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Given the strength of the talent from Chicago—and the fact that some of the rappers on the ballot may have already been previously selected by the XXL staff—it wouldn't be a surprise if more than one of the seven artists listed landed on the cover. Many of them deserve it. As far as campaigning goes, Alex Wiley's got an edge thanks to the timing: just last week he dropped One Singular Flame Emoji EP, which keeps the MC in the eyes of a culture geared toward everything new and now.
The EP also showcases Wiley's dynamic, ambitious drive. He takes chances on each new release—not quite knowing what you'll get from him is to be expected, but it's typically luxuriant, spirited, and unusual. On One Singular Flame Emoji Wiley opens with the somber, faux-religiousness of "Squadliness" and eventually makes his way to the late-afternoon R&B haze of "Spark Something," on which he busts out his sultry crooning for the chorus. The ferocious "Claire" also has some R&B tangled up in its DNA: the mean, minimal percussion resembles Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River." That element is only a fragment of "Claire," part of a mosaic of music that few but Wiley could pull off. Take a listen to the EP below.