There’s something about that New York swag. You can always tell when someone is from New York. It’s not just an accent; you can almost hear that smirk in their voices that puts you in mind of crowded streets and subway stations, of Timberland boots and hoodies, of stoops and bodegas and cabbies and thin crust pizzas.
As hip-hop has globalized and the regional lines have blurred thanks to the ubiquity of internet and social media, a primary complaint has been that New York rap has lost its singular swag, that the once pioneering locus of hip-hop excellence has been relegated to simply swiping styles from the South to stay relevant.
That’s not a problem Jay Critch has.
Born Jason Critchlow in Brooklyn, NY, the 21-year-old Jay Critch has skyrocketed to national notoriety behind an impressive string of successful singles in the shotgun seat of Rich The Kid‘s Rich Forever Music record label. He grew up on New York rap, internalizing the flows of lyricists like Fabolous, Cam’ron, and “old Jay-Z,” as he told XXL last year, and it shows in what he puts out: The cocksure, outsized charisma that signals when a rapper is from the birthplace of hip-hop. The difference between Critch and his more modern contemporaries, though, is that he is as self-assured as his influences, with none of the “Bring New York Back” insecurities of fellow New Yorkers more concerned with production styles than simply projecting that unmistakable attitude throughout all their music regardless of what kind of beat it’s on.
That confident braggadocio is evident in early, name-making singles like “Adlibs” (as in, “N—-s best songs ain’t f*ckin’ with my ad-libs”) and “Rockets,” which are shot through with the slick wordplay he learned from his Big Apple forebears, even as they embrace more modern, trap-focused production akin to the work of French Montana or Dave East. His latest single, “Try It,” even features both Montana and Fabolous, and despite Critch’s young age, there’s no trace of a generation gap — he fits right in, even modernizing the older artists around him.
That new single comes from his debut album, Hood Favorite, which dropped November 2 and helped prove that his speedy come-up has been no fluke. It’s a tightly focused, 12-track release, as cohesive as it is versatile, led by the ghostly trap rattle of the Jamz-produced first single, “Ego.” Over the eerie loop, Critch displays pen game far beyond his years, energized by his thoroughly youthful flow. Even more impressive is how Hood Favorite, like “Ego,” finds Jay going for dolo, with guests limited to the aforementioned French and Fab on “Try It” and Offset on “Quicker.” While many young artists often feel the need to use features to bolster their star power as they find their footing, Jay Critch is assertive and cocky enough to stand on his own. His New York upbringing wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hood Favorite is out now on Rich Forever Music/Interscope Records. Get it here.