March 18, 2014

camron-vado-highline-ballroom-may-5-2009-wireimageEvan Nabavian is in the danger zone.

Vado ranks somewhere between Red Cafe and Jae Millz on the ‘NYC Rappers I Don’t Care About’ power rankings. This circle of rappers usually makes nondescript 201X radio rap with shades of Bad Boy, Roc-A-Fella, Dipset, or D-Block. These guys are as wack as they are generic, but if we’re being honest, the Roc Marcianos and Kas that we champion around here aren’t about to unite the city on some Ghostbusters 3 shit. A New York anthem with broad appeal is more likely to come from one of the few NY rappers with national reach – A$AP Rocky, French Montana – or from a local guy like Vado on a lucky day.

I first heard “Be Like” in the backseat of a cab on the Lower East Side when the F train was broken. It’s a chest-beating call and response banger patterned after Black Rob’s “Whoa!” from 2000 where regal strings recall the larger than life sound pioneered by Puff Daddy and the Trackmasters. Amid the nostalgia, Vado makes the record his own. He substitutes Black Rob’s “whoa” with his signature adlib “huh” and brings his own slang and flow. There’s also a fun hook where the ladies get to do their own “huh”s. It’s an NY anthem even before he roundly shouts out the boroughs; “Be Like” has the hard-nosed self-assurance and urban claustrophobia that permeates the city’s music. It’s what separates Irv Gotti from Yo Gotti. New York’s hip-hop stations have caught flak recently for not giving local artists enough shine, so I imagine Funkmaster Flex is happy to get a true New York record that’s actually worth playing. New York stand up / Papoose for mayor.

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