Peter Rosenberg's What's Poppin' Vol. 1 Takes The New York Hip-Hop Scene's Pulse

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New York City rappers have been cast as something of the rap world's whipping boys for more than a few years now. Not only is it fashionable to paint the city's scene as still stuck in the '90s—that's, er, despite the man who effectively runs rap, old man Jay-Z, being pretty proud to hail from Brooklyn—even sympathetic profiles of the city's up-and-comers feel the need to ponder whether the MCs in question can break some sort of curse of the five boroughs. But this way of thinking is bunkum at best, and a cliché at worst.

But those people who've even casually cocked their ears toward the underground know that NYC rap has been doing just fine of late; a unified scene and a common vision have been slowly forming. Radio warrior Peter Rosenberg's first installment in the What's Poppin' mixtape series might not be an outright statement of hometown health, but with over half of the tape's 23 tracks showcasing artists who call NYC home, it's a timely reminder of the scene's promise.


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The Best Local Music Of 2010: Our Annual Mixtape Starring Sweet Bulbs, Marnie Stern, Sharon Van Etten, and Special Guest Hannibal Buress

Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent. This is a compilation of 2010's best local music, lovingly curated by YIMBY columnist Christopher R. Weingarten. See last year's tape here.

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R.I.P. Chris Weingarten's old blue trucker hat. Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
Have you heard the one about how the recession is over? Uh, don't tell it to New York City's musical community. While our center-of-the-universe assembly line of hype puttered on unabated, 2010's biggest up-and-comer success stories were actually beamed from the outer limits of the five boroughs--Titus Andronicus (Glen Rock, NJ), Screaming Females (New Brunswick, NJ), Phantogram (Saratoga Springs, NY), Real Estate (Ridgewood, NJ)--places where money can go to tour vans instead of landlords, where musicians aren't paying $400 a month for the luxury of sharing a practice space with three other bands. The remaining New York City indie-crossovers all benefited from frugal one-man home-recording set-ups (Oneohtrix Point Never, Matthew Dear), stripped down line-ups (the Drums, Sleigh Bells, Matt & Kim) or simply embracing the idea that sounding mushy is smarter than buying new gear (Small Black).

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Download: Skyzoo and !llmind, "Speakers on Blast"

Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

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Fuck chillwave. Brooklyn rapper Skyzoo and producer !llmind have your tape-damaged nostalgia fix without any Peter Pan hysterics or lazy mush. Their full-length collaboration Live From The Tape Deck (out now via Duck Down) was constructed to have the warm, insular feel of a late-'80s or '90s hip-hop cassette--recorded on analog synths, compressed to have that pre-Digalog wooze, and structured in that unbeatable 12-songs/no-skits formula. But nothing about Skyzoo's rapidfire flow or !llmind's lush blippery sounds vintage in the slightest. As evidenced by last year's confessional masterpiece The Salvation (and as featured on the YIMBY Best Of 2009 mixtape), Skyzoo's flow is strictly forward-thinking, an intricate and baffling stream that can jam more thoughts into one track than most rappers can muster in entire albums. Album highlight "Speakers On Blast" has the comforting feel of any number of classic New York rap records from between 1986 and 1995--those chest-caving LL Cool J 808s, the few lines nimbly reworked from Rakim, the clever Black Sheep interpolation, those rumbling Masta Ace jeep beats. But since dude is rapping circles around most New York MCs right here in 2010, it would be a grave disservice to call any of this "retro." We reached out to Skyzoo to talk about it.

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