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  • 22Feb

    One mouse click too many killed rap music. Thoughts on New York hip-hop in 2012…

    Global culture’s acceptance of a wholly digital future has created a unique paradigm shift for rap music. The internet’s ability to democratize access has violated the order of a plethora of long-standing industries, rap music and hip-hop culture possibly the most intriguing of them all. Hip-hop began in New York City. The genre’s style and mannerisms already existed in the city’s fabric, and through inherently ear-worming rhymes and rhythms slowly insinuated themselves into the universal mainstream. As hip-hop culture went regional, New York City still remained the genre’s standard bearer. As New York’s definition of what hip-hop could become evolved, those definitions shaped the rest of the hip-hop world. From Run-DMC influencing NWA to Def Jam begetting No Limit, New York has always reigned supreme. However, if one were to seriously regard the state of New York’s 2012′ offerings to hip-hop culture, it could be the signal that a new order has arrived.

    The internet’s influence over everyday life is beginning to grow at a frightening pace. According to YouTube’s own data, the site is visited over three billion times a day, with nearly three days worth of content uploaded every minute. Clearly, the internet existing as an infinite universe used in the finite everyday realm is a wild moment of sea change. This notion has a clear bearing on New York’s stronghold as the cradle of rap and hip-hop. When the world was merely finite, the establishment of standards created an uncomfortable norm. Wanted to be in hip-hop? The easiest mode for success was to observe the culture through a Big Apple-shaped prism. Variations existed, but they were all directly or tangentially related to a clear and recognizable norm.

    Enter A$AP Rocky. If New York rappers rapping in an organically New York style over organically New York sounds define the genre for the universe, then hip-hop’s old rules clearly no longer apply. 23 year old Harlem native Rakim Myers is a historical anomaly. 2012′s hip-hop freshman cause celebre, he’s entirely a product of a digitally-enhanced generation. Stylistically influenced by the likes of southern and mid-western emcees  Three 6 Mafia, UGK and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony  His sing-song flow meanders over syrupy production that owes far more to Swishahouse than Swizz Beatz. Rocky’s 2011 released inaugural single “Peso?” Clearly a historical point of permanent deviation from the norm.

    It’s absolutely true that artistic definitions are not properties based in static construction. The idea of “New York hip hop” being Kurtis Blow playing basketball is anachronistic in 2012. However, we can state that every time that dominant New York  hip-hop messages travel around the world, the concepts eventually return back home. Once hip-hop returns to NYC, it’s new intonations are absorbed, the strongest of those viewed through the aforementioned “Big Apple Prism,” and then released to the universe. A$AP Rocky corrupts this now irrelevant ideal.

    A$AP Rocky is currently the king of New York hip-hop. His style is not a dominant answer to the world’s most current take on the sounds originating from the five boroughs. Instead, it’s a nuanced and democratized take, not aware of any historical precedents, but aware of only itself. New York’s never been stared at successfully by the hip-hop prisms of Cleveland, Houston or anywhere else for that matter. Now that it is doing so? A surefire sign that things done changed.

    If Chinua Achebe were describing this situation, he would say that everything fell apart and the center no longer holds. If A$AP Rocky were describing this situation, he’d advise us all to “quit with all the fronting, you ain’t round my clique for nothing, ’cause our presence is a present, just to kick it is a blessing.” Me? I’ll lament the mouse click that shattered hip hop’s “New York Prism,” and acquaint myself with the realities of a wholly digital age.

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