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ASAP Rocky Speaks So Well

By 09.12.11

Back in 2006, Phonte penned a blog post about the North’s fascination with Lil Wayne:

“Wayne’s renewed popularity, to me, is just like that Chris Rock joke about white people saying ‘he speaks so well’ when referring to Black people. What the f*ck y’all think….niggas can’t read or some sh*t……?

That’s exactly what I think when I hear niggas who LOATHED Cash Money 5 years ago, rave about how hot Wayne is now. If Wayne was from NYC, he’d be just another mixtape nigga doing his best Jigga impersonation that nobody cared about.”

His post, entitled “Lil Wayne Speaks So Well,” essentially chronicled the way the North graded Weezy and his ilk on a curve because Southern rappers weren’t supposed to be able to string two sentences together, let along flex lyrical muscle over a track. That was New York’s job. Remember, New York was at one point the Mecca.

It’s amazing how things change in five years.

Lil Wayne is the king of the world and there isn’t a single young New York MC that seems to even have a key to the castle. Yes, there’s always Jay and Nas, but they’ve always been there, essentially transcending the Yankee fitted and becoming national and global icons. But new New York rappers? They haven’t been able to break the glass ceiling that used to be sitting directly over your favorite Southern rapper’s head. That’s not to say that the Big Apple doesn’t have its Smoke DZAs or Outasights putting out quality music. It’s just that the city hasn’t produced a national success story in damn near a decade.

So when an artist like ASAP Rocky comes along, my Twitter timeline tells me that many New Yorkers online – whether it be my fellow journalists or just diehard NYC Hip-Hop fans – want to crown him as the dopest mofo alive, rolling out the red carpet and screaming about his inevitable ascension to the Hip-Hop elite.

Before I make this next statement, let me say that I dig Rocky’s music. He seems to have a compelling story to tell and his music is raw, grimy and heavy-hitting. Dude knows how to picks beats and his delivery is spot on. It’s clear the Harlemite knows his way around a beat and even his most vapid lines pack a definitive punch. It’s solid and I look forward to more of it. I do wish him all the success in the world, will continue to listen and support his music as he tries to climb the ladder. And, yes, I’ll point to this paragraph every time someone accuses this article of being anti-Rocky.

However, if ASAP Rocky were from the South, he’d be just another trap rapper that spits about purple drink and hood sh*t. It’s not to say that he’s not quality. He just doesn’t stand out from Pill, Yo Gotti, Starlito or Trouble. And if he were from Atlanta or Houston, ASAP would be just another Southern n*gga with a story to tell. But I looked back at the comments in a few of our ASAP posts and shook my head at the comments. Everyone was screaming HARLEM like he was doing anything remotely exclusive to any of the five boroughs.

But I can’t blame ASAP for adopting the cadences and flow of the South. From a little Internet digging, it appears that Rocky is 22 years old. This means he’s basically a generation removed from New York’s rap dominance. The Harlemite was only 11 when Blueprint and Stillmatic dropped and the “King Of NY” debate was still relevant. He was only 7 when Biggie died. By the time he was in high school – the age so many of us start developing our musical palettes – the South was king. Hell, he wasn’t even in middle school when Cash Money and No Limit started sneaking Hip-Hop sales from right under NY’s noses. So I’d expect ASAP to have a heavy Southern influence in his music. However, if I’m a New Yorker that waves the “NY IS WHERE HIP-HOP LIVES” flag, this whole situation has to make me a bit sick.

We’re now a whole generation removed from New York’s reign on top and the music reflects that. The “classic New York sound” is being buried further underground while the city is so desperate for a new savior that it’s rallying behind anyone with a serviceable flow and moderate buzz to bring the kingdom back, even if the future king is more Gangsta Boo than Gang Starr. It’s ironic – and somewhat sad – that the city so full of pride about its own sound and heritage will champion a new ruler that so blatantly reflects the Southern style that New York used to shun and blame for Hip-Hop’s downfall.

As for Rocky? He’s no Young Jeezy or Rick Ross. But he sure does speak well.


TAGSASAP ROCKYEVERYTHING ELSESMOKE BREAK

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