Last year a small, underground pocket of NYC-based hip-hop found its voice again. With Roc Marciano's unimpeachable Marcberg album as the catalyst, a crew of loosely associated artists shook off that tired cliché about our city's commercial-outsider status and, for the first time since the height of the Dipset era, reaped the dividends of pulling from their immediate environment. They dropped tracks paying tribute to graffiti culture, rattled off rhymes about various Queens neighborhoods as if reading from a street map, shot videos on the type of deli-and-produce-stand-populated blocks you walk down every day, and, fittingly for a city where everyone's an amateur chowhound, embraced a recurring culinary sub-theme: mixtapes titled after ghee, say, or raps mentioning pan-seared tilapia and heirloom vegetables.
Roc Marciano, leading the charge
There's no snappy, collective tag for the sound, and no sense that the whole thing's about to be co-opted by major labels and established artists. It's not led by teenagers, and there's certainly no quirky signature dance. But that all just adds to the organic charm. It's healthy hearing local artists celebrating the city around them -- consider it the aural equivalent of shopping at outer-borough mom-and-pop stores, rather than indulging the big-box invasion of Manhattan. Here, then, are the five leading rap acts chronicling the authentic sound of New York in 2011.More »