Beautiful Noise: The New York Rap Roundup, August 2017

Alphonse Pierre breaks down the best in New York rap for the month of August.
By    August 30, 2017


Alphonse Pierre is all about that bacon, egg, and cheese…Mario!

WikiNo Mountains In Manhattan

I can picture Wiki’s “Made For This” in my head. The triumphant Tony Seltzer and Adrian Lau production sounds like late New York winter, when the weather is starting to brighten up, but still shitty. Wiki walks into the bodega as the beat settles down for a couple of seconds so Wiki can yell out his most important words of the day, “Mario, c’mon let me get that bacon, egg and cheese right quick!” This all happened within the first 40 seconds of the Ghostface Killah featuring track and it’s what makes Wiki’s music resonate with me. When you hear people talk about New York everyone has a different interpretation, but with Wiki his interpretation is the same as mine. We live in the same New York.

His last solo project, the stellar Lil Me, felt like the middle of summer in New York where you spend the whole day on the handball court or some shit, and late at night that white tee you have on is black around the edges from dirt and sweat. No Mountains In Manhattan was released at the perfect time. It feels like season changing music where everyone is sick and the weather is unpredictable. One day you’re in a hoodie, the next a t-shirt, and who knows, a week later the bubble jacket is out.

Let me make a couple of things clear, this is the best project of Wiki’s career (including Ratking) and not only is it the strongest New York project/single/video in August but 2017 in general. Okay, so where do we even start? Wiki’s homage to stickball? The two tracks where Earl Sweatshirt laid down the keys? No, Wiki is unpredictable. Let’s talk about his biggest risk: the Your Old Droog featuring “Litt 15” where Wiki makes a call to the best of Chicago footwork and gets a jazzy DJ Earl Teklife beat. DJ Earl slows it down a bit more than he’s used to but still, when was the last time you heard a rapper on those murky double time triplet drums? Vince Staples somewhat on Big Fish Theory, but not to this extent.

Where do we even go now? The self produced “Nutcrackers?” The sample is beautiful. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel like I’m on Coney Island. Not new cleaned up Coney Island where the amusement thinks it’s an actual theme park; No. Dirty ass Coney Island where you might step on a needle on the beach and shrug it off. Wiki also says on the song, “Just got out of school I’m yelling yerrrrrrp now (yerrrrp).” That ad lib makes me look over my shoulder, I feel like one of my teammates from freshman year of high school basketball practice is calling me as I walk down the steep Staten Island hill to tell the Bodega owner “Please, turn on the grill and make me a 7PM bacon, egg and cheese.”

Then Wiki goes into “NMIM” and the beat is slightly depressing. Stop reminding me of when I left to go to college in shitty upstate New York, those keys just scream bad decisions at me. What about “Wiki New Written?” The RandomBlackDude (Earl Sweatshirt) beat is so simple and soothing. This feels like something Action Bronson would rap over with its lack of drums, but this is better because it’s Wiki. “Eat a bagel while a pig eat a donut/Watch him slow up.” I wonder what type of bagel Wiki was eating, but I can picture this entire line; thinking, ‘Why the hell are the cops driving so slow by me? I’m just a kid who likes rap music and making fun of prestige television on Twitter. You got the wrong guy.’

No Mountains In Manhattan is amazing.

Smooky Margiela Features on Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy

Yes, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 has most of the same plaguing issues as the first Cozy Tapes. It’s too long, dull, and the A$AP crew is dragged down by dead weight. A$AP Rocky, who continues to try to expand his AWGE brand, decided to add a few new artists to his circle, namely Playboi Carti, Key!, and 15 year old Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 show stealer Smooky Margiela. Smooky, who Rocky considers his rap protege, has been generating buzz over the last year, but it accelerated after he received a Rocky co-sign. Although new to many, Smooky was given a prominent position on Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, being featured on four tracks and adding a much needed youthful energy to the going-through-the-motions A$AP Mob.

On “Black Card” Smooky gets a chance to take the lead using a flow where he sounds like a high pitched Kodie Shane as he belts out “black card black card” in a controlled pitch. The track, which features an extremely weak Rocky verse, is only kept alive by Smooky’s incessant charisma. On the overcrowded haunting posse cut “Grab the Bag,” where the Mob competes for who can have the best “I dress nice as fuck” bars, Smooky easily wins in a short under-30-second verse. The verse begins with Smooky enthusiastically hopping on after A$AP Twelvy drowsily whispers a bunch of nothing into a studio mic, “Ski mask on me so them niggas can’t trace me/Car so fast when I skrrt they can’t chase me.”

