theGrio's top 10 hip-hop artists to watch in 2013

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In an era in hip-hop characterized by declining album sales and concentrated blog trafficking, 2012 witnessed the “return of balance” in rap, as each region made its own imprint in music.

After nearly a decade of mostly underachieving artists, the New York rap scene, catalyzed by A$AP Rocky and French Montana, is once again thriving.

The same can be said for the new West Coast movement, led by Kendrick Lamar and the TDE camp. And who could ignore the radio dominance shown by the South last year, driven by 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, and Future?

As we embark upon another year, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the past year in music as well as anticipate who will ascend the ranks in hip-hop in 2013. Here are a few artists who are primed for a great year. They got next.

Ab-Soul
Ab-Soul is a skillful young writer from Carson, California and another budding rapper from the new West Coast movement. Soul has positioned himself to be the next member of Black Hippy to blow after releasing what many critics would say was one of the best projects of the year, Control System. It surely helped that so much attention was on his label mate, Kendrick Lamar, who also had a huge year.

Joey Bada$$
Due to his nostalgic 90s style flow, you would never guess that Joey is a 17-year-old rapper from Brooklyn. The world was formally introduced to the “Pro Era” representative when he was featured in the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher and caught viewers’ attention with a scene-stealing verse. Check out Joey’s most recent mixtape, “1999,” and look for him to have a big year.

Earl Sweatshirt
As a member of Odd Future, Earl gained a solid following before disappearing for 12 months after being shipped to military school by his mother. Now he is back and recently released visuals for his track “Chum.” Earl‘s laid-back flow combined with clever word play can be heard on his feature on Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids.” He recently announced his upcoming album Doris will be released before year’s end.

Rockie Fresh
Rockie is the latest addition to Maybach Music Group, which is currently one of the hottest music labels in the game. The 21-year-old Chicago native released his highly anticipated mixtape, Driving 88, early last year and caught the attention of many labels before finally signing with Rick Ross back in June. Now that he is being groomed by the Bawse himself, we anticipate him being an artist to watch this year.

Action Bronson
Overweight. Lyrical. Bravado. That’s a sure-fire formula for success right? That’s exactly what Queens native Action Bronson brought to the underground rap game last year. He released multiple projects in 2012, including his latest mixtape, Rare Chandeliers, with legendary producer The Alchemist. He recently signed to Warner Bros and plans to release a collaborative project at the top of the year with producer Harry Fraud.

Angel Haze

Angel Haze is a rare female lyricist that the rap game has been longing for since the early 2000s. She gave a nice preview of her flow when she held her own during the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher early last year. Following that performance, Angel released her first mixtape since signing with Universal Republic entitled Classick.

Trinidad James
Yes, the Atlanta-based Youtube sensation makes the list. James dropped his mixtape, “Don’t be S.A.F.E.,” and slowly but surely picked up buzz. Eventually, James’ hit-single “All Gold Everything” would grow to become one of the most searched videos of the year and currently has parties across the country turning up as soon as it drops. It will be interesting to see if James can duplicate that success in 2013 now that he has major label backing and all the momentum in the world.

Chevy Woods
Wiz Khalifa’s promising sidekick is on pace to be the next artist to rise out of the Taylor Gang crew. Chevy released a lot of free music last year and his “Gangland” mixtape was a very respectable project. Listeners can expect the sequel, “Gangland 2,” to be released in 2013.

King Mez

For the most part King Mez was pretty much unknown heading into 2012. Nowadays ‘King Mezatron’ is a name that is regularly being discussed in national hip-hop circles. Last June, the North Carolina rapper released his latest mixtape, My Everlasting Zeal and caught many listeners by surprise with his flow. Mez has already begun working on his next project Long Live the King II and is set to release in 2013.

Azealia Banks

Following a huge year in 2012, it’s safe to say that Azealia Banks is an artist to watch heading into 2013. The hype surrounding the young Harlem native was unmatched last year as she effectively built a cult-like fan. At only 20-years-old, Banks plans to release her debut album in 2013 which is rumored to feature Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

Honorable Mention: A$AP Ferg, Dizzy Wright, King Mez, Logic

Chaz Dawson is Brooklyn – based writer. He specializes in music, fashion and fitness. You can follow him on twitter @MVPChei.

Marquise Francis (@mKfly) contributed to this post