Slava P knows what happens when you say “Tony Yayo” three times in the mirror.
Troy Ave is from New York. Even if he never mentioned this in any of his songs – which he does, often – you would be able to tell by dissecting the way he raps and identifying the individual components of his musical formula. His flow is akin to a Styles P impersonator, complete with descriptive street tales shaky punchlines. Troy Ave’s voice sounds like someone trying to rap in the same register that Jadakiss reserves for his laughing ad-lib, and his indulgence in melodies is reminiscent of 50 Cent. Troy has mentioned that he wants to become the Young Jeezy of New York, but more than anything he just wants to have enough clout to throw it around as he pleases at whoever he wants.
His newest tape, New York City is an attempt at claiming the New York throne while throwing haymakers at anyone else who has an eye on it. On “New York City” (the song – naming things is hard) Troy Ave calls Kendrick Lamar a weirdo rapper. A few songs later, Troy mocks artists who are dressing like it’s the 80s. With these two swift moves, Troy has managed to target 90% of mainstream rap artists. The problem now lies with what Troy wants to do now that people see him as a New York’s de facto savior. If he continues to simply go after anyone who says anything negative about his hometown, he risks succumbing to Papoose-syndrome and becoming an unnecessary agitator. Likewise, Troy’s failure to address – either positively or otherwise – current New Yorkers who are making a name for themselves such as Action Bronson and ASAP Ferg & Rocky, might cause him to be a solitary crab in the bucket unable to climb out.
As far as the music on New York City, it’s surprisingly well done. Those who are familiar with Troy’s Harry Powder mixtapes may have feared the insistent singing and eye-rolling punchlines that polluted the series, but the tropes are rarely used on the album. Instead, Troy balances between telling stories of his past and making music for cookouts. His narrative abilities are in full effect on songs like “Mama Tears” and “Regretful”, and while they don’t paint as vibrant of a picture as, say, Meek’s “Tony Story”, they help identify the listener with Troy’s plight.
Troy’s a drug dealer with a good ear for music. There’s no reason that Troy Ave shouldn’t be as famous in 2013 as Fabolous was in 2004. But with the New York rap scene becoming a target for critics who are crowning the South winner in the longstanding feud, it’s worth wondering is Troy is giving us to little, too late.