In case we didn’t all realize regionalism is an archaic concept in hip-hop, Fat Joe gave us the death notice on the Breakfast Club this week:
“Everybody wanna do boom bap… that ain’t it,” the 20-year rap veteran and member of legendary boom bap clique Diggin In The Crates admitted. He would know. Since “We Thuggin” in 2001, Joe’s been living off singles that transcend the confines of dusty drums — but he’s not an anomaly. Many successful New York artists have been limiting if not outright ignoring the classic boom bap sound for over 15 years.
Jay-Z made inroads in the then-burgeoning south on records with Jermaine Dupri, Juvenile, and UGK. Cam’ron went from asking “when we start bouncin’?” on 2000’s “Let Me Know” to creating “Bout It Bout It Pt. III,” which featured Master P demanding the listener do just that. 50 Cent rhymed about how he sounded “country” with his melodic twang on Get Rich Or Die Tryin. Nicki Minaj and French Montana had to take their talents to Atlanta to get on, and of course A$AP Rocky fooled many into thinking he was from Houston when he first popped up. There’s no question that all of those artists celebrate their hometown, but with Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” climbing the charts with a flow inspired by Kodak Black — a Florida rapper — it should be pretty obvious that their allegiance doesn’t have to extend into copying the city’s classic sound.
Since the advent of the internet, regionalism has become irrelevant. Gone are the days where artists hear one predominant sound on the radio and are forced to conform or move, à la DJ Premier’s transplant from Houston to New York. By the 2000s, Rocky had one-click access to Houston culture. Pretty much all of modern hip-hop aspirants have the same pool of music to “Tube-dig” and become inspired by. It’s no coincidence that so many new artists took cues from kings of the 2000s Lil Wayne and Kanye West, regardless of whether they were from Compton like Kendrick Lamar or Toronto like Drake. It should also be noted that Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Young Thug, and French Montana — some of today’s major rap purveyors — credit Harlem cult favorite Max B for inspiring their sound. Perhaps it’s not all bad for New York.