Thursday, May 18, 2006

been on that new york shit

editor's note: it's in bad taste to double-post like this, so go check GW9K's latest ramblings after you peep game thusly. and now, on with the Just Sayin.


not particularly icey

I have a philosophical dissection of Dipset that is half done right now sitting on draft status, but I decided I should actually listen to Killa Season before I say anything further about Cam and friends. If you need smarmy Dip critique, there are other places for your fix. But here's a lil sneak peak of what I been thinking about:

Wasn't there a time where being the most popular rapper in New York made you an international star?

Please distinguish between being the most popular rapper in New York from being the most popular rapper from New York. Yeah 50 reps Queens, but 50 really reps pop radio, vitamin water, the cream and the clear. Dude's a rapper from New York, but his style is from down south, long drawn-out bars sliding at about 82 bpm. He's a pop icon, and G-Unit is literally a brand. So while 50 may have dissembled New York, it was globalization that destroyed it. Rap will eat itself. It already has.

There been no shortage of ruminating on New York's irrelevance, and nothing sums it up like Jon Caramanica's comment that New York rap has "...been reduced to the category us hard-liners used to viciously malign—regional rap." But part of the problem is New York's refusal to do anything but pout about their fall from the top and continue to trudge along at the same pace. "New York" was stupid rallying cry because Fat Joe and Jada, while two of the bigger wheels in New York rap, don't represent New York. They do what all other New York rappers do these days: drop generic but likeable singles, push their untalented crews, and do guest spots for more famous "regional" rappers.

New York is taking steps towards getting its shit together and acting like the modern regional rap scene. Busta has stood up and shouted "New York" repeatedly. Not "flipmode," "TS," "BX," "BK," or any other self-serving battle cry, but "New York." He doesn't want to rule the city, he wants to represent it. The city wants and needs this, as emphasized by the excitement about "New York Shit". Even KRS sounds rejuvinated on the remix. Even if The jury is already out on The Big Bang, and Busta is kind of like the Hillary Clinton of rap, it's good to see the city moving again.

But it might be too little too late for New York. Today's quality hip-hop grows out of movements, and a good rap album is an iceberg*, the most visible tip of a gigantic force, its formidible stability hinting at its foundation. The sound is specific and congruent across producers. The slang is, at times, impenetrable, and the extensive shouts hint at a large network moving behind the man on the mic**. But every rapper on earth is, in some way, building on the long tradition of New York. It's been the norm for so long, that it's just rap***. Hip-hop music in the absence of local color, risk-taking, charisma or originality. Even the places and names are incredibly well-documented. The city has no secrets left, and thus no intrigue. When vets put out albums like Street's Disciple and All Or Nothing, they aren't terrible but lack that context. "Ghetto Quran" was brilliant because it laid bare what was left to learn about selling crack in New York: the names. Anybody who had been paying attention for 10 years knew the where, the what, the why and the how. 50 got everyone's attention by exposing the who****. All this why I say Busta and friends are not going to help anything.

Of course, it doesn't help that Papoose, the great young hope of the Big Apple, raps like its 1998. Or, he raps like a rapper. Who raps. The brilliance of Dipset is their absurdity, but that's another post.

*this is a fucking cheesy analogy, but you know what I mean.
**how many Texas rappers dip into "I got a partner named..." when they need a line?
***it's worth noting that Atlanta has a similar issue with generic southern rap...I mean, Young Joc? really?
****by that thinking, "How to Rob" marks when 50 stopped reppin NY started reppin the generic rap world.