It's hard to believe that this list needed to be made. New York is, after all, the birthplace of Hip-Hop--and we're not just talking about the art of rhyming. It's the ten million-person-plus metropolis that birthed the entire culture that we hold dear.
But the city's fallen on hard times identifying its next great voice. One of its signature artistic creations is now the world's, and it'd be a shame to not see New York hold a prominent place in Hip-Hop's current milieu. We compiled ten acts that could--and probably will--bring the Big Apple back, and it's a sign of the globalized times that each one of these acts has its own unique sound.
Agree, disagree or politely agree to disagree, let us know what you think about NYC's current crop of wordsmiths in the comment section.
Rappers have waxed poetic about food before, but never like Flushing, Queens’s Action Bronson. Bronselinho’s dopeness comes from deep inside the belly of his fastidiously crafted bars about poutine, lamb rack and robiola, among other things. Sure he sounds nearly identical to another legendary New York MC, but it’s Dr. Lector’s unique ability to blend his culinary background (he used to be a chef) into his work that’ll help him bring New York back. The Big Apple is the gastronomic capitol of the world, after all.
Mr. Muthaf*ckin eXquire
If there were a perfect adjective to describe Crown Heights’s Mr. Muthaf*ckin eXquire, it’d be “grimy.” Unlike other uses for “grimy,” this isn’t a slanderous smack against eXquire. Nah: eXquire is New York’s “grimy” MC, a rhymer who spits syllables about skin-crawling realities in the most distinctive personae possible. Late Wu-Tang member Ol’ Dirty Bastard originated the moniker, so it’s only right that eXquire pick it up to help bring New York back. A record deal with Universal and zero-f*ks-given name don’t hurt, either.
A$AP Rocky & A$AP Mob
The self-proclaimed “prettiest motherf*ckers” are also New York’s best asset in thrusting the five boroughs back into Hip-Hop’s national spotlight. Lead by syrup-sipping mob leader Rocky and the infectious knock of his debut, Live.Love.A$AP, the crew posses a bright future. They rap (Rocky, Twelvy, Nast and Ferg), produce (Ty Beats) and design (former stylist Dominic Lord). There’s nothing they don’t do, and no audience they can’t touch—Rocky did take his act on the road with Drake last year. Their omnipotence and omnipresence ensures they’ll bring New York back, regional identity crisis be damned.
Harlem’s Cannabis Connoisseur. The Kushed God. George Kush. Smoke DZA goes by many names, but he loves one thing almost as much as his hometown: a nice fat marijuana cigarette. And boy does he enjoy penning sweet, sweet couplets about his girl Mary Jane over production as varied as Ski Beatz and Harry Fraud. He’s not the most introspective rhymer but he’s more than capable of helping bring New York Hip-Hop back.
Hip-Hop fans can’t properly quantify the amount of hype Joey Bada$$ has received over the past several months. It’s impossible. However, that’s a good thing because listeners are slowly starting to revel in the nostalgic boom-bap raps of Joey’s output. His 1999 project ushered him and his Progressive Era crew into the critical sphere, even garnering an outstanding 8.0 rating on Pitchfork. With a flow and presence like so many luminaries of New York’s yesteryear, Joey will bring New York back, winning over old and new heads alike.
Excuse the comparison, but jilted Nicki Minaj fans might see Azealia Banks’ name and scoff. That’s fine—the sure-thing crossover appeal of Nicki is present in Banks. However, Azealia can spit, even if her aesthetic channels Santigold more than any street-wise NYC Fem-cee of the past decade. Again, that’s fine. She has a heralded, dance-ready EP in 1991, which more than endeared her to a few critics and fans. If New York Hip-Hop’s to rebound, it should seek Banks’ assistance in spreading the good word to both Missy Cheerleader in Des Moines, Iowa, and Franky Too Cool in Bushwick.
Zombies in 2012 prefer bath salts, but the Flatbush variety prefer psychedelics when conjuring the stoner-ific ambiance of Meechy Darko and Zombie Juices’ tunes. Buoyed by their viral video “Thug Waffles,” these two Brooklynites have been on a tear recently, appearing on compilations with the A$AP Mob and generating major label tidal waves. Vice dedicated one thousand words to the group, even if they had yet to create a complete project at the time. Sh*t’s really weird in 2012, but that’s these guys’ catalyst in contributing to a potential New York renaissance.
The Kid Daytona
The Bronx’s The Kid Daytona has “it.” What “it” consists of is a calm but confident nasally stream-of-consciousness flow that perfectly befits the sample-heavy beats he typically appears on. His Interlude project flew under the radar of a number of listeners, but his recent Summer Games tape should open a few more doors, as should his planned project with the Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy. He’s from the borough that birthed Hip-Hop, and that certainly parlays into that “it” factor, two necessary biographical details that will factor into his helping bring New York back.
When fans - whether they lived the "Golden Era" or learned of its legacy as a generation or two removed - think of a New York sound, it's typically composed of rhymes filled with brash arrogance over aggressive production made for neck-snapping, not nodding. T.Shirt's a guy who paid attention while studying in the school of hard knocks, picking up the gritty vibe and bringing it to the new era with his updated approach. With unmatched confidence, a sharp tongue and mind, Shirt reps the tradition of Queens lyricists well.
The trap’s migrated north. Then again, it’s probably always been in any major metropolis, New York’s being no different. Troy Ave. just capitalized on Atlanta’s signature sound by putting a New Yorker’s perspective behind the trapping. He can unite gritty Big Apple residents and anyone else who pounds the aesthetic for breakfast, lunch and dinner. His Bricks In My Backpack trilogy speak to an ascendant street rhymer that makes no concessions about his past life. He’s about the trap, and that will help him greatly in helping bring New York back.