Harlem, NY, Sept 29, 1998, 17 E. 126th St., famed photographer Gordon Parks shot the cover image for XXL’s December ’98 issue, “The Greatest Day In Hip-Hop History.” The cover paid homage to Art Kane’s iconic jazz portrait “A Great Day in Harlem.” Similar to the original, Park’s version brought in a surplus of rap legends and up-and-comers to pose in front of three brownstones in Harlem.

All regions and ages were represented, as everyone from Rakim, Fab 5 Freddy, Kool Herc and Debbie Harry (Blondie) to Da Brat, Wyclef, Jermaine Dupri, Luke, E-40, Fat Joe, and Shyheim, among others, were present. The cover ranks as a huge milestone in hip-hop history, a pure example of MCs from all over the U.S. putting aside their egos to come together to pay homage to the culture’s pioneers and acknowledging the passing of the torch, as a New Golden Age of hip-hop began.

Well, I’m here to say that today we are entering another Golden Age. Most sources define a golden age as “a time period when some activity or skill was at its peak.”

As I sit in front of my iTunes and scan through my play list, I can honestly say that we are entering into a special time in hip-hop. Lyricism is cool again! Songs are heartfelt and actually strike emotions, while painting a visual story. Consistency is at its strongest. The surge of good, quality music out is amazing and the amount of young and talented artists is overwhelming. That nostalgic atmosphere people would feel when listening to good music is slowly starting to come back and the diversity in hip-hop is at its peak.

Some said the West Coast couldn’t come with the rhyme, but listen to Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick Lamar, Pac Div, Fashawn and Jay Rock and tell me they can’t flow. Some said the South killed hip hop… Pause! Play a track by J. Cole, Jay Electronica, Curren$y, B.o.B. or Big K.R.I.T. and you tell me they’re not lyrical. If you have to ask who’s in the Midwest, then you’ve never heard of Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Freddie Gibbs, Chip the Ripper and The Cool Kids. A lot of people say the reason why “hip-hop is dead” is because the New York rap scene is dead, but how can anyone say that when there’s Mickey Factz, Joell Ortiz, Papoose, Vado and Red Café holding their own. We can’t forget about hip-hop’s international appeal either. Just listen to the radio and “hip-hop’s rookie of the year” is a kid named Drake from Toronto.

C’mon, son, enough said.

That’s is just the tip of the iceberg, though. What about Slaughterhouse, Wiz Khalifa, Game, Lupe Fiasco, Asher Roth, Mac Miller, Blu, Laws, Saigon, Bun B, CurT@!n$, dead prez, Fly Union, Lloyd Banks, French Montana, Maino, Chris & Neef, Mysonne, Phil Ade, Plies, Strong Arm steady, 50 Cent, Casper G, Wyldstyle, The Roots, Smoke DZA…

Whooooo *Rick Ross voice* had to catch my breath…

…Gucci Mane, Tech N9ne, Waka Flocka Flame, Roscoe Dash, Jae Millz, Tyga, Nicki Minaj, Yelawolf, Travis McCoy, Drag-on, KDotForbes, Big Boi, David Banner, and many more have all made quality songs in just a three-month span.

Oh, did I forget to say Dipset is back!!

Just look at some of the albums that dropped this summer, Drake’s Thank Me Later, Rick Ross’s Teflon Don, Eminem’s Recovery, Fat Joe’s The Darkside, Vol. 1 and Bun B’s Trill O.G. These are all quality albums that all received XL ratings for XXL magazine and high praises throughout the hip-hop community. When was the last time something like that happen in one summer?

The crazy thing is the Trinity of hip-hop, the Lebron, Wade, and Bosh of “the league” if you will (you decide which one is who), Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and Kanye West have only one single out between them, Yeezy’s “Power.” They do have some killer feature verses out, though. Jay-Z annihilated “Light Up” and “Free Mason,” Kanye digested “Live Free, Die Young,” and Weezy mutilated “Light Up (Remix)” from his jail cell on the phone no less.

Just look at what’s happening before our eyes right now. Really think about the state of hip-hop at this very moment, sit down and ask yourself; How much new music have I downloaded in the last three months? Look at your iTunes recently added section and see how many different artists from different regions you have. We all know the radio is not the best place to discover music, but quite frankly, it’s the best it’s ever been in years. A hip-hop fan can actually drive a long distance and keep the radio on.

I know, I know, they play Drake and Nicki Minaj songs at least three times every half our, but when haven’t they played certain songs over and over. I remember a couple years ago, you could switch between radio stations and they’d be playing the same song at the same time, at any given time of day. It was so bad that you actual knew their lineup because they played the same songs that much!

Do you remember when all a person needed is a song with bass and catchy dance and you got a record deal? Or, how we were playing ringtones as singles? Yaaaah, trick, yaaaaah… SMH. Now I can actually go to the club and have fun and I don’t have to be crankin’ a Batman, Superman, Ironman, Flash, Thor, or Hercules; walking out anything; or chicken noodle soupin'.

This is a beautiful time in music as talent is everywhere—both new and old. People are making records worthy of the repeat button, artists are showing growth in their craft and their music for every feeling, emotion, or mind state available: Hardcore, smooth, thought provoking, whatever you’re feeling, they’re here, you just got to look… And it’s not even that hard.

Maybe we can go back 17 E. 126th St in Harlem and have another cover of today’s MC. We are entering a special time in hip-hop, so please keep your ears and eyes open because, in my best Drizzy voice, “Oh, yeah, we in this bitch!!!”

The League, what up?

This has been your wifey’s favorite intern. —Manny Maduakolam