It’s now 2012, and while many of us are in the full swing of things with new music for the new year, some are still stuck in the notion that New York Hip Hop is either stuck in or should sound exactly like 1994.
Fortunately, the new crop of NY’s finest are marrying the home of hip hop’s traditions with a bold look toward the future. Here’s a quick playlist of names you either should know by now or need to know in 2012.
Dining with Anthony Bourdain one minute and recording tracks with Meyham Lauren the next, Bronson’s taste for fine foods, 80s professional wrestlers and pop culture nonsequitors is only matched by his tireless work ethic and an almost unfair quality control. With two outstanding albums in last year’s Dr. Lecter and Well Done as well as several announced projects in the coming months, the eclectic Energizer Bunny of rap just keeps going as an excited audience keeps listening.
With both a decade long stigma of rejecting outsiders as well as a genocide of its record stores, you wouldn’t expect an NY talent to wear the influence of other regions on his sleeve. Harlem’s A$AP Rocky stands as New York’s first child of the post-Napster generation to combine the hustle and sleekness of his hometown with, among other inspirations, Memphis’s brooding crawl and Houston’s spacey ingenuity. Not merely a revivalist, the tradition he most proudly carries is an unmistakable rugged boldness that only Harlem could manifest.
Brown Bag AllStars
Individually the members of Brown Bag AllStars could account for half of this list, but together they form a Castle Greyskull of boom-bap viciousness. As insular as they are talented, their work ethic and self-awareness allows for release after release of playing to their own strengths. Rappers Soul Khan and Koncept have both recently released projects entirely produced by fellow members and with both J57 and Audible Doctor producing on some of the year’s most anticipated releases, the crew’s upcoming debut album promises to be the best record the crew’s fallen nexus, Manhattan’s Fatbeats Records, was never able to stock.
The duo of BS and Albert Rhymestein know what made you first love rap music and, on their debut Nice Things, bring you right back to that feeling. Catchy, complex and cunning, the duo are as skilled at earworms as they are at rocking a crowd. That includes most recently receiving the rarest of warm embraces from New York’s Apollo Theater. With enough punchlines and hooks to win a fighting championship, Dollar Coffee remain the tag team champions of good time hip-hop.
Although he now calls Los Angeles’ Stones Throw records home, it’s still same number, same hood for New York hip hop’s archangel. Not satisfied with his already astronomical heights, Homeboy Sandman continues to push boundaries conceptually and constructively with his Subject Matter EP. As bold as it is to base an entire project on the concept of touching topics rap has never covered before, it’s only the beginning. Sandman’s reliability for dope rap music doesn’t stem from his staying the same, but his desire to continue evolving.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire
Last year’s “Huzzah” turned heads both for how dope it was as well as the promise it held for dirty Fondle ‘Em style hip-hop to be made today. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire doesn’t give the slightest of fucks about any of this, which makes his music all the more refreshing. The exact midpoint between Camu Tao and Method Man, eXquire’s keeping things progressively dangerous live and on record.
Intelligent without being overbearing, outspoken without being heavy handed, and brave without being boring, Silent Knight makes the type of hip hop an entire generation of underground revivalists have unsuccessfully attempted to. One of the few MCs to emphasize subtlety over showcasing, Knight brings a fresh sound to the hallmarks of New York underground rap that have for too long been glossed over or forgotten. Along with a stellar album in Busy is My Best Friend, Silent Knight’s live show is among the best today. A showman capable of rocking a party while maintaining an unforgettable intimacy, he’s a rapper’s rapper who will only continue to excel throughout the new year.