January 15, 2015

As much as we malign rap for sport and clicks, it’s a solid sign for the genre’s health when the capitols are flourishing. LA and New York and Chicago and Atlanta are all amidst minor renaissances. This isn’t anything new, but the popular perception of New York as an overrated convalescent home feels obsolete (at least rap-wise). As Brian Josephs pointed out in his end-of-the-year piece, there currently exists Shmurda and Azealia, Ratking and A$AP, Roc Marci, Ka, Armand Hammer, Homeboy Sand, and The Underachievers, offering a balance of young and new, slick and raw, otherground and mainstream. Few of you like all of those names, but fewer will deny that they can all rap well — the first mandatory rule in New York, lest you get PM Dawned.

Then there’s Bronson, as round and affable as a Bialy–the sort of character Joseph Mitchell was writing about 60 years ago. The kind of guy my grandfather bought weed from and then smoked it with him in the pre-wax era. A guy like Bronson is made to go on Funkmaster Flex and decapitate. The sort of guy who came up on Clue tapes and the 60 Minutes of Funk volumes. He was built for this. Give Mr. Wonderful the “Keep It Thoro” instrumental and you already know to duck — TVs and broken ribs thrown everywhere.

In the lead up to his major label debut, Bronson takes the newly freed Big Body into Hot 97 to carry on the venerable tradition of NYC goonery. Then he proceeds to spit flames in a Teal jets hat. It seems impossible that no one had ever rhymed “hymen” with “Frankie Lymon,” but there you go. The first single was cool, but this is Bronson in his element, screaming “Queens in the Building,” shouting out Alchemist and Carmen SanDiego. This is why you loved New York rap. This is why you still can.

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