The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—is a little jam-packed today, with six matches on the docket. (The schedule and results so far are here.) This time out, we head to the Queens division, where Nasty Nas takes on the New York band whose early career served as a portent for the Internet hype cycle, the Strokes.
For all the “Queens Get the Money” ‘s and “N.Y. State of Mind” ‘s, the track in which Nas most decisively pegs himself as the quintessential New York musician might be “Surviving the Times,” the memoiristic Greatest Hits extra that begins with its narrator admiring his pal’s Honda NSX and ends with him signing to Columbia and releasing a multi-platinum debut. That debut, of course, remains one of hip-hop’s milestones, one of the few records that everyone from the regional thugs to the science-dropping backpackers claim as their own, a collection of ten nearly flawless tracks that survive not only their times but also the mountains of praise that have piled on top of them.
Leaders of the garage-rock revival and international poster children of cool, few bands have made as much of an impact on New York’s music scene (not to mention jean jackets, models and Heinekens) than the Strokes. Is This It may have gotten its bearings by way of imitation, but has grown to become an inimitable classic, no matter what the criteria. Room On Fire and portions of First Impressions of Earth proved that reinventing the wheel was not only unnecessary, but plain misguided for bands that have the tunes to back it up. Sure, they could’ve been Gen Y’s Velvet Underground, but in years they’e seemed happy settling for the Cars. But you know what? They still absolutely crush it live, and their back catalog contains some of the best rock and roll tracks of the past decade. (And Angles was actually pretty good.)