I grew up listening to New York Hip Hop – it was thrown upon me without a chance, and I didn’t mind it. Growing up on Wu-Tang, one of the first albums I ever memorized was Ready to Die, and one of my favourite rappers of all time is Jay-Z, with 50 Cent having a good period where he was all I listened to. You can throw in DMX, Dipset, and D-Block in there as rappers that I listened to in my adolescence, and you could see that there was so much depth in New York rap, that never in years would we be sitting here in 2013 wondering just what the hell happened to Rap in New York. The architects of the culture couldn’t possibly be the victims of irrelevance, could they? Unfortunately so, they have become to object of ridicule over the years because of the rift in support, and lack of real groundbreaking talent being out there for the world’s display. The world is different, and people don’t appreciate the same things now that they did 10-15 years ago. New York City, however, hasn’t quite moved with the times, and the people of the city have found new areas to support.
The South, The West, and yes, even Canadians are getting more love than the people who still occupy Wall Street (or Flatbush & Jamaica Avenues), but that doesn’t mean that New York is completely out of it yet. Action Bronson, Skyzoo, Pro Era, The Underachievers, Flatbush Zombies, and A$AP Mob have shown that the new generation can still have a voice in rap even if the veterans are sucking up space for God knows what reason (Raekwon and Fabolous, I’m looking directly at you). 50 Cent is who a lot of people blame for the breakdown in NYC’s rap scene because of his beefs with (also NYC based rappers): Jadakiss, Cam’ron, Ja Rule, and Fat Joe. At first, the competitive nature is all good, but to end careers and instill fear into anyone gunning for you (not…literally), New York never really recovered, and they’re still trying to find their way. Will it ever? Now, that’s a question I can’t answer, but to be a cornball and use the unnecessary phrase – nothing will be the same.
Kendrick Lamar & Trinidad James got NYC all riled up for two completely reasons, but to be fair, their guard is completely down, and no one has done anything really to uplift the spirits of New York – until now. I’d heard the name before, and a feature verse here and there, but Troy Ave wasn’t really someone who was on my radar, but some people told me to check him out (not that easy to just get caught up on everything lately, so spare me your ‘late passes’). A$AP Rocky (and I guess you can say the Mob itself), granted he’s from Harlem, but he isn’t the reflection of New York as a whole and what NYC rap was situated on in the beginning of their ascension – it’s more rough and rugged like a pair of Butter Timberlands with Levi’s jeans clothed over like how James Brown used to have the cape thrown over his shoulders – exactly like that. It’s no coincidence that you can look at a lot of people’s Top 10-25 Hip Hop albums of all time and a good chunk of them come from New York City (okay, depending on where you live). So exactly, where does Troy Ave come into play? Well, after listening to his album, and from the production to features, it’s very New York influential, and it was the only album of recognition from NY to really embrace that esoteric and concrete New York feel that made so many people fall in love with it to begin with.
The opening verse on Classic Feel from his album of the city where he represents gave me a feeling like “yes, this is exactly what is needed and what the city has been waiting for”, because of the gangster mentality and the breakdown giving you that street feeling.
Rubber grip or the plastic feel
This that Brooklyn shit, this is nothing new
This that safety off with that engine on
Mercedes Benz, good watch, scene above them all
That’s how it’s supposed to sound, and I know that it’s all about progressing and moving forward, but you can still be refreshing while keeping true to the environment that you surround yourself with. New York City, which features some NY veterans, is that anthem that shows pride, and the fact that it is unified and there is love for the city on the track and the album itself (not to forget the Kendrick diss line which was a nice touch). I’m not familiar with all of Troy’s previous work, but of what I’ve read, his rise to this point came about the same way that a lot of rappers did back in the day – selling mixtapes out of the car to establish their names. Working your way up and keeping consistent with product is always the method to success, so where many may see him as being a random rapper coming out of nowhere, there’s always a story behind the come up. I think with this album (because it’s a pretty good one), Troy Ave has the potential to help re-establish the New York sound but in a way where respect will once again be given to them in a major way. It has to be earned, and the scene as a whole isn’t doing its part to make it any better at the moment, but there is time to grow and no need for overall panic. You can sense a shift already happening, so keep your eyes out for Troy Ave in the future amongst many others. Listen to New York City when you get a chance – it’ll go down as one of those slept on albums of this year that you probably shouldn’t have. Here’s to New York and for what hopes to be a strong comeback
That’s My Word & It STiXX