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As an end of the year recap, we’d like to re-highlight a couple of the folks we’ve noted who we think exemplified the concept of the column, as well as spotlight a couple of different entities, to present to readers old and new, five reasons why New York Hip Hop didn’t suck in 2010.

5 Reasons Why New York Hip Hop Doesn’t Suck [2010 Year In Review Edition]

Throughout the latter part of 2010, we delivered a semi-regular column entitled “5 Reasons Why New York Hip Hop Doesn’t Suck,” our way to help parse for readers near and far, a varied assortment of people, places and things which exemplify the talented diversity of hip hop in the New York City area.

Entrants included artists, some underground up-and comers like the passionate, intelligent and charasmatic FinaL OutlaW and the statuesque, eclectic and multi-talented Kalae AllDay, some B-list powerhouses like Joe Budden, some A-list superstars like Lloyd Banks. We included some venues like B.B. King’s Blues Club, and special hip hop events like the yearly Rapathon. Organizations like WBAI radio were noted, as well as companies like Duck Down Records, all helped demonstrate the wide-reaching range of hip hop’s involvement in the New York City area, and that New York’s fingerprints are still all over hip hop music and culture, despite some notions suggesting otherwise.

More than the goodness of what we profiled was the greatness of what we left out. There are countless up-and-comers worthy of extra notice, dozens of venues who open their doors to a hip hop audience, several organizations and companies who work to help hip hop progress into new areas, markets and consciousnesses that are based in the New York Area, who we simply haven’t gotten to yet. Countless people involved in hip hop other than as an MC or producer or DJ. We have so many stories to bring you, so many people to talk to. It is why the series will continue in earnest over the course of 2011.

In the meantime, as a sort of year-end recap, we’d like to re-highlight a couple of the folks we’ve noted earlier who we think exemplified the concept of the column, as well as spotlight a couple of different entities, to present to readers old and new, five really good reasons why New York Hip Hop didn’t suck in 2010.

Oh, and if you think you know of a reason why New York Hip Hop Doesn’t Suck that should be singled out in our series, send us an email at 5reasons@birthplacemag.com.

Homeboy Sandman

Homeboy Sandman

We began our series highlighting Homeboy Sandman. HS has been a staple of underground, progressive NYC hip hop for some time, and after listening to the lyrical exposition that is his latest album, The Good Sun, and witnessing his unrelenting stage presence, we asked ourselves, “How could anyone say that New York hip hop is dead?” In asking ourselves this, Homeboy Sandman himself became the inspiration, and epitome of the column. Since that inaugural posting, Sandman as gone on to travel the country in support of his album, shout us out lovely-like while rocking the A3C Hip Hop festival in Atlanta, and made a move to TV land, appearing on an episode of MTV’s Made. His eerily-creative videos have shown that Homeboy Sandman’s delightful eclecticism doesn’t end in the recording booth, yet his everyman demeanor is evident when his towering presence is seen emphatically supporting fellow underground artists throughout the city. We were right then, and we are right now, Homeboy Sandman remains one damn good reason why New York hip hop doesn’t suck.

Joell Ortiz

Joell Ortiz

When we selected Joell Ortiz, also in the inaugural edition of our column, we stated, “[Listen to] 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.” Since then, Ortiz has indeed released an almost non-stop flurry of hip hop dopeness, jumping on nearly every hot commercial beat that wafted through the Brooklyn air, often outdoing the original. Not one to simply rely on jacking for beats, Joell Ortiz has also dropped some standout original material particularly the fiery lyrical assault in “Battle Cry,” and an ode to the working man alongside crooner Novel in “Night Train.” We noted how we thought the main obstacle to his hopefully-inevitable ascension to the mainstream might have been the unfriendly relationship with his label, and now, that relationship is over, so we expect 2011 might finally be the year this blue collar rhyme slayer gets his proper due.

