Just in time for Teen Tech Week, ESSENCE magazine and the Berklee College of Music are scouting for the next generation of hip-hop. As the contest page from ESSENCE’s Take Back the Music campaign reads:

THINK YOU’VE GOT SKILLS?

The ESSENCE Take Back the Music campaign and the Berklee College of Music are back again with our annual search for hip-hop’s next great voice. Lyricists and songwriters, ages 15 to 19, will compete to win tuition-free summer classes at Berklee’s Boston campus, where students learn fundamentals of performance, composition, production and the music business. Additionally, the top scholarship recipients will perform their winning songs at the 2008 Peace Hip-Hop Festival at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Songs will be judged on clever, conscious, thought-provoking lyrics, composition and performance—so show us what you’ve got!

This is a great opportunity for teens to elevate their rhymes to the next level. And if you want to help produce, check out the TTW Making Music with Teens resource guide, as well as its Supplemental Guide.

Last month saw a formal challenge erupt between Kanye West and 50 Cent, whose Graduation and Curtis albums were both set to be released on September 11th. This album showdown, in which the Kanye and 50 would be battling for first-week album sales, drew lots of press. The two squared off on a Rolling Stone cover, countless news articles said that the sales figures would predict “the future of hip-hop,” and 50 Cent promised to retire from rap in the face of a loss.

This resulted in one of the biggest first weeks in album history, with Kanye posting the highest sales total of the last two years with 957,000. While 50 Cent only sold roughly 691,000 units (being beat pretty handily), it still marked the first time that two CDs sold over 600,000 on the first week.

What does this mean for your library? You might notice occasionally that two big-time books, CDs, movies, video games, manga, or graphic novels are being released on the same day. Or if not the same day, perhaps in the same general time-span. This is an opportunity to challenge fans of those items to see who can get the most holds first. For example, will the next volume of Bleach have more holds than Naruto? Perhaps you can add some real-world consequences, like buying a poster of the winning manga. Or perhaps an extra copy of the winning book, CD, etc. (You’ll probably need it anyway, if things work out.) It’s another opportunity for teens to become advocates for their favorites and get the hype machine churning.