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With 2013 drawing to a close, we checked in with eight New York rap artists who contributed notable releases to the schedule and pressed them for their own take on how they felt the year in hip-hop went. Read on to hear what Homeboy Sandman, YC The Cynic, CJ Fly, Steel Tipped Dove, the Doppelgangaz, J57, Billy Woods, and Uncommon Nasa thought about the last 12 months in rap, along with their hopes and predictions for a fertile 2014.
– The 10 Best New York City Rap Albums of 2013
Highlight of 2013: Performing on a packed out yacht in crystal clear Croatian waters with all types of fish frolicking to and fro and all types of bronzed bikini clad party-goers frolicking to and fro during the Soundwave festival.
Your most underrated song of 2013: I’d have to go with “Musician.” It got fat love and I’m very grateful for the love it got, don’t get me wrong, it’s just you know how anything on EPs (as opposed to LPs) tends to get a bit slept on nowadays.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: I wouldn’t go as far as wishing I’d made it myself but the hook on Open Mike Eagle’s “Qualifiers” is one of the freshest things I’ve ever heard in my whole life.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: An underground (a/k/a integrity driven) show selling out Gramercy Theater on January 18th, with a rise to household name status for all the people on that flyer, plus KA (who you actually put me onto) and SFTTM (whose music I will now put you on to over on his Bandcamp site). Also, a high profile and authentic breeding-ground platform, perhaps with a rejuvenated push from the legendary Lyricist Lounge.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: More people hearing my music. Same as every year, just get me some ears and I’ll do the rest.
Plans for 2014: White Sands drops Feb 24th, that’s an EP produced entirely by Paul White. It’s like nothing I’ve ever released. Then we’ve got the full length coming in the summer, as yet untitled (scrapped titles have included Noble Savage and The Golden Ratio.)
YC The Cynic:
Highlight of 2013: When Hannibal Buress asked me to perform at the fourth anniversary of his comedy show. A lot of my favorite comedians were there, plus artists like Elle Varner, Talib Kweli, and ?uestlove; he showed love, which was awesome. Amy Schumer (who I have a low-key unexplainable crush on) showed love. But as soon as I got off stage, Chris Rock got on. We were all mesmerized. And it resulted in one of the funniest pictures I’ve ever been a part of.
Your most underrated song of 2013: “Negus.” It’s such a powerful record and a powerful flip on an old phrase. The beat is hypnotic, and it has two of my favorite verses. I’m gonna push that song for a long time.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: Definitely “Wiseman” by Frank Ocean, which is one of the most beautifully written songs I’ve ever heard. And “Party” off Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. That’s my favorite song right now.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: I would say I want there to be more unity, but I’ve learned that the people that are really talented are cool as hell. So I think that’s more of an outside-looking-in perspective. So I guess my answer is simply I want the NYC rap scene to make more