Jay-ZJay-Z

We did not specifically highlight Jay-Z during our series, as we felt that the so called A-listers were already obvious enough reasons why New York hip hop doesn’t suck (though we did include “mainstream NY artists” as a whole, noting that many New York area artists and organizations are still very much driving the business of hip hop). Jay-Z however, continues to stand out as a business, man, a undeniable rags-to-riches story, similar to those owned by Diddy, Russell Simmons, 50 Cent and several others, but continuing to set the bar just a bit higher than all the rest. His book Decoded was a New York Times bestseller, and while that feat can be easy enough to achieve for a celebrity, the book received a glowing review from famed NYT reviewer Michiko Kakutani. His concerts with Eminem were the preeminent events of the hip hop year. He is reportedly commanding a $1 million New Years Eve performance fee. His interviews with Howard Stern and Charlie Rose delivered fascinating insight into his life and times. Not to mention the success of his other ongoing business endeavors, 40/40, Roc Nation, the New Jersey Nets as well as partnerships in the advertising world and product endorsements. And of course, he still has the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain, landing Mr. and Mrs. Carter atop the Forbes Top-Earning Couples list, all while staying musically unretired, dropping formidable collaborations, becoming the first 40 year old rapper to have significant relevance on the pop music landscape, ever. He has had the most number one albums by a solo artist in Billboard history, has President Obama in his speed dial and, to be frank, has found a way to stay his ass out of major trouble along the way. Simply put, there has been no bigger hip hop figure ever to emerge from the gritty New York streets, than Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj

From the embryonic stages of her meteoric ascension into the hip hop and pop music stratosphere, we have been fascinated with Nicki Minaj. While at first, it was easy to write her off as a corporate-crafted, cartoonish, gimmicky version of the rough-around-the-edges, around-the-way girl she once was, it became clear to us that the Jamaica, Queens native just might be on to something a bit more worthy than that. After she got plucked up by Lil Wayne and the Young Money machine and her hype began to bubble on a national level, we paid even closer attention, coming to admire her enthusiastically stylistic flow, which on occasion, admittedly, bordered on absurd, but most times hovered around inventive and entertaining. Yes, the voices took some getting used to, (as did the eyeball popping), but to us, her infectious animation, energy, creativity and yes, lyricism, quickly elevated Nicki Minaj to the status of guilty pleasure. We began saying some very complimentary things about her, much to the chagrin of some our of fans and friends, but we stayed true to our conviction, reminding many how a young MC named Busta Rhymes once sparked the hip hop world with equally rambunctious mannerisms and outlandish costumes, only to go on to become one of the genres more respected journeymen. Yes, we cringed a bit when the embarrassing “Massive Attack” dropped and flopped, but ultimately remained confident in our co-sign. When “Your Love” took off, and Nicki Minaj essentially took the music world by storm, we felt that, at least commercially, we had picked a winner. When her documentary My Time Now aired on MTV, we noticed a flurry of comments throughout the social media universe, essentially stating how folks admitted underestimating Minaj, acquiring a newfound respect for her and her art. Needless to say, we remembered our arguments about how we thought that despite a bit of overdoing it, we considered Nicki Minaj a wonderfully creative breath of unique fresh air, and while we can certainly use more exposure to the Kalae All Days, Jean Graes and Rah Diggas of the world, we have always felt that there is room in hip hop for Nicki Minaj, and as her emphatically received debut and monstrous guest appearances this year have helped demonstrate, Nicki Minaj is indeed a fine example of why New York hip hop doesn’t suck.

And we do mean fine. ;-)

New York City Hip Hop Underground

The New York City Hip Hop Underground

I have spent more than a year making it my business to thoroughly document the New York area hip hop underground scene, and while I have made many strides to fulfill this ongoing mission statement of my Birthplace Magazine creation, I have only begun to scratch the surface. I have met many good people, many talented artists, promoters, bloggers, DJs, dancers and producers. I have been blessed with the assistance of several talented writers, photographers and videographers who have contributed greatly to the site. Yet, sometimes standing for four hours in a small, sweat-box venue does not yield a tremendous amount of noteworthy hip hop. I now receive countless submissions, and rarely can find the time to listen to even the ones I want to listen to, much less find time to review and post. The last six weeks of 2010 have hit me with personal hardship and tragedy, and at times, I wondered if I can realistically continue this quest to redefine music journalism, documenting the music and associated culture that I love, and have been a part of for more than 20 years. But as a former DJ, rapper, producer myself, and as a journalist and publisher now, there is a certain thrill when seeing an unknown-outside-of-their-clique performer show me a spark of star quality. I still enjoy hearing the track produced by a local beatsmith under the vocals of a local rapper that makes me want to play that song repeatedly, like back in the days when a new Big Daddy Kane record would drop on Mr. Magic’s show. Yeah, I go back like that, and despite the change in the music game these past few years, there is still an excitement to be found in hip hop. For those of us who are open-minded enough to be able to enjoy good hip hop, no matter the subject matter or style, just good, creative music, I can safely say that with all I have witnessed in the last 12 months, the birthplace of hip hop is still very much alive and kicking. It is my hope that as I continue to grow our humble operation in 2011 to be a bit larger and a bit more self-sustaining, that the support we have received in 2010 will be reciprocated with good content, quality journalism, a hot event or two and a respectable platform that continues to become known as THE source for New York area hip hop news, artists, organizations and events.

