Words by Patrick M.
Looking back on past reviews I did for The Smoking Section, I worry that I have been too quick to praise everything under the sun. For example that Tabi Bonney album? Terrible. I don’t know what I was thinking. I got caught up in the one good track on the album “The Pocket,” and tried to talk myself into it. Bad job on my part, because I’m letting the readers down. The bottom line is, a lot of the rap music that comes out, and that we review just isn’t very good, so I’m going to start being fiercer. You are going to see me rip unworthy albums apart with great vengeance and furious anger. I promise to shelve my overly effusive praise when reviewingâ€¦
Right after this one.
Because even though I went into reviewing NYOil’s Hood Treason determined to listen with a skeptic’s ear, the man’s sheer talent as a rapper and the force of what he was saying knocked me on my ass.
The first I ever heard of the man was controversy surrounding the single “Ya’ll Should Just Get Lynched.” I am always skeptical of “controversial” acts because too often the controversy is all that’s there. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard the track and it became one of my favorites for the summer. The song is a good introduction to NYOil’s overall mission with this album, taking hip-hop society to task. NYOil’s beef with hip-hop stems from the glorification of money, drug dealing, and gang banging by rappers. He claims these same rap artists are not actually living the life of danger they glorify, but playing a role in a vicious cycle where poor black youths spend money and idolize the gangster talk, the rappers take the money and spend it on themselves to keep the image up while moving out of the hood. The kids eventually get caught in the darker side of being a gangster aka jail or death. “Ya’ll Should All Get Lynched,” in its title alone suggests NYOil’s brutal solution to this problem. The whole song is a much deeper airing of grievances and immediately shows off his intellectual acumen. I especially like how NYOil gets historical, as he charges rappers not just with treachery against the hood, but against heroes of the past like MLK and Malcolm. “They died for you so you could act like this. And this the best you can come up with?” he asks rhetorically.
The challenge for Hood Treason then was to build on the momentum of the song to build an album of equal strength, no easy task. Among hip hop head, there is a demand for deeper or more political content in lyrics. However, part of the reason this gap is so hard to fill is that fans demand that conscious MCs exhibit higher standards of lyricism and rapping ability than say, Lil Jon. This is understandable; playing the role of outspoken critic or moral conscious is extremely difficult; it’s too easy to come off as either preachy or unworthy. That’s one reason why such artists seem to be few and far between compared to the crunk scene which churns out new faces on a weekly basis.
I think NYOil has the goods to continue in the line of Chuck D, Nas, and Talib Kweli in providing another strong voice on the hip-hop scene that combines lyrical and stylistic virtuosity with relevant political and social commentary.
Two main reasons: first, NYOil has an excellent voice for MCing, and even though he is a late comer to the game, he is a natural. The commanding nature of his voice, augmented by the no nonsense intellectual persona he embodies adds to songs that are eliciting social problems. “Shout it in the Streets,” it’s the best example of this; a frenetic soul beat combines with NYOil’s rapping to produce a sublime track that should (and is) be the lead single off the album. When the song starts out with NYOil half screaming “the revolution will not be televised,” I got the feeling like this was a man who could actually lead the revolution. You can’t say that about most rappers.
Finally, his lyrical ability holds up. There are plenty of songs where I find myself marveling at his lyrical abilities even if I don’t agree one hundred percent with what he is saying. That’s the hallmark of the true legends. Chuck D can say “Farrakhan’s a profit who I think you oughta listen to,” I can feel him even if I think Louis X is a clown. The title track “Hood Treason” is the best example of this where, he drops lines like
“Crack rappers/get clapped after/by backpackers/with Macs in the back of their knapsacks/and then they laugh at ya.
That’s a slap in the face of quite a few rap fans, but the lines are still dope. To me that’s all that matters.
Does this mean I’m going to go burn my copy of Hell Hath No Fury? Hell no. And I don’t agree with everything he says. But I come away thinking this: it’s undeniable that his is a welcome voice on the hip-hop scene and anyone who is serious about their love of hip-hop, whether they think its dead or not should take a listen. Hopefully, we’ll here more from NYOil, and more people like him, in the coming months and years.
Amerie Ft. Fabolous Slim Thug – Thats What U R (Remix)
Cassidy – Big Spender
Crooked I – Uh Oh
Grafiti Boyz – Yankin
Hot Dollar Ft. Rick Ross Gucci Mane – Streets On Lock Remix
Hurricane Chris – Hand Clap
Jaz-O – Nobody Can Stop Me
Pimp C – Pussy Nigga Anthem
T.I. – Get Up
Tony Sunshine Ft Fat Joe – I Love Them Both
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