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The Return of NY: The Rest of the Landscape

Posted by Dharmic X on 02/26/13 | Filed under Opinion, Return of NY
New York City has always been the Mecca of this hip-hop shit. The lineage of emcees is lengthy and historic: Chuck D, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Nas, Jay-Z... the list goes on. But over the last few years the death knoll has been ringing for NYC rap...until a new generation emerged to give the city life.

Is the golden age of New York City hip-hop returning? Did it ever really leave? Over the next few weeks we'll be breaking down what's currently going on in the Big Apple in our "The Return of NY" series. Now that we’ve gotten some of the major crews out of the way, it is time to examine what else is coming out out New York City.


Media is infatuated with oversimplification. The K.I.S.S. mantra is especially prevalent in hip-hop journalism, where it is easier to typecast and move on, preferably to catch up to the next viral sensation. A lot of people would prefer to just look at the previous two lists of crews and declare them to be the sole movers and shakers of New York City. While the crews listed have definitely made their impact on NYC hip-hop, not everyone making a splash represents these crews, some of them don’t even represent a crew at all.

One of the biggest albums of 2012 was “Reloaded” by Roc Marciano. Yes, Roc Marc is in close cahoots with the Outdoorsmen collective, and he is even managed by the same person (Dante Ross) who manages Meyhem Lauren and previously managed Action Bronson. But one cannot just lump him in with that crew. For starters, Roc represents Pimpstead, another jewel in the long-list of gems bringing Long Island to hip-hop’s forefront. Secondly, he stands in his own lane of cinematic, spacey boom-bap, with slick talk that dances along the minimalist sample. Meanwhile, while he will do features with damn near anyone, his two closest affiliates are Brownsville’s Ka and Knowledge Pirate, the only two features on “Reloaded.”

The scene has gotten better at embracing each other in the last few years. Other artists who retain friendships amongst the Outdoorsmen without being members include the charismatic Maffew Ragazino, the more throwback Rasheed Chappell, and the brothers Timeless Truth. Each of these artists do their own thing, but still come together for collaborations, concerts, and other events.

Because New York has always held a larger pool of rap talent than other cities, the value of the open mic has always been higher here than anywhere else. It is a place for emerging talent to show and prove and develop their craft. To emerge out of a packed crowd and create a following, an artist has to polish skills and introduce the world to a unique style. One of the most famous open mics is End of the Weak, a weekly showcase that carries on to this very day and has spread across the world. Products of New York City’s open mic scene vary, from the eccentric Homeboy Sandman to the more conventional wordsmith YC the Cynic.

Because New York City has such a rich legacy, paying dues becomes important. Emcees such as Skyzoo, Torae, and Tanya Morgan, three of the first darlings of the blogosphere. Some of those early risers fell off (a la Charles Hamilton) while the Barrel Brothers and Tanya Morgan remain in the game, likely because of their ability to acknowledge the history and tap into that traditional fan base, especially overseas. Smoke DZA has remained a fixture in the scene for a long time. Meanwhile, the Brown Bag Allstars define what it means to pay dues, having all worked at the Fat Beats retail store in Manhattan until the store closed. Now they flood the online market on a solo and group level.

Not only have the All Stars have worked with a lot of the rappers listed above, but they have also worked with other really talented artists as well. Two notable names are Sene and ScienZe, both of whom are affiliates of the West Coast’s Blu. Their music is on the more mellow side of things, but is equally as dope as some of the more aggressive lyricists.

Oddball, colorful personalities exist in New York City just as much as they do elsewhere in the country. Mr. MFN eXquire is clearly an example, with his unique fashion and willingness to collaborate with Gucci Mane over El-P beats. Troy Ave is another such example, albeit with a more traditional, street approach. Artists like Ninjasonik, Lushlife, and Chaz Van Queen represent the more quirky side of New York’s outer boroughs, along with Das Racist (now morphed into two solo entities) and Heems’s Greedhead artists like Lakutis.

New York remains a “big city of dreams” for many artists, much like it was for J. Cole when he entered St. Johns. Some move in from nearby, such as Rochester’s Emilio Rojas, who also spends time in Atlanta. Some move in from further away, like Florida raised Nitty Scott, MC, who was still in high school when she came to Brooklyn. A slight wrinkle to this formula are The Doppelgangaz, who don’t live in the city at all, but rather reside in its outskirts.

Every day, new talent emerges in New York City, attracting the attention of thousands of people while delivering quality songs. Youngsters like Bishop Nehru and HD are impressing with talent and energy. More seasoned artists such as Bryant Dope, Julian Stephen, L.A., and Dom O. Briggs are starting to polish their sound and build their fan bases. Meanwhile, The Kid Daytona hopes to take his career to the next level. Some smaller collectives are starting to emerge, such as Euro League’s Reel Life and Wati Heru’s Cap-S-Ule.

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See Also:  The Return of NY: From A$AP Mob to Action Bronson & Everywhere In Between
See Also:  The Return of NY: Breaking Down The Beast Coast Movement

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