New York Rap: State of the Empire


Bed-Stuy’s Maino comes to the game a little older and maybe a little wiser than Papoose and Stack. As Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly” blasts out of a souped-up station wagon, testing the speed limits of BK’s side streets, someone says, “Buck murdered this shit.” Maino responds, “All them niggas murdered it.”

“My career is only two and a half years old,” Maino says. “I was in prison and I came home and got right into rap. I came home at the height of the crunk era, 2003. The South was dictating policy. Which is fine. That music is in my car right now. But I’m from Brooklyn. I’m from New York. What am I supposed to do?” What he did was look for the middle ground between banging in a white tee—making club music to throw a bow to—and honoring the tradition he grew up with by playing the NY corner in a Carhart jacket. “The labels see that New York doesn’t really have its mojo right now. There’s no reason why dudes like Papoose and Stack Bundles shouldn’t be signed. I’m lucky.” Maino may be lucky to be a new New York rapper signed to a major, but he’s also doing something different, something that the other two haven’t figured out just yet—he’s making songs. On tracks like “I’m Different”, “It’s Working” or his underground hit “Rumors”, he shows off some of the same qualities that made 50 Cent a money-printing machine—a sharp ear for beats, a knack for executing concepts (even if those concepts are as simple as “let’s get this money”) and an ability to make every line, no matter how pedestrian the subject matter, pop. “I’ve never been the most lyrical cat. I come from the school of thought that’s just, Let me make good music,” Maino says. When he talks about New York hip-hop, he sounds like he’s running for office, and on Marcy Avenue in Bed-Stuy, when Maino hits the block, Brooklyn seems to come alive. The younger guys outside of the bodega all give him knowing pounds and start catching up with him, a random drunk tries to get into his car, and little kids embrace him in knee-high hugs. Maino gets love in the hood, but he knows that hood love is not enough. “Instead of trying to be super lyrical and out-rapping each other, we need to make better songs, bigger hooks,” he says, his voice rising. “Record companies will tell you, ‘Yo, 50% beat, 50% hook. We do not give a fuck what you are saying in between.’” It’s a revelation that doesn’t bode well for those who excel at everything in between. “We can’t just make freestyles,” Maino says. “That’s not what’s going to be in the Top 40. The average fan is not a lyrical connoisseur. In order to win our city back, we have to give the people what they want.”

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POSTED January 25, 2012 7:45PM IN FEATURES Comments (6) TAGS: , , , , ,

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  1. veaukab says:

    How can you talk about the resurgence of NYC rap without giving Action Bronson some shine? Dude is true school. The state of matters for hip hop in the birthplace is definitely a vital discussion – after all, it’s telling that the NYC rapper with the most blog love is ASAP Rocky, who is biting that down south stee hard – but you definitely can’t talk about New York rap and not at least mention Bronson’s “Dr. Lecter,” which is definitely the most crucial NY album in years, right next to the last Exquire mixtape. Also, how does hipster rap fit into the paradigm of NYC’s hip hop culture. Das Racist is getting theirs even if they don’t get any love in the ‘hood. What does the reformation of Company Flow at Coachella mean in regard to all this too? Co.Flow was slept on while everyone else was jiggy with Hov. Does their new found resurgence stem solely from the longevity of El-P or is it a signifier that middle school NY underground is coming back. Tyler’s “Yonkers” sounds like rehashed Gravediggaz, and OF is stupid large right now. What does that mean for the sonic aesthetic of hip hop in the next couple years? This is a good piece, but I think you missed some stuff that would’ve rounded it out to be a better piece.

  2. Naomi Zeichner says:

    This story is from our magazine archives and was written in 2006 :) Great questions!

  3. Pingback: 1|26|12 Daily Industry News | Oratory of Sound

  4. Ross says:

    veaukabI agree with you a whole lot.

    I’m down south and it hurts to see NY riding off the sounds from down here because I grew up listening to NY stuff. I don’t want two of the same worlds.

  5. Cold T. Honeybee says:

    Good piece, it’s kind of strange to see that the least impressive rapper is almost always the first to “get on.” With regards to veaukab’s post about the current state of New York hip-hop I’d first respond by saying that making a distinction between “hipster” rap and rap is an asinine undertaking. All rap, or music for that matter, is considered “hipster music” for at least a while before being swallowed up by the American free market and becoming a part of our culture. Kid Cudi was considered hipster rap, now he’s simply a failed actor/struggling “rock” musician. Exquire, Action Bronson and Rocky have all been incubated by the same “hipster” blogs and although it seems like Rocky is enjoying greater success, their fan bases’ are probably incredibly similar.
    to respond to some of your other proclamations and questions:
    - action Bronson isn’t a good enough rapper to overlook the ghostface similarities. whenever I try to listen to action’s music I always end up listening to fishscale or supreme clientele.
    - company flow’s reunion will have absolutely no impact of the state of hip-hop.
    - das racist is a joke and not a very good one. their aim is to be subversive and funny but the music rarely is.
    - “yonkers” as a rehashed version of gravediggaz is an interesting, albeit recycled, idea. first and foremost, no one fucks with prince paul. secondly, paul’s production is sample based and rarely uses synthesizers. obviously, “yonkers” has a very “gully”, new york-y, boom-bap drum beat and the incessant, detuned piano is somewhat reminiscent of the constant hiss of “2 cups of blood.” lyrically, yes they’re both talking about morbid shit, but I think that Tyler’s influenced more by Em than by GD. Tyler’s music is an inversion of rap cliches (hella meta bruh), and although Goblin was incredibly disappointing, Bastard is miles ahead of anything released by any of the rappers that you mentioned. It’s my assertion that New York rap became irrelevant because the new heroes of New York rap began looking like carbon copies of the city’s old lyrical heavyweights.
    - you didn’t mention Azealia Banks.

    Additionally, I was wondering if Fader has any editorial internships? I’m currently working on a piece about Chicago rap with an emphasis on King Louie, Iceface Da Goblin and Monster Mike. Holler at me Naomi ; )

  6. Pajama Rich says:

    This article bringin me back. Rip Bundles.