So far, so good. Thank you all for helping me think I’m not (entirely) crazy for doing this.

Happy New Year.

-Manny Faces

About Manny Faces

Manny Faces is renowned among the industry and to the public as a producer, remixer, DJ, radio personality and an award-winning, new media journalism professional. Through MP3, vinyl and CD releases, his remixed versions of popular songs have appeared on radio, mixtapes and in clubs throughout the world while his latest endeavors, Birthplace Magazine and weekly online radio program, The NY Hip Hop Report, are being recognized as the premier information sources for New York area hip hop.

12 comments

  1. “a corporate-crafted, cartoonish, gimmicky version of the rough-around-the-edges, around-the-way girl she once was”

    LOL…that is EXACTLY what she is, nothing but a gimmick that the sheep seem to think is talented, she has no right picking up a mic.

  2. “that prevents the artists you think are worthy from being noticed by the labels and radio and corporations that continue to control the culture.

    LMAO…it’s wackness like Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj etc that ARE controlling the culture and it’s the corporate labels that are pushing this utter wackness…so your agrument is null and void sorry Man.

    Yes props on mentioning some real artists and giving them much needed exposure.

    Where are the DJ’s and clever production in that garbage?, where are the references and mentions to the pioneers and vets in that garbage and do you think any of the Young Money crew helped Kool Herc with his surgery bills recently?

    You are defending and supporting the type of Pop Rap that is destroying what Hip Hop is all about.

    Fuck Young Money.

    • I like that you’re willing to debate, but you can’t take one sentence, reply with your opinion, and then tell me we lost the argument. It doesn’t work like that.

      That being said, in some ways, we absolutely see that Minaj can be viewed as continued watering down on mainstream hip hop by the corporate culture. That being said, we are “reporting” on a phenomenon, and in some cases, we do try and find the positive in it. Plenty of mindless comedies on TV that may be viewed as embarrassing compared to well-written drama and documentaries and investigative news, doesn’t mean we can’t watch and enjoy it sometimes. And it doesn’t mean it sucks, just because it may be lowbrow or appeal to the least common denominator. It has its purpose, it has it’s fans, and it’s still comedy.

      We’re going to continue to disagree however, because we (gasp) don’t think she’s untalented. We find it hard to believe that a verse like hers in “Monster” can be called talentless, or “pop rap crap.” Sure, she overdoes the Lady Gaga imagery and overstylizes too much, but again, we think it’s a bit funny because we see parallels to Busta Rhymes’ early career in her outlandishness, but there was no outcry like this for him.

      Look man, we’re just OK with some commercial garbage from time to time. Yes we want balance, yes we want more props for lesser known, better talented, less pop artists, but we don’t understand how there can’t be room for both. You can’t tell us by our coverage that we don’t respect purist/traditional/underground hip hop, but we absolutely stand by our assertion that we are allowed to like Homeboy Sandman or Dead Prez AND Nicki Minaj, and not be called some kind of sellout or helping fuel hip hop’s demise, especially when we spend so much time and effort ON OUR DIME to highlight those other artists.

      Nicki Minaj does not represent the “destruction” of hip hop… Please, as if the years of thug-drug-rap wasn’t all about cats being picked up and pushed because of the same greedy corporations who found a formula that worked, the same ’90s NY hip hop that everyone claims they miss, that pushed out the Public Enemy and Poor Righteous Teachers of the hip hop world.

      The bastardization of hip hop started long ago.

      That being said, we just think there is nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure. For the past few years all we heard was gripes that hip hop was all the same, all that down south sound, nothing “new” and here is someone who owns her own lane and rocks it. Sure, she’s not for everybody, but neither was Biz Markie or the Fat Boys and their silliness, some people called Young MC and Tone Loc bullshit rap, many who wouldn’t consider the Beastie Boys hip hop, and plenty of people who think Jay-Z is worthless or who won’t put Pac or Big in their top 5.

      It’s all subjective. You can hate the Young Money machine all you want, and we totally understand why, and in many ways, will agree.

      We just don’t like the assertion that we are sheep, blindly fooled by some magical booty pads.

  3. Minaj is NOT Hip Hop, she is Pop Rap trash, a gimmick that you all got sucked into and fell for, I won’t be visiting this site ever again.

    • Eh, that’s too bad, since 99.2% of our site’s content is NOT Nicki Minaj or what you would call “Pop Rap trash.” In fact, did you read any of the “other” entries in the post? Would you suggest a site that praises the likes of Homeboy Sandman and Joell Ortiz, or has previously showcased work from Jean Grae or Kalae All Day, be one you should allow such a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss?

