Kingless Throne: The State of New York City Hip-Hop

The New York Hip-Hop scene is in a state of emergency. The threat has been looming for years, and now the problem is now more apparent than ever; New York hip-hop has failed to evolve. This failure has opened the door for crooning Canadians, trendy Pennsylvanians, and syrup sippin’ Southerners to take over the scene and potentially eliminate the New York scene altogether. As a New York hip-hop purist, this is a very frustrating situation. As everyone knows, New York City birthed hip-hop and reigned supreme for decades as MCs and groups like Nas, Jay-Z, KRS-ONE, Wu-Tang Clan, Bad Boy, and Mobb Deep dominated local and national airwaves. Throughout the nineties and the early part of the 2000’s these artists, with their gritty lyrics, unparalleled style and charisma, and classic albums made it safe for a fan to declare New York City the “mecca” of hip-hop. But, damn things done changed. On a national level, New York MCs are nearly irrelevant. Granted, artists like Fabolous, and to a much lesser extent Vado have enjoyed some national mainstream success, they can’t even sniff the level of popularity artists who were dominating the media held two decades ago. In fact, most New York artists don’t even get played on Hot 97, arguably the biggest hip-hop station in the world and based out of New York City! Many will argue that Jay-Z is the undisputed king of New York, but how much longer can the city as a whole hang its hat on a 40 year old MC who is six years past his prime? Despite the fact that Hov can still rap circles around any MC he continues to feature with (see Drake’s “Light Up”), New York hip-hop fans cannot seriously expect him to usher in the new era of New York hip-hop.

Motherfucker this ain’t back in the days, but you don’t hear me though….”

New York hip-hop is stuck in the past – that’s not to say that there aren’t talented artists floating throughout the boroughs – but the lack of innovation on the behalf of these artists is disheartening. The “punchline” rapper still reigns supreme in New York, and yes, these artists have some strong catalogs but will never make noise with an LP on a national level. Why? Because “punchline” rappers were hot nine years ago, people need change; it’s human nature. What the scene needs, more than anything, right now is some competition and rivalry to breathe some life into a nearly deceased brand of hip-hop. However, with no clear cut MCs, and certainly no rival crews at the top of New York, that wish for competition may never be a reality.

There’s no disputing that old school rappers continue to put out quality albums. Raekwon’s “Only Built For Cuban Linx II” was one of the better efforts put forth in recent years; but the album sounded like it was recorded in 1995, not 2009. For someone like me, that is perfect, but for national recognition, hip-hop fans across the nation need something new, especially with the internet providing all forms of hip-hop at a persons finger tips. What hurts the most is the failure of these older heads to stockpile talent over the years and keep the New York hip-hop scene buzzing on a national level. Rarely do you hear of an affiliate making noise on any level, let alone capture the attention of a national audience.

Artists like ASAP Rocky and Action Bronson, whose basically the by product of Big Pun eating Ghostface for dinner, are definitely steps in the right direction for New York. Unfortunately, I, as a fan, don’t feel comfortable with either of them potentially sitting at the throne as the King of New York. Somewhere out there in the Five Boroughs is an MC (who is hopefully reading this post) is crafting his skill and style and prepping himself to explode on the scene both locally and nationally. But until then, I’m gonna keep listening to The Infamous and reminiscing on the good old days.

Notorious B.I.G. – Things Done Changed

– Pete