRE)

Gemstones declared that this fellow Chicago artist was “next” in 2014. But Brother 3 is slowly but surely rapping his way out of the shadow of the Blind Elephant.

After releasing a series of singles in 2014, Brother 3 dropped his debut project, the free EP God Glorified this past March. Just two weeks ago, he followed up it with another, StrangeLand, in which the long-time battle rapper showed noticeable growth as an artist.

Follow him on Twitter @therealbrother3.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

When I experienced pain, not having a father around, music was real therapeutic — been writing since grade school and knew I would be doing this for years to come.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

My most memorable moment is a funny one. When I decided to submit my music to Rapzilla, I had no idea you all were the leading site for Christian hip hop at all, but I had heard of the site, of course. Keep in mind at this point I’ve never submitted music anywhere before, so I submitted a song entitled “Smile.”

After submitting it, I laid down and ended up falling asleep. I wake up to my phone going off crazy (laughs). Everyone I know was like “Yooooo your song is on Rapzilla, what did you do? How did this happen?” (Laughs) I was like, did I just make it? It was hilarious, but obviously they knew something I didn’t. It was a milestone for me as a new artist.

What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2016?

Videos from the StrangeLand project. This year I dropped 2 EP’s along with seven to eight singles/freestyles, and if people think that’s a lot, I’m working even harder in 2016.