New York hip hop has gotten a bad rap in recent years, no pun intended. All this, despite continuing to lock the game down at the top (Jay-Z, 50 Cent), providing consistent street heat (Fabolous, Maino), raising the most intriguing female MC in years (Nicki Minaj), and still being the epicenter of the genre (peep the “Southern” Hip Hop Honors, held in NYC).
So, XXL, it’s not that something’s “wrong with New York hip hop.” New York has always been ahead of the curve when it came to hip hop. New York birthed it, and when the world took notice, New York evolved it. When the world laughed it off as a fad, New York improved it, and when it needed the strength of a worldwide economy, New York exported it. In the end, hip hop flourished, and continues to grow and evolve in new ways. But at the heart of it all, is New York City.
Progressive and sometimes a little over the heads of the rest of the music world, media and the music business have silently conspired against the birthplace of rap, but there continue to be many reasons why New York hip hop does not suck. Every day we show you some of those reasons, in every article, posting, event or video we put on our site, but once a month, we’re going to assemble a few highlights, and give you 5 Reasons Why NY Hip Hop Doesn’t Suck.
His joint album release party with Spec Boogie packed SOBs to capacity. The LA Times music blog Pop & Hiss recently posted an interview with him. He spits rhymes that call out those who look down on the less fortunate (“Angels With Dirty Faces”). He is a University of Pennsylvania graduate who favors intellectual hip hop (“They tell me dumb it down/ I tell ‘em smarten up”), complex wordplay and delivery. Yet, he gave up law school to return to rap.
His new album The Good Sun is receiving critical praise from fans, bloggers and mainstream media. He is tall, standing above most of his peers, but outside of SOBs before his release party, he thanked a stranger for “coming out to support real hip hop,” as if to say, “this is bigger than me, this is for the movement.”
You could take the passion and stage presence he performs with, fill up three MCs, and still have room left over for a hype man.
He is Homeboy Sandman, and he does not suck.
They have been a cornerstone of hip hop in New York City for ten years.
Think about that.
Very few things (including artists, groups, showcases, organizations, labels, radio stations) last ten years in hip hop.
They run every week. Without fail. Gracing their stage, legends (KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, DMC), new buzz (Cory Gunz), underground favorites (Immortal Technique, Hasan Salaam), battle champions (Iron Solomon), and the current crop of next-to-blow artists who constantly hit the stage week after week. Their open mic franchise has chapters in France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Uganda, Spain and the UK.
Think about that also.
It is a hip hop spot where competition is moved aside for the sake of camaraderie, and it does not suck, ever. It is End of the Weak, aka EODub, and it happens every Sunday.
The mixtape was recorded by a 19 year old Bronx MC who is “too subtle to hate, too humble to taunt.” The kid got quotables, but can’t buy a beer.
We reviewed his mixtape, favorably, and despite the coming and going of material in and out of my computer and car radio, his is still there.
If someone asks, “So, who in underground New York City hip hop doesn’t suck, Mr. New York City hip hop guy?” I start with “YC The Cynic. After all, ‘for the most part / if similes / were symphonies / he’d be Mozart’.”
For the most part, he might be right.
He sits on a plane of existence something like a hip hop purgatory. Not quite yet an A-lister, but a level above “underground”. He’s been closely associated with other limbo-dwellers (Joe Budden, Royce the 5’ 9”, Crooked I) having been part of their conglomerate group Slaughterhouse.
But he’s also been associated with titans (Dr. Dre, Eminem). The Village Voice recently compared him to Brooklyn gentrification, and somehow, it made perfect sense. He is a freestyling, constant song-dropping grinder whose version of “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” was probably the best out of the 4,353,475,893 other versions.
And, if you’re not one for the artsy-fartsy / progressive / backpack / intellectual hip hop that lives in the NY underworld, but still a bit tired of the same ol’ same, stop.
Listen to tracks like “Hip Hop,” “Project Boy,” and (the for the love of God why was this not pushed nationwide, this could have been as big as Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”) “Call Me,” and you will realize that Joell Ortiz could, should, might be, hopefully is, one of the very next to break out from the tri-state area.
That is, it would seem, if the label can get their act together. E1, stop sucking.
It was started by one guy, a journalism professional and long time hip hop head, and has grown in traffic 3000% in six months. It is the only media source, online or offline, dedicated to New York area hip hop news, artists, organizations, events and culture.
The site has featured a full spectrum of New York talent, from Wordspit to Rakim, from Kalae All Day to Jim Jones, from Devynity to Lloyd Banks. From Buda Da Future to Nicki Minaj, from Jesse Abraham to Diddy. From small events in neighborhood venues to Highline Ballroom and B.B. King’s to Hot 97’s Summer Jam. Peter Rosenberg’s Noisemakers at 92YTribeca, Dollar Van Demos, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Johnny Nunez.
With help from volunteer writers, Steven Ortiz, A.D. The General/Ms. FeFe and Hadasah Ingrid and me, the mission is clear, the style has been established, the professionalism is obvious, and the respect for the genre in the region and all those involved, in undeniable.
They talk about bringing NY hip hop back. We talk about bringing NY hip hop forward. We are of the NY-area hip hop people, by the NY-area hip hop people and for the NY-area hip hop people.
They don’t suck, and neither do we.