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What's Up With Hip-Hop's Obsession With the Suzanne Vega Hit "Tom's Diner"?

YC the Cynic
YC the Cynic

Last week, Bronx MC YC the Cynic unleashed his brand-new Oliver Eid-directed video for "God Complex," the debut single from his forthcoming Kickstarter-funded release GNK, produced entirely by Frank Drake. A notable element of the song is YC's incorporation of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" into his flow. A favorite tune of hip-hoppers for many years, we spoke to YC about his new video, successfully funding his album through Kickstarter, and his opinion on some of our favorite "Tom's Diner"-channeling jams.

What's the story behind "God Complex?" A lot of people think it's a song where I'm praising myself, but it's kind of a microcosm of what the album GNK was supposed to be from the beginning. Without giving too much away, it's the juxtaposition of these three titles that I'm given as a young black male and how they're all so different. This song, in particular, is attacking that aspect of having a god complex.

The visuals in the video are really eye-catching. Who came up with the concept? I don't want to take the credit, because I don't remember, but my director Oliver Eid is a genius. I met him through email. He hit me up as a student at NYU and he just wanted to work. He just came to me all at once. I had the song and the green screen and he did everything else. It's all Oliver Eid.

When originally working on the song, did you envision using the "Tom's Diner" melody when recording it, or did you have the lyrics and the flow fit? I think I had the melody first, and that just happened instantly. I always wanted to use it somewhere, it just fit so perfectly. I felt like if the beat was pop-esqe and I could take the pop-esqe melody and really put some meaningful lyrics behind it. It would come off fresh and unique, rather than just biting Suzanne Vega.

How did you enjoy the process of doing the crowd-sourcing? Kickstarter is such an emotional roller-coaster. You start off on such a high because everybody is excited and it shows you the actual support than you have, especially when they give you more than what they would pay for the album. Then, it dies down for a week or two and you start to get nervous that you aren't going to make your goal. You don't know what you can do, you don't want to annoy people on Facebook anymore, you don't want to have to hit people up in person. As the clock winds down, you get a second wind. People realize "Oh, he doesn't have his goal and doesn't have a lot of time, let me help" and at the end of the day it really builds your confidence in people wanting to hear what you have to say, but it is stressful.

 

Here are YC's thoughts on our trip to "Tom's Diner:"

Nikki D 1991 "Daddy's Little Girl" "Nikki D! She was killing it. I like to see female MCs repping. She had this LL vibe a bit, but female. Was she talking about being loose? What was happening there? Is she being promiscuous? OK. I will say, do whatever makes you happy, but as a father I would be upset."

2Pac 1996 "Dopefiend's Diner" "This was so unexpected! I did not know he made that. I feel that nobody talks about this song. He's singing through the whole thing! That song was so dope just because it's 2Pac stepping out of his comfort zone and it's an ill ass story. He did use that flow throughout the whole thing and it did get a little bit boring, but it's so dope to hear 2Pac in a different light."

Meen Green 1997 "In Da Wind" "This joint is so gangsta. Makes me feel like i'm on the West Coast. In LA in a Cadillac watching the palm trees. Shouts to Jazze Pha."

Felt 2002 "Suzanne Vega" "The beginning was a little shaky to me. But man, I didn't know how nice Slug is. Never really heard him. We all know Murs is the man, but Slug. Good stuff."

Gorilla Zoe f/ Sean Kingston 2009 "On the Corner" "First of all, Gorilla Zoe. It's been a while since Ive heard some Gorilla Zoe. AND Sean Kingston. This is smoove. With a -ve. There's something a little strange about hearing Suzanne Vega's flow to talk about hustling. But it's cool."

BONUS BEAT: Nick at Nite 1995 "Jeanie's Diner" "This was too great. Suzanne Vega plus Nick At Nite plus a hip-hop break beat. You can't really go wrong."

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