      You are, despite your fervent support for a more lyrical, traditional hip hop sound, exhibiting the exact same kind of one-sided, close-mindedness that prevents the artists you think are worthy from being noticed by the labels and radio and corporations that continue to control the culture.

      Although many will agree with your high-spirited attack on a Nicki Minaj, you sir, are not the arbitrator of what “is” hip hop and what is not. Here, we cover a vast, and diverse spectrum of New York talent, from Nicki Minaj to Jean Grae, from Fred The Godson to Jesse Abraham, from Talib Kweli to Joell Ortiz. While you can choose to never visit again, you may well be missing out on stumbling on the exact type of hip hop that you are looking for.

      And if we don’t have enough of it for you yet, stick with us. We’re still young, and new, and understaffed and underfunded, so as we grow and can cover the vast amount of talent that we have yet to document, we’d love to hear more of your passion for hip hop sprinkled throughout out e-pages.

      But if you’re going to judge and hold one part of one posting against us, then so be it. We won’t lose much sleep over it.

  4. “Nicki Minaj a wonderfully creative breath of unique fresh air…”

    LMFAO she is utter trash, a fake and plastic and highly annoying talentless hoodrat that went to acting school, horrible voice and “floww”, highly embararrsing rhymes and it is an INJUSTICE that this wackness gets paid and exposed more than REAL MC’s like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, Mecca, Rah Digga, Jean Grae, Paula Perry, Bahamadia, Lady of Rage etc…why are so many sheep following this garbage?

    and how exactly is a Woman fine if she is all fake and plastic?

    • Hey J. Thanks for your comments. Nicki Minaj sure can be polarizing, we agree, though we think we made a good case for why she is, despite your passionate opinion, and many of our personal love for a more “purist” form of hip hop, still highly worthy of mention, especially in a year-end recap of New York hip hop as a whole.

      That being said, we totally agree with you (and mentioned it in our writeup) that there certainly needs to be more exposure for the non-Nicki Minaj femcees who have as much, and in many cases, much more talent and significant content. But this is a bigger problem, one that male artists also face, and is a product of the uncaring commercialization of hip hop where your anger should be directed, not at those who do get popularized by the system, and not at an online publication who speaks on them, especially one who has also noted Jean Grae, Rah Digga and other talented female artists who unfortunately do not see the mainstream success that Nicki Minaj does.

      • “But this is a bigger problem, one that male artists also face, and is a product of the uncaring commercialization of hip hop where your anger should be directed”

        Again Minaj etc is THAT commercial garbage pushed by the uncaring corportations, why can’t you see this?

  5. I am working on an ep i am very good :)

  6. The only reason I think you are crazy is co-signing Nicki Minaj… And maybe the whole schizophrenic part of your career [smirk].

    On the real, if I understand your arguments for why she is a refreshing presence or voice in Hip Hop, they are the same for why she is an unhealthy one. I am not questioning her skills or her hood pass. I don’t know about her resume in either category enough to participate in conversations or debates about them. I am speaking strictly to how she is allowing herself, her art and her voice to be represented to the masses. Her voice is not unique because it only gets an octave or so above Wayne’s and maybe an octave or two lower than SoSo Def’s average artist. Her look (save for an occasional piece of really bright fluorescent clothing) is nothing that Lil Kim or most of the (I believe this is a ‘family’ publication, so I will say) eye candy most Rappers employ for their music videos haven’t done. To me the main thing that sets her apart is the same reason for concern.

    She is seen as the voice of an underrepresented group in Hip Hop. Women. The 55/45 minority that was there from the beginning and has been systematically shuffled from the forefront. In preparing for a special series of Olde Skool shows a few months back I revisited a compilation of Hip Hop music from what is largely recognized as the first year our music was on wax, 1979. What struck me about it this time was how many female artists were involved. The collection was at least half female (and that’s not including Funky 4+1). Fast forward 31 years and what went from a few kids who didn’t want to join gangs in the South Bronx has become a global force in youth and pop culture. I know you know this fact and that to an extent this publication exists in response to it. However as other parts of the world grew to love us (and corporations grew to love to pimp us) women went from representing half the voices to representing one voice. What’s worse is that this factor may be largely an American thing because some of the brightest female voices in Hip Hop, though largely ignored in this country have proved they get love elsewhere (http://www.vimeo.com/2862059).