Smooky then continues exhibiting his passionate sound effects second to only Carti’s on the tape, “Hope out the Rari go vroom.” Smooky’s best feature on the tape is on the Slade Da Monsta produced “Bahamas,” where Smooky gets an opportunity to follow Schoolboy Q. Once again, his verse is short but he makes the most of it. He starts it off with one of the realest lines on the project, “I never been to Bahamas/A nigga done been to the projects.” Smooky being the standout on a track that features Rocky, Lil Yachty, Schoolboy Q, and Key! is impressive and young rappers dream of opportunities like this. Rocky said his plan is to have Smooky perform at the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, and while that is probably not realistic, massive things are ahead for Smooky Margiela. Wait, scratch that. See you at the 2018 Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards in a silk two toned durag, Smooky.

Nas Blixky & Skrell Paid– “All of My Life”

The Blixky Boyz continue to make noise in the midst of an increasingly crowded Brooklyn scene and standout Nas Blixky is beginning to separate himself. Admittedly, Brooklyn’s rap scene is bewildering with a large number of rappers all on an equal level and the intimidating amount of long running rivalries (imagine your first WWE event being WWE Summerslam, you would have no idea what the hell is going on). On “All of My Life,” Nas Blixky does his best to take a step that most in the thriving Brooklyn movement have not, which is adding a melodic component to his song making, and hopefully it will push him closer to becoming the face of a scene that badly needs it.

Reminiscent of Lil Durk in Chicago’s drill scene years ago, Nas Blixky brings a vocal lightness to a scene built on intensity. The Skrell Paid featuring track also happens to include one of the catchiest hooks in Brooklyn at the moment, “All of my life I been in the field committing these sins/I’m chasing this bag I’m running it up I need everything.”

Skrell Paid’s rapid fire flow fits perfectly over the bass heavy production and one of the most fascinating aspects about collaborations in the Brooklyn circle is that there is no holding back. During a Zack TV interview, Nas Blixky spoke about how even when he and his friends perform on tracks together, there is competition internally. They’re motivated to one up each other and it’s one of the elements making every rapper in this scene improve swiftly. “All of My Life” is bound to be one of the next major songs in the movement as Nas Blixky establishes himself as a massive presence in Brooklyn rap.

Jay Critch– “Speak Up”

The hottest rapper in Brooklyn right now is Jay Critch. His flow, his association with both Rich the Kid and Famous Dex, and his prolific music video output has put him on everyone’s radar. His venture into crooning on the Nick EBeats (of Fetty Wap “My Way” fame) produced “Speak Up” is a successful one, as the autotune is minimal, which was a smart decision as it doesn’t drown out the New York cadences in his voice. In his floral themed music video (I hope Jay Critch appreciates a nice garden as much as I do), Jay Critch and his quickly becoming popular dance moves float over the comforting production.

The slight addition of autotune does make Jay Critch’s chorus sound more polished, as hopefully his rough and on the fly hooks are a thing of the past. Jay Critch adding high pitched ad libs that instantly become infectious are satisfying inclusions to his repertoire: “I’ma pull up and I’m flexing on purpose (Flexing on purpose)/Aye, I’m smoke this jat and get honey bourbon (Honey bourbon).” Hopefully, Jay Critch continues down this route, culminating in an end of the year debut project, but whatever he chooses to do, his path to the 2018 XXL Freshman seems to have no roadblocks.

Yung LunchBox– “Mad As Fuck”

New York’s Soundcloud scene over the last year has gone from non-existent to showing signs of life. You have A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie who was one of the first New York rappers to actually become a star on the platform—as he is a mainstay of the Soundcloud charts. There’s the previously mentioned Jay Critch who has begun to garner praise, and Desiigner (whose career seems to be working backwards) is building himself back up on the site.

But there are tons of smaller artists worth mentioning, and one is teenaged Harlem rapper Yung Lunchbox, whose 16YROLD featuring, and self-produced track, “Mad As Fuck,” caught my attention. The track, which sounds like it was recorded in Lunchbox’s closet (I’m a fan of music that sounds like it was recorded while a fan was blowing directly into the mic), is enjoyable because it reminds me of Soundclouds past, where the tracks were more lo-fi and raw; because at the time the site wasn’t riddled with labels throwing money at anyone with a VLone t shirt. It’s fascinating watching artists build themselves from the ground up and having 16YROLD in your corner, who has become one of the most prolific producers on the platform, doesn’t hurt. Also, fuck…His name is Yung LunchBox.

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