You're Not Paying Attention to New York's Most Exciting New Rap Scene
Bobby Shmurda's imprisonment left a hole, but his influence is being felt more than ever in the music of new artists like Sheff G and Blixky Boys.
Sheff G e Corey Finesse nel video di "No Suburban Remix" via YouTube
New York has been clamoring for a new rap scene. Three years ago, Bobby Shmurda and his GS9 crew lit up the city's streets with a rare kind of buzz, representing a rarely seen side of Brooklyn. It was a scene where Haitians, Jamaicans and West Indians as a whole were embraced, where the teenagers who were creating this movement had little care about anything in the world other than making money by any means necessary and dancing while doing it. The city that birthed hip-hop was back at the center of discussion. And then, in less than six months, it was over, halted by a now-infamous police raid. Most people assumed the momentum Bobby Shmurda and GS9 had created in their neighborhood would wither away, and that seemed even more likely after the long prison sentences everyone in the group received. But the dent Bobby Shmurda made before his imprisonment was enough to influence an entire culture.
In the years following Bobby Shmurda's rise, New York artists like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Young M.A, and most recently Cardi B have been able to make names for themselves. But each has come up mostly as a self-contained presence, and there is no one sound or scene that ties them together. Meanwhile, the previous generation of artists—loosely defined as those under the Beast Coast umbrella that contained A$AP Mob, Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers—have transitioned into adulthood and carved out successful touring niches. The new scene in Brooklyn, based primarily in and around Flatbush, is fresh, as well as thematically and sonically united, with its own ecosystem of artists and media driving it. YouTube channels like Flowtastic TV, So Dope Entertainment, and WeTheMovement have been giving platforms to younger artists, posting often gritty videos usually filmed in a single location such as a park or outside of the projects.
A few standout artists have begun to emerge, such as Curly Savv & Dah Dah, 22Gz, Sheff G, KJ Balla, and Blixky Boyz. Musically, the clearest influences are Chicago drill (specifically the work of G Herbo and Lil Bibby), Meek Mill, and Bobby Shmurda; the production is the direct offspring of artists like DJ L and Jahlil Beats. Yet although some of the inspiration has come from outside of New York, what makes this movement special is how it has embraced the city.
These artists have a certain cockiness and attitude that only come from growing up in a New York culture that has charisma unlike anywhere else in the United States. The ruthlessness, the careless behavior, the dance moves, and slang (specifically "Gltttttt," a phrase meant to mimic the sound of gunshots and uttered in nearly every song) has made a movement that some have unfairly dismissed as a drill rebirth something entirely its own. The energy is similar to when The Diplomats first exploded onto the New York scene; they weren't doing something that hadn't been done before, but they blended elements of culture's outside of New York while maintaining the intangibles of a New York artist that made them special.
The challenge for the budding scene is that it's suffering from quarrels within and an inability on the part of some of the artists to stay out of prison. It is heavily intertwined with gang culture, and with that comes the chance that the whole movement is one major crisis away from falling apart like GS9 before it. This also differentiates it from much of the New York rap scene, which is older, more mature, and mostly beyond the stage of their life where consequences are an afterthought. Yet with the right approach and the right luck, the artists in this new movement have a chance to be much more than a niche; they could have the whole country belting "Gltttt." The following are five of the key songs defining the scene.
22Gz – "Suburban"
At the center of everything is 22Gz, whose breakout song "Suburban" delivers puns and threats in a rapid-fire flow that blends both the styles of Meek Mill and G Herbo while bringing his own unique cadence to it. Unsurprisingly, 22Gz once said the rapper he wants to most work with is Meek Mill. "Suburban" was produced by AXL Beats, who has become one of the scene's go-to producers through posting "DJ L, G Herbo, and Meek Mill type beats" on YouTube and Soundcloud. His is a name to get used to, and 22Gz's could be, too—if the rapper can shake the recent legal troubles that have landed him in prison.
Sheff G and Corey Finesse – "No Suburban Remix"
The current anthem of both New York and the central Brooklyn movement is the remix of Sheff G's track "No Suburban," which features former GS9 rapper Corey Finesse. Initially a response to 22Gz's "Suburban," it has since taken on a life of its own, thanks to Sheff G's deep voice, which many have mistaken for a British accent, and natural charisma, which has made him the breakout figure in the scene. The Corey Finesse feature for the remix is also key, as he has become a popular face for the Brooklyn scene, making multiple appearances on New York radio and repping hard for Haitian culture despite the fact that he himself is Jamaican. In a twist of irony given its backstory, the song is also an AXL Beats production, containing his signature drum kicks and church bells.
KJ Balla – "Cookin' Up"
KJ Balla's "Cookin Up" is an example of this scene's versatility, showing that the sound can quickly transition from violent songs structured around threats to charismatic and exuberant dance songs. KJ Balla's flow is more traditionally New York than either 22Gz's or Sheff G's, and his strong verse is notable for a song aiming to creating a dance phenomenon. It may be just the key, though, for this track to reach an audience outside of the boroughs.
Curly Savv and Dah Dah – "Double Body Bag"
Curly Savv and Dah Dah are two of the spearheads of the Brooklyn movement, with many people crediting Dah Dah's "Gang Gang Gang" for igniting the whole thing. Curly Savv and Dah Dah bounce off of each other over production by A-Jay Beats with a chemistry like that of G Herbo and Lil Bibby at their best. They fit into the New York lineage, too, though, with strong enunciation reminiscent of Fabolous. Plus, 50 Cent has said he wants to work with them.
Breezy Blixky, Nick Blixky, and Nas Blixky – "Different Type of Time"
The Blixky Boyz—these three are just a few of the whole group—are affiliated with 22Gz, and they have been creating a ton of buzz in their own right. The video is a look into Brooklyn featuring tons of signature style and dance moves straight out of the Rowdy Rebel handbook. Again produced by AXL Beats, the track features flows like G Herbo's or Meek Mill's—or not unlike 22Gz's. In the wake of 22Gz's imprisonment, the remaining Blixky Boyz have become extremely popular, and this track has potential to be the next major song of the movement.
Alphonse Pierre is a Staten Island-based writer, and, no, he's not affiliated with the Wu-Tang Clan. Follow him on Twitter.