By Ricardo Bailey II, special to

Jay-Z and Kanye continue to push the genre’s boundaries once again, and a group of young, talented and eager artists are looking to claim legendary status. 2013 is shaping up to be hip-hop’s biggest year … and it’s only summer.

The Future Is Now

For years, hip-hop has been on a “treadmill.” Plenty of artists have had their moment in the spotlight as top dog, but no progression has been made.

Similar to when Michael Jordan was a Washington Wizard, hip-hop fans were stuck on their biggest star ever, Jay-Z, with a lack of young leaders.

Hip-hop was in need of a LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.

Well, I give you the hip-hop draft class of ‘03.

The class is spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar, whose “Good Kid” album became certified platinum this year, and rappers Wale and J. Cole have contributed this summer to the new wave of talent that hip-hop can ride.

With the release of “The Gifted” by Wale and “Born Sinner” by J. Cole, both artists were able to deliver a No. 1 album with mainstream and cultural success. Wale was able to show he is now a big player in hip-hop, while J. Cole produced his second consecutive gold album.

The Beauty of Being Misunderstood

If controversy is what you want … Kanye is what you get!

Once again, the Chicago-raised mega star takes his music to a place no one else dares go with “Yeezus.” Coming off the success of “Watch the Throne,” this controversial “punk hip-hop” music has been one of the most criticized albums of the year.

Sonically, “Yeezus” is, well … different.

Never mind that “Yeezus” is another No. 1 album for West, the impact is made through the musical risks from start to finish. If you’re looking for a traditional hip-hop album, this is not the album for you.

If you’re looking for a traditional hip-hop album, this is not the album for you. If you’re into the art that is Kanye West, this album is perfect. It takes you outside of your comfort zone.

Some love it, others hate it — but the magnetic pull that is Kanye West forces you to listen. He’s the leader of the diversity in hip-hop, always daring and will continue to push the envelope.

I’m Still Your Leader

In 2013, your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper returned.

With the unexpected release of “Magna Carta … Holy Grail,” Jay-Z — with his 13th No. 1 album that went gold within its first week — has once again changed the game. He broke the mold of how albums are promoted and consumed when he partnered with Samsung to give exclusive rights to the album first.

The move caused Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to change its certification rules, officially, tallying all digital sales.
Ultimately, this could lead to a trickle-down effect on the entire music industry. Artists may become more independent and sell themselves to companies that are willing to promote their products along with the artist’s music.

Ten years from now, perhaps the handling of this album will be viewed as what sparked the new model in which music is distributed. Once again, Jay’s one step ahead of the game.

In July, a hip-hop album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for four consecutive weeks with a different artist in the top spot each week.

In a time when millions of albums are downloaded illegally, this feat shows the genuine interest and support hip-hop is receiving.

With Drake, another young megastar, set to release his third album “Nothing Was the Same” this September, and rumors of a “Watch the Throne 2” album being released some time in 2013, it’s safe to say the momentum hip-hop picked up this summer will not be dropping off any time soon.

A new age is upon us.

Ricardo Bailey II is a pop culture aficionado. Follow him and WPGC on Twitter.


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