Far Rockaway, Queens MC Stack Bundles has a song called, “Temper, Temper” in which he says of the state of New York hip-hop, “The only movements moving are the Unit and the Dips.” Welcome to New York City.
There aren’t exactly tumbleweeds blowing down Broadway, but there are some issues. There are many reasons why G-Unit and the Diplomats are successful (even if they’re successful on very different levels)—the purple, the vocab, the superthug-as-superhero mythology—but they’ve both cut the cord and sonically and stylistically left home, shrugging off (for better or for worse) the city’s rich rap history, and pulling that most New York of moves: starting from scratch.
Which leaves New York, as a scene, in the shadows. This time around there’s no major beef. No coastal friction. The average rap fans—which at this point is the same as saying the “average pop fans”—in New York and everywhere else don’t care that much about 50 and Fat Joe, or whether Jim Jones rolls with Game or not. People rock Young Jeezy’s Snowman T-shirt on 125th Street in Harlem. They want to hear the best songs no matter where they come from.
So what happens to young New York rappers, those who are caught in the no man’s land between what sells and what they grew up thinking real hip-hop sounded like? Some are trying to take back hip-hop’s hearts and minds with a defiantly traditional New York sound and vision that’s sprayed across a seemingly endless stream of mixtapes, demanding that people come to them. And some have realized that the only route to success is one of compromise.