    In an environment like this any female voice selected as worthy by the major labels and traditional major media is expected to represent more than just herself. It to me is a kin to the struggle that people of color (and to an extent women) have been engaged in with television over the last 50 years. I apologize for putting this at your feet because I know your heart and I know you have some of the same concerns. I am just suggesting that the music industry can’t have it both ways. They can either love us or demonize us. If they want to love us enough to eat off us, they owe us enough to represent more than 1 image of our women (or 5 images of us in general). In terms of women specifically, until MCs like: Whut? Whut?/Jean Grae, Kalae All Day, Rah Digga, Lyric/Sara Kana, Akua Naru, Eternia (she’s at least part NY based) can get equal billing and opportunities with miss Nicki than I don’t think we should be so quick to support Nicki. Its beyond time that the industry understands that Hip Hop is more than a column on their PnL report. It is a living and (counter to the beliefs of some who also love it but are frustrated by its perceived stagnation) breathing kulture. One that has proven its ability to be enriched by us, now many of us need to acknowledge how we are enriched by it.

    Happy New Year to you, sir.
    Nuff love and Respect

    Curry
    OFFtheTOPradio.com

    • Curry -

      Good to hear from you, and always welcome your insight, as you operate from a mindset all of hip hop needs more of. Of course, much of what you say, I unequivocally agree with you. The objectification of women in hip hop has long been a thorn in the side of the music aspect of the culture. But for that matter, the label-driven glorification of aggressively violent young men, criminals and drug dealers has been as well.

      None of this can be debated.

      Neither can your insistence that female MCs like the ones you mentioned (many of which we also featured on our e-pages) are worthy of label/media love. I just feel that there is room in hip hop for a Nicki Minaj as well. To be honest, there are/have been far worse “voices” of women in hip hop in years past, Lil’ Kim one of them. Minaj doesn’t come close to Kim’s sexually exploitative nature/lyrics/demeanor.

      To be clear, my main reasons for thinking she is refreshing/entertaining is less about her look and/or cartoonish antics. Nicki Minaj is nice on the mic, point blank, and she is creative, without being super-overtly sexual, and overall, to me, she is simply entertaining. In a female MC, I just don’t think any of that should be held against her.

      But I don’t want this response to be a pure Nicki defense. She is of course only one tiny portion of what women in hip hop can offer. I love Jean Grae (she was also a “5 Reasons,” months before Nicki. I personally think Kalae All Day is star quality (mark my words), have told her so, and will feature anything she does on our site. (She was also a “5 Reasons” before Nicki was). But yes, Nicki has, for the moment, more significant milestones occurring, and I think it is noteworthy. Of course, the hope is always that someone drawn here for Nicki, discovers the “5 Reasons” series, and comes across Kalae et. al., not to mention the dozens of other male artists or organizations that we try and cover who are equally, if not more, worthy of notice than Nicki Minaj.

      The words here or the support of artists herein will not shape the music industry, nor do I aspire to do so. I think what we at BP have the ability to do, as a unique type of new-school music journalism, is to participate in a positive manner in the already ongoing reinvention of the music business, which I predict will open the doors for a great many of the artists you, I and hip hop purists the world over are itching to see more of.

      But while it is what it is, Nicki Minaj’s success is also highly relevant to me. Were we to specialize in Toronto hip hop, Drake would also be as relevant, and receive ample coverage, despite those who might not feel he is particularly worthy. I might hear similar concerns from you about perpetuating mainstream, womanizing, I’m-rich-you’re-not hip hop. I think we, probably more than many in the “blog world,” present a balanced assortment of underground, middleground, and above ground NY-area hip hop, though admittedly, we are barely scratching the surface.

      All that rambling being said, you are absolutely right that the industry has silenced the many voices of females in hip hop, leaving, at the moment, only one in the proverbial spotlight. But that’s not Nicki Minaj’s fault. She still entertains me, and has managed to sell 1,000,000 records in a time when that doesn’t happen much, and hasn’t happened for a female MC in a long time.

      Yes the record labels owe us more, but I also believe that ship has sailed, and trying to convince them, or spend time and energy lamenting the fact, is wasted effort. As the world turns to a new model of music consumption, new opportunities will emerge making it possible for these wonderful women to find the ability to reach the masses that the corporate labels never gave them. I hope that our site, and good folks like yourself, find ways to help this process along.

      For the record, if we had all the money in the world to throw an event, I guarantee you our headlining female MC would not be Nicki Minaj.

      But I still think she’s cool.

      -Manny

  7. I’m making it a personal goal to have an Urbanizm artist from NY (maybe even me?) be on this list one day.

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