2012 has been something of a renaissance for NY rap. After many years of ignominy and anonymity, the scene seemed to blow up, following late 2011's lead (with releases from now-major-players A$AP Rocky and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire) with Nas' critical and commercial return to form, as well as stellar efforts from some young pretenders.
Here's a run-down of our top five discoveries coming out of NY this year...
A consummate rapper's rapper with seemingly infinite flows, the 17-year-old Brooklyn native's mixtape “1999”dropped amidst a practical fugue of expectation and cut through it like a samurai through warm fudge. A killer combination of packing each line with enough syllables to leave Stephen Fry tongue-tied, a superlative line in beat choices (his mixture was laced with Freddie Joachim, MF DOOM and Dilla bangers) and a marketable look, an album must surely be imminent (so expect to hear more from him).
Big Baby Gandhi
A contemporary of alt-rap faves Das Racist (he's signed to DR rhymer Heems' Greenhead imprint) and fellow South-Asian American rapper, Big Baby Gandhi (aka St. John's pharmacology student Nafis Islam) has a knack for rap and a stand-out voice. The Queens-raised Bengali MC's candidly-homemade mixtape “No1 2 Look Up2” serves him better as an old-fashioned demo of what is to come but what with his penchant for spitting oft-hilarious rhymes about everyday shit with such nonchalance that he almost seems bored, Gandhi is set to be a divisive figure in hipster-hop for years to come (that is if he doesn't jack it all in for a real job before then...)
A slight cheat as his album came out late-2011, but it'll be hard to find a voice as instantly recognisable as Wiki's for quite some time. With rhymes for days, the technically-sound Manhattan native Wiki already has the music video down pat, with the moody, Eric Yue-directed video for his track “Wikispeaks” bursting onto the scene in early March. Not destined for the mainstream, due to looking like a cracked-out Vinnie Chase and sounding like a nasally Puerto Rican Eminem, but depending on your tolerance for his voice, the 18-year-old Wiki might just turn out to be the great white(ish) hope for underground New York. As for his debut mixtape “1993”, the download links for it seem to have slipped off the face of the earth and given how little is still known about the rapper, you wouldn't be THAT surprised if he did too...
Another member of Joey Bada$$'s Pro Era clique, STEEZ boasts a more easily-listening style than Joey, favouring clarity and thematics over style-for-the-sake-of-style. By no means a slouch on the mic, the Brooklynite had the good fortune of dropping his mixtape “Amerikkkan Korruption” (the title a nod to the classic Ice Cube album “Amerikkka's Most Wanted”, a telling reference given his crew's propensity for running rings around retro beats) before that of his partner in rhyme, a dazzling effort which sees him flow over yet more eclectic sounds, ranging from jazzy MF DOOM efforts to hard-hitting classic-NY bangers. If he is ever to step out of his illustrous brethren's shadow, he could more than hold his own.
Children of the Night
A three-piece rap outfit schooled in the ways of that old boom-bap. The Queens native's choice to take on the illustrous history of their borough was a brave one, given the calibre of what came before, but their March-released mixtape, the aptly-named “Queens... Revisited”, picks up where such luminaries as Nas and Mobb Deep left off, with a beautifully-produced mixtape with flows just sloppy enough for you to picture them right there in '95. With each member's voice and flow distinct enough to differentiate between (a major factor oft forgotten by rap groups this young) expect big things from Children of the Night if they can keep it up.
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