Hip Hop saw a flood of new releases in 2013. While the year opened still feeling the impact of Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city, throughout the year, most of the game’s heavy hitters released new projects. Whether it was Kanye’s polarizing Yeezus, Jay-Z’s platinum before it released Magna Carta Holy Grail or Drake’s emotion fest, Nothing Was the Same, there has been so much to talk about. Releases that would have been bigger talking points have been swept under the rug. With that being said, hype and quality are two totally different things. While established names have drawn huge attention to their projects, some of the best music released in 2013 was made by relative newcomers.

As the line blurs between proper retail albums, free EPs and projects which begin as unsanctioned DatPiff.com downloads but end up as official iTunes releases, it’s equally hard to classify Hip Hop’s “Rookies.” The distinction was formerly marked by a lack of a physical album. But with compact discs and other physical media slowly inching closer toward pagers in graveyard of dead technology, categorizing newcomers is an equally difficult proposition. Semantics aside, listeners know a less-heralded but potentially transcendent talent like Chance the Rapper when they hear and see one. It can’t be guaranteed any of the following emcees will one day be able to sell a million copies of an album to a corporation before release, but listeners looking for quality music should keep their eyes on HIpHopDX’s rising stars of 2013.

Chance the Rapper

Of HipHopDX’s 2013 rookie class, Chance the Rapper has to be considered the LeBron James (circa 2003) of it all. While several of the game’s heavy hitters dropped projects in 2013, as far as quality, Chance’s “Acid Rap” is viewed as superior to most major releases in several circles. In addition to dropping the aforementioned “Acid Rap,” 2013 found Chance appearing on Mac Miller’s “Space Migration Tour” and headlining his own “Social Experiment Tour.” His “Lonely Thoughts” collaboration with Rapsody, from her “She Got Game” project was golden, and he provided one of the very few high points off Lil Wayne’s tepid “Dedication 5.” While Chance “Doesn’t Drake, but he gets his Trey on,” his melodic flow that often transitions to singing is undoubtedly soulful. A new voice of Chicago, Chance doesn’t necessarily blend in with most of the other up and comers from the ‘Go, or the old guard.

Vic Mensa

Had Vic Mensa released “Innanetape” last year, we’d probably view things differently. Avoiding the Vic Mensa/Chance the Rapper comparison is impossible. Fortunately enough, this isn’t a DMX/Ja Rule situation. Friends and members of the Save Money crew before the fame, fans of both of the talented artists can hopefully look forward to collaborations from the two for years to come. Vic’s time spent with the band, Kids These Days gives him a composure most wouldn’t expect from an artists his age. His style varies, just like Chance; however, he comes across as more of as a straight spitter than his Chicago brethren, while still being able to give off vibes of artists like Pharcyde (see “Orange Soda”).

Vince Staples

Long Beach, California could be viewed as one of the most important cities in the whole West Coast Hip Hop Scene. While many view Dr. Dre as the most important thing to happen to Hip Hop on the West Coast, a large part of what made the The Chronic what it was came by way of Calvin Broadus. However, since Snoop and Co. were introduced to the game, outside of Crooked I, the city has been pretty silent…until Vince Staples. Vince Staples has been around for a little while, behind the scenes, popping up here and there. He was featured on Earl Sweatshirts Earl, on a track titled “epaR,” and has dropped projects here and there. But 2013 was a breakout year for the West Coast emcee. Along with appearing on Mac Miller’s “Space Migration Tour,” Vince dropped “Stolen Youth,” which was produced entirely by Larry Fisherman (one of Mac Miller’s many pseudonyms). If that weren’t enough, Vince’s scene stealing verse on Earl’s “Hive” has helped increase the buzz of the young rhymer. With co-signs from the likes of Common, and a Def Jam deal, Vince is someone to look out for in 2014.

A$AP Ferg

While debates continue to rage about whether or not New York supports its local music scene, it can’t be denied, it supports the A$AP Mob. Rocky finds himself amongst the top of the game, but 2013 was A$AP Ferg’s time to shine. As the buzz continued from Ferg’s appearances on 2012’s ASAP Mob mixtape “Lords Never Worry,” his debut Trap Lord not only kept the A$AP flag flying high, but established Ferg as a member to look out for. Ferg separated himself from Rocky’s Houston-influenced bounce by channeling Bone Thugs-n-Harmony circa 1996. It wasn’t merely a case of picking a different regional influence, but Ferg found a fitting vehicle for his unique cadence—which comes in stops and fits. The “Hood Pope” got both spiritual and ignorant on his retail debut without sounding contrived.

Isaiah Rashad

Of the five emcee’s listed, Isaiah Rashad is the only one not to drop a project in 2013; yet, his arrival can’t be denied. While he’s yet to release an official offering, Isaiah Rashad now finds himself signed to TDE off the strength of his buzz on the blog scenes, He boasts a style that resembles Kendrick Lamar’s except it sounds a bit more Southern without being forced or resorting to over the top Southern references. In 2013 Rashad went from a blog favorite with a Soundcloud full of dope tracks to spitting next to Black Hippy at the BET Hip Hop Awards. While Isaiah hasn’t dropped one of the top projects of 2013, let alone a project ever, his music has been in demand so much, bloggers have created unofficial releases of his music, ripping songs from his Soundcloud. It’s been awhile since “Best of…” mixtapes were popular, but the demand is that high.

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