Written by Sam Bakare
Remember when it was cool to be from New York? Music dictates the culture and in the past couple of years, New York has been in the backseat of this Southern-dominated state of hip- hop. Some would argue that New York is alive and well with the likes of artists like A$AP Rocky and French Montana representing the city. The problem with
this notion is that these artists and other New York rappers do not have a home base New York sound. Rocky sounds like he’s been sippin’ lean and tippin’ on 44’s in Houston all his life while French Montana sounds like he dealt drugs in the trenches of Atlanta’s Zone 6. The Big Apple yearns for a sound that’s an entirely native, by an artist who is also native. One rapper that has stepped up to the plate and has taken full responsibility for the restoration of the classic New York feel is Brooklyn’s own Troy Ave.
In 2013, it is hard to deny that Troy Ave is one of the most promising, uprising artists in hip-hop today. Also known as Harry Powder, Troy Ave, raps about his experience grow- ing up in the streets and his road to success. Though he raps about hustling and violence in the streets, labeling his music under the umbrella of “coke rap” would be outright insulting. He brings a variety of elements to the table that cannot be
measured within a specific category. His hustler mentality is second to none, as he has made his mark in the game solely by staying true to himself and delivering his message.He started garnering a buzz in 2006 in his local Brooklyn neighborhood, but the real recognition emerged when he released the third installment of his three-part mixtape series, Bricks in My Backpack 3 in 2012. The project was well received by critics. Com- plex magazine credited BIMB 3 as one of the best albums of the year and Pitchfork gave it a 7.5 out of 10 rating. Troy Ave’s takeover did not stop there. He appeared as a guest feature on a collection of tracks for notable artists such as Fabolous and Pusha T. His highly anticipated debut album New York City: The Album recently released and it is Troy’s way of cementing himself as New York City’s new front-runner.
The album begins with the intro titled “Classic Feel”. Here, Troy effortlessly raps over the Mally The Martian produced track. His flow over the Mafioso-sounding track is relentless; he rhymes with a hunger we haven’t seen since the days of Get Rich or Die Trying. From the onset of the album, Harry Powder wastes no time letting listeners know his mission: to restore the feeling of NY rap. The album flows well collectively throughout. The album-titled track “New York City” features legends from the mecca of hip-hop. Troy Ave teams up with Raekwon, Nore, and Prodigy for this ode to raps, “dirty cash bought my matte black Jeep,” referring to the vehicle seen on the cover of the album. With this, Troy is showcasing his authenticity to the audience by placing his actual car on the album cover and not being ashamed in letting his audience know how he managed to obtain the vehicle. He could have rented a quarter-million dollar car for the campaign but that goes against he represents.
“Cigar Smoke” is the smooth sailing track every great album needs. Troy recruits fellow Brick Squad Boys (BSB) affiliate King Sevin for the track. Neither of them disappoint, with Troy reaffirming his place in the New York rap, “we don’t wear tight ass clothes, we don’t do down south beats/ that ain’t New York, I’ll restore our identification cause d*ckridin’ never been a form of transportation.” He displays his frustration with The Empire State. Everyone on the track brings their A-game to the surface and the collaboration is one for the books. Ave New York rappers sounding like rappers from the South but reassures his city vowing to stay away from that lane. A Troy Ave project wouldn’t be complete without heavy drug-related subject matter. Who does Harry Powder call when he needs assistance for such a cut? King Push himself. Pusha T is Troy
Ave’s co-conspirator on “everything.”
They both deliver sinister verses on the DJ Uneek-produced track with Pusha T outdoing Troy on the track. Pusha raps painlessly “bricks in my back- pack/scale in my black matte/n*ggas don’t talk on the phone, they could tap that.” It should be noted that Pusha T is the only feature on the album that is not from New York City. The standout tracks on the album include “Hot Out,” a tribute to summertime in Ave’s borough produced by Scram Jones. Another track that cannot go without mention is “Show Me Love” featuring Tony Yayo. The song is an obvious ode to 50 Cent’s “In The Club.” There are some songs that the album could have down without such as “Divas and Dimes” and “Im That N*gga;” these tracks are lost in the album and simply do not seem to fit in.
Overall New York City is one for the books. It is the only album released in the past 10 years to have an entirely New York sound all the way through. Troy Ave does not compromise his position for anyone and that is why he appreciated by hardcore rap fans. Troy Ave is the char- ismatic drug dealer from Brooklyn and he may just be what a lost city needs to resurrect the uniqueness and individuality that it once had.