When DJ Muggs started this leg of his hustle I thought it was brilliant. You go to https://soulassassins.com/ click on the music tab and it’s full of important collaborations, vinyl drops at midnight, lines crossing out the ones that are sold out, deluxe editions for digital cd and vinyl. Muggs made his releases special with unique covers that symbolized how special it was that you got to hear Roc Marciano, Mach Hommy, etc over Muggs production. Click on the clothing tab and a hoodie is a clean hundo, a snapback is fifty. It’s vitally important to not only build a fanbase but excite them. I’m becoming worried that people like Muggs and Westside Gunn have done such a great job exciting the fanbase…that they don’t have a good grip on reality anymore.
For fan contrast, if you follow Backwoodz and trust in the great billy woods to release important underground music you are likely following it the way fans followed Def Jux in the early 2000’s. You know it’s not Pop. You know this exists in an anti-platinum space. The music is too jarring, too dense to hit millions of people, you may like that…back to the cache of scarcity. The people who follow what I am referring to as “ornate NY hardcore” seem to have no idea that what they enjoy takes place in that same space. So many Twitter fingers are typing in all caps about whichever their favorite is. All the messages are something like “___ IS THE BEST RAPPER IN THE WORLD?! I CAN’T BELIEVE MORE PEOPLE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT ___” and that name might be Rome Streetz, might be Al Divino. New York has always had a hard time paying attention to the rest of the world. It’s so full of different movements spawning and growing at the same time, that eyes aren’t on Polo G who on September 24th has two albums in the top 50. Number 49 on the charts is an album he released in May 2020 (The Goat), number 25 was released in June 2021 (Hall of Fame). Two albums in the top 50, one still going strong from last year(chart info via https://hitsdailydouble.com/) and to the Ornate NY Hardcore crowd he might not even count as a rapper…even thought Polo G very much is. When they call this wave of NY rap a renaissance they are right, once you engage in it fully you can find lots of voices doing great work but it’s obvious where it’s limits are.
Chips on the table time. First week streaming sales Mozzy just released his album Untreated Trauma, it’s nineteen on this weeks Hits Daily Double charts. His last major release was Beyond Bulletproof from May 2020 hit a Billboard chart high of forty-three. Westside Gunn’s highest charting solo album per Billboard was Pray For Paris which hit sixty-seven. Mozzy has multiple albums that have blown away Gunn’s highest chart position but can’t even find a spot in “best rapper” or “best rap album” discussions. Why should he care about those discussions though? He has what none of the ornate hardcore crowd have, real reach.
My biggest concern about the movement: they have a real problem with production. Everyone is in a tangled slap fight over Daringer, V Don, Big Ghost LTD, and Muggs beats. Every new release is a combination of names I’ve heard over and over. If you ask a young person how they feel about Conway or Rome or ETO (if they know the names) they know them as old school. This is music for old timers to get that Big Noyd, Ty Nitty feeling back in their lives. The old timers take it like medicine. Mozzy, Polo G, Moneybagg Yo, are not attached to that so their fans aren’t as vigorous in purchasing vinyl and special merch drops but they aren’t restricted to a sound that is running itself down and the audience is more than just over 40 male.
My second concern (creeping up quickly) is the loss of all external context. I have Ka’s album A Martyr’s Reward in my top 5 of the year but I understand the silo it lives within. Little Simz-Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is also in my top 5 of the year. That album debuted top 5 on the UK charts and 33 on the general billboard. It is a pop rap album. The job of ANYONE that claims to know music is to be able to identify it done well no matter whether its from Nottingham or Nashville. If your ear can only identify greatness in Crimeapple and Ankhlejohn, I’m not impressed. It’s not a knock on those artists. They’ve done a great job creating an audience that lives for their music, how could they have known they would thin their interests into a stalker’s lens? Without anyone who loves this ornate NY hardcore enough to call out what prevents its growth, entropy will take it like the life of a candle.