there’s nowhere like new york and there’s nothing like hip hop

Hold back! A new generation of rhymers and producers are re-energising New York City, the home of hip hop. Some are harking back to the 90s, others are inventing their own new subgenres, but one thing they have in common is right now they’re the future!

by Hattie Collins
18 December 2013, 5:10pm

From Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash in the 70s, to Bambaataa, Lyte, Roxanne Shanté, Run DMC, LL, PE, Rakim and The Beastie Boys in the 80s, to BIG, Nas, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang in the 90s, the left-side musings of Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Jean Grae to Ja Rule, DMX, Dipset and Fiddy Cent in the late 90s and early 00s, New York's stranglehold on hip hop is indisputable.

Hip hop has always been about providing the voice for the voiceless, while having a massive big show-off about clothes, cars and chicks at the same time. Other cities/ genres might occasionally seem a bit more glamorous or exciting, they might be "the new hot spot" or "the new sound" but each time we return to where it all started from: New New York. Remember, it ain't where you at, it's where you're from. Or something like that. "New York has never left, it's always been there, it's not like anyone's 'bringing it back,'" growls Action Bronson, "it's just that motherfuckers are paying attention now."

Phony Ppl
16.05, Macon St/ Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY
The energy and creativity that surrounds Brooklyn 7/ 8/ 9 piece (it appears to depend on the day, with past collaborators and members including Theophilus London and Dyme-A-Duzin) is palpable. This is a group that refuses to be constricted by size, genre or type. "We're like New York; a melting pot," says MaffYuu, the Ppl's drummer. Elbee Thrie, lead "vocal rhymer cos we ain't rappers" agrees. "We're a group of people who at any given time can write, perform, and create an entire song. We then write, produce and score a movie about it. We might play an instrument, do a photoshoot, looking pretty and then go do a show. We're a melting pot of personalities and hopefully a lot of people can relate to that. There's one of us for each of you!"

New York's Greatest of All Time?
Notorious BIG. And let's not dispute Jay.

New York's most underrated?
Big L and Big Pun.

Which fellow New Yorkers would you most like to work with?
Jay-Z, Spike Lee, Mos Def and Talib Kweli.

Tweet @phonyppl

Action Bronson by Zach Wolfe

Action Bronson 17.25, 44th/ 6th Ave, NY

"Growing up in Queens in the 80s and 90s was interesting. It's not your normal type of place. There are a lot of different things going on. We used to all hang out at the local park; playing basketball, handball, cards, everyone would have their boombox out, smoking, drinking, chilling, summer time shit. I've been writing since '99. I started rapping after I broke my leg and I couldn't work as a chef for a few months. Now I'm a rapper. I hate it when people try to break down my lyrics to three things: food, weed, bitches. Yes, there's talk of eating things lavishly, there is talk of bitches, and talk of weed, but it's so much more than that. You have to really listen. It can't just be a casual listen. There are a lot of layers, a lot of stories..."

New York's Greatest of All Time?
Period, it's Kool G Rap.

New York's most underrated?

Tweet @actionbronson

Bishop Nehru
12.45, W125th/ Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Harlem, NY
16-year-old Markell Scott, AKA Bishop Nehru (the first name a nod to Tupac's character in Juice and the last to India's first Prime Minister), has already worked with MF Doom and DJ Premier and opened up for Ghostface and Doom at London's 100 Club. His debut mixtape, Nehruvia, belied a rapper far beyond his years, with nimble-footed nuances, complex wordplay and an ability to be both cocky and vulnerable all at the same time. Not only a rapper of great promise, the 90s influenced upstate New Yorker also produces and directs. Beats what we were doing aged 16 (smoking Silk Cut and drinking litres of Strongbow, basically).

New York's Greatest of All Time?
I gotta give it to Nas and Tupac, cos he's from New York too. But I'll say Nas because he's the better rapper. Tupac was passionate with his lyrics, but Nas is, like, incredible.

New York's Greatest Rap Crew?
Wu-Tang. The way they came out, and the obvious intelligence. They seemed ignorant to people but if you listened to what they were saying, they were really smart, intelligent people.

New York's most underrated?
Either AZ or Big L.

Which fellow New Yorkers would you most like to work with?
Other than Nas and the old heads, Pro Era and Underachievers.

Tweet @bishopnehru

Bodega Bamz
18.45, 114th/ 1st Avenue, Jefferson Park, Spanish Harlem, NY
"If you want to know who I am and what I'm about, listen to my song Don Francisco from the Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z mixtape because it represents me. Me, my brother Ola and my producers created a new genre called Latin Trap and when you hear that record you'll know you haven't heard anything like that before. Trap is a struggle to me; trapping in the crack house, getting money. Being Latino, I added my own twist to that, my own sound. I take pride in that.

New York's Greatest of All Time?
In order to be the greatest you have to be great at everything. The only rapper from New York that's great at everything is Jay-Z. He's sold millions of records, he's been in the game for 20 years, he's still relevant, he's still fucking amazing and he's still married to Beyoncé!

New York's most underrated?
Big L. You got to understand Big L was before Cam, before Ma$e, he was the one.

Tweet @bodegabamz

12.25, Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY
A one-time member of Phony Ppl, and a contemporary of Capital Steez (RIP) at Edward R. Murrow (alumni includes Seinfeld, Basquiat, Busta), it's inevitable that 21 year-old Donnovan Malik Blocker would end up in the creative industries. His amazing debut mixtape A Portrait Of Donnovan roams from his absent dad (Father's Day) to the Harry Fraud highlight Memories to the Joey Bada$$, Steez and CJ Fly assisted Swank Sinatra. "Swank to me is a way of living, it's a state of mind," explains the Beast Coast affiliate. " I'm very inspired by Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and the way they brought soul and fashion to their music. I want to bring that to the present."

New York's Greatest of All Time?
Jay-Z. He's the undisputed rapper in general. It stretches beyond New York. It's global.

New York's Greatest Rap Crew?
I was a real big fan of MOP but you got to go back to Wu-Tang cos they all stood out so much.

Pro Era
15.30, Havemeyer/ N7th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Needing little introduction, Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew are credited, along with The Underachievers, A$AP Mob, World's Fair, Dyme-A-Duzin and the Flatbush Zombies, with ushering in the Beast Coast Era to hip hop. Think Zulu Nation 3.0. Despite losing founding member Capital Steez last December (RIP), the crew are stronger than ever, readying the next Pro Era tape and Summer Knights, Joey's follow-up to his debut mixtape, the boom-bap based, attention grabbing 1999.

New York's Greatest Rap Crew?
- Pro Era!
- Flatbush Zombies.
- Mobb Deep.
- Wu-Tang. Who's fucking with Wu-Tang? No one.
- G-Unit.
- What? Wu-Tang is like twelve 50s put together!

Tweet @joeybadass_ and @thefckingera


Text Hattie Collins
Photography Zach Wolfe

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