"New York, New York, New York": The Return of East Coast Rap

16 Aug

While details about which city are often argued, it’s a well-known fact that the state of New York is the origin of this rap shit. Historically, other areas have gotten their times to shine, but The Big Apple is widely regarded as hip-hop’s home. So, it’s understandable for New Yorkers to be disgruntled with today’s rap scene: with California’s Bay Area garnering plenty of attention with their hyphy movement, the dirty south’s operative graduation from crunk to snap music, and even Chicago getting a buzz with Atlantic Records wunderkind Lupe Fiasco, the home of the Yankees and the Knicks has seemed as relevant to hip-hop as George Bush to gay rights.

Still, 2006-2007 is quickly becoming the time for history to repeat itself, and for New York to reconnect itself with today’s rap scene.

While Jay-Z and Nas’ October 2005 union may serve as a benchmark, it really started off with the release of Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale, in late March. In his second go-round for Def Jam, the Wu-Tang member released an accessible, Ne-Yo-featured single for the masses, and saturated the rest of the LP with the street-savvy gems he’s built his career off of. While Fishscale was picking up steam, Brooklynite Busta Rhymes was taking over clubs and radio with his own anthemic offering, the robotic “Touch It;” his Aftermath debut, The Big Bang, took him in a grittier direction than previous efforts, but was a solid effort nontheless. Additionally, G-Unit dropped Mobb Deep’s Blood Money in May, and recent weeks have seen the releases of the legendary Boot Camp Clik crew’s The Last Stand, and DMX’s Year of the Dog…Again.

But it’s the impending releases that give New York even more reason to turn their noses up. With 4:21…The Day After, the M-E-T-H-OD, Man abandons corny UPN sitcoms and makes a triumphant return to his hip-hop roots. Talib Kweli has built anticipation for his Blacksmith Music/Warner Bros. debut with the Reflection Eternal-reminiscint “Listen,” and Mos Def has slated a late September release date for his next album, Tru3 Magic. Nas is bringing the Def Jam machine behind him for the first time with Hip-Hop Is Dead, and Lloyd Banks’ sophomore Rotten Apple hits shelves next month. Non-lyrical staples Diddy and Jim Jones also have solo LPs on the brink, and if speculation is true, Jay-Z is coming with a post-retirement album of his own. While sales aren’t guaranteed for these new releases (and honestly, haven’t been the best for the aforementioned discs, either), it’s clear that New York is quickly trekking along, coming back like Jordan, wearing the 45.

This New York comeback has two primary traits:

First, New York is embracing the East Coast sound that stuck them out from others in the first place. Busta’s “New York Shit” was an ode to the city, itself, Ghostface’s Shaolin-scented storytelling is all over Fishscale, and Boot Camp Clik’s The Last Stand shows an impervious content with the camo-rocking, Timberland-stomping boom bap that contributed to their mid-90s run. This year’s New Yorkers weren’t flocking to artists from other areas to get the southern or western sound (Nas, Bravehearts and Lil Jon’s “Quick To Back Down,” anyone? Thought so.).

Secondly, New York is doing what the other areas have done during their meteoric rises: working together. These recent New York releases aren’t desperately garnering guest appearances from the southern artists of the moment, but instead, they’re basking in their East Coast roots. Busta’s album featured collaborations with fellow New Yorkers Swizz Beats, Q-Tip, and Nas, and veteran producer Pete Rock has contributed beats to the new albums from Ghostface and Boot Camp Clik. With new efforts from Ghostface, Meth, Masta Killah and Inspectah Deck, the Wu-Tang Clan has collectively released four solo albums (hopefully five, with the impending release of Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx 2), with each of them featuring cameo appearances from fellow clansmen. Method Man’s album not only has a collaboration with longtime partner-in-smoke Redman, but it also has a collaboration with Styles P and Fat Joe. New York MCs aren’t desperately searching for southern/western artists to give them cameos anymore; they’re keeping it in-house.

New York is on its way back. Sure, the hyphy movement has got heads checking for Keak Da Sneak, and teenagers ghostriding their whips to destruction. Yeah, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy are higher priorities for Def Jam than Joe Budden and Redman. But the foundation has been repaved.


9 Responses to “"New York, New York, New York": The Return of East Coast Rap”

  1. Anonymous August 16, 2006 at 8:41 am #

    East is bound to be back on top, NY had first, South got now, NY got next for Round 2. To make it on top NY needs to get on their Grind! Papoose & a couple others is on they grind, rest need to follow suit and stop tryna get props off credit..Show a nigga somethin
    South is on top cause they was on they grind harder.
    The last shall be first and vice versa!


  2. Anonymous August 16, 2006 at 2:02 pm #

    Um, so, would, like, Britney Spears count?

    She comes to New York, sometimes.

  3. Soopa Starr August 16, 2006 at 4:28 pm #

    I think NYC/Northeast is about to come back. While our presence wasn’t felt in the mainstream because of greedy record execs and A&R’s, we never really left. But it’s all good, NYC is back on its grizzly. And don’t forget about Consequence. I heard a few tracks from his Album and it’s about to be fire!!!

  4. Claudio E. August 17, 2006 at 3:58 am #

    I think the east coast will return, but I feel it will be other cities and not NY that will resurrect the sound. I feel Philly, DC, Rhode Island, Baltimore, Jerz, and Mass are more hungry, more diversified in their rhyme topics and are ready to pounce and this is coming from a New Yorker. Problem out here is that everyone raps about the same shit. Either you Banks or Cassidy. Why cant anyone mix being Banks or Cassidy and throw Common or Kweli in their pot too. Too many one track minds mang.

  5. JAWS August 17, 2006 at 4:16 am #

    New York is definitely on the comeback. I heard Lloyd ‘Tyra’ Bank’s album got pushed back another month, to October.

    Although Killa Season didn’t sell that well, the Dips are pushing through with more releases. JR Writer’s release just came out, Hell Rell, and Jim Jones should be coming out soon. Duke Da God got another compilation coming also.

    I look forward to hearing Papoose’s album, but I still have that gut feeling/hope that he never comes out with an album. I’ve heard too many of his singles to tell me that I will never buy an official Papoose album. I may buy a mixtape of his, but his commercial side is not what I want to hear. His wordplay is so good, but he should never be rapping on club tracks.

    This good news for New York seems good, but it is easy to overlook some of the sadder stories that we have heard about New York as of late.

    First, Busta Rhymes really should stop trying to capitalize off the death of Izzy Ramirez, even Izzy’s sister doesn’t understand why he keeps shouting out Izzy, but won’t cooperate with the police.

    Second, rappers like Grafh, Saigon, Gravy, Cory Gunz, and more have had a large underground presence, but may have trouble making the transition to commercial, if that is what the definition of “bringing new york back” is.

    Third, on the note of Grafh: Why the f*ck hasn’t ‘Autografh’ come out yet. I understand that there are label problems, but all the newer stuff that I hear from him cannot compare to Grafh two years ago.

    Fix these problems, and we will see a comeback.

  6. Nirmal August 18, 2006 at 3:03 am #

    lloyd banks sucks

  7. Tiffany August 22, 2006 at 10:53 pm #

    I’m actually very glad you wrote this piece. Everybody seems to think there is the big East/South battle going on. But it’s not. I think people just wanted something else to occupy their controversal thrist with. None the less I agree. Although the “MAINSTREAM” isn’t giving a lot of NY artist any time, they will be making a resurgence.

  8. MJG August 24, 2006 at 11:37 am #

    Great topic! While Southern artists are certainly ruling the radio airwaves right now, I don’t think NYers have fallen THAT far off the hip-hop map. Hate it or love it (no pun intended), but 50 Cent IS from NY and he DID have the #1 selling rap album last year! Additionally, there are a slew of NY based artists such as Papoose, Saigon, Corey Gunz, etc who are smashing the mixtape game right now. While I don’t think any of these cats can single-handedly “save” New York, I do believe that a string of solid releases by these artists will go a long way in strengthening NYs hold on the hip-hop charts. Couple that with the fact that there are new releases on the horizon from heavy hitters like Nas, Ghostface, Jay-Z (inevitable), Lloyd Banks, Method Man, Cannibal Ox (for all yall underground heads), etc. Remember NY, the buying public is very fickle. They’ll get sick of this current Southern movement just like they got sick of the West Coast/G-Funk era, the Cash Money/Ugghhhh era, and any other era you can think of. Yall just need to keep grinding and be ready when the time comes. Now me personally, I would LOVE to see a MIDWEST movement go down with cats like Lupe, Obie, Ray Cash, Kanye, etc kick-starting it…but maybe that’s just cuz I’m from the midwest. Anyway, that’s another topic for another day!

  9. Evolution83 August 31, 2006 at 10:38 pm #

    I’ve read a bunch of your posts (articles) and everything seems a little one sided to me. Is it because you think East Coast rap is the best in general, or is that all you know? I will agree that MOST Southern rap is a little too commercial, but there are other places and other rappers that will prove to be big, not only in the south, but all around the great United States of America. I like your style of writing, because its not always so heavily done, but its becoming one sided. Just thought I’d give my opinion.

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