There have been a lot of questions surrounding New York City's hip-hop scene lately. No one can dispute the Big Apple's contribution to the culture and music — hip-hop was birthed in the confines of the five boroughs, after all. But some fans and critics now charge that NYC has lost its musical identity.
Brooklyn newcomer Troy Ave says that fans don't need to look any further. "I'm the identity," he proclaimed when he hit "RapFix Live" on Wednesday. "I'm the identity — Troy Ave — that's a fact."
A number of New York artists have blamed local radio, charging that stations like Hot 97 and Power 105 don't do enough to support hometown rappers, showing more love to their out-of-town counterparts. In October Rap Radar content director, Brian "B. Dot" Miller, got into a heated debate with Hot 97 program director Ebro Darden over radio's responsibility to break new and local hip-hop acts.
NY veterans Maino and Jadakiss also recorded an underground song titled "What Happened," where they come up with a number of theories about why New York isn't as dominant as it once was in rap. Then, of course, there were all of the heated responses from local acts like Papoose, Joell Ortiz and Uncle Murda after Kendrick Lamar suggested that he was the "king of New York" in his verse on Big Sean's "Control."
French Montana and A$AP Rocky have successfully emerged out of the five boroughs but it's notable that their sounds have a Atlanta and Houston influence, respectively. "Yeah, French be sounding Southern. He got the twang and the turn-up thing 100 percent," Troy said when asked about the origins of Montana's flow.
Lack of radio support, internal city beef and a tendency to adopt Southern rap sounds are just a few of the reasons some say New York is no longer in prime rap position. That's not to discount the impact of rising hometown acts like Joey Badass, Action Bronson and Mack Wilds, but NYC has definitely lost ground in recent years. But Troy Ave had a simpler answer: "I think it's people not making good music."
On Tuesday, Troy released his independent debut album, New York City, and over the course of 17 tracks, he spews gritty street raps over bass-heavy, sample-based beats. "Hot Out" recalls the break-beat sound that became synonymous with 1980s rap, while the Tony Yayo-assisted "Show Love" is a nod to 50 Cent and G-Unit's mixtape reign of the early aughts.
With the LP's self-titled single, "New York City," the buzzing MC calls for more innovation in NY rap. "New discussion, New York artists wanna be Southern/ The city's lost, so out-of-towners find themselves fronting," he rhymes.
"What I think, with a lot of other people [they're] not coming with nothing original," Troy explained. "That's why I got the endorsement deal with Adidas. Their slogan is: 'I'm an original.' So, I'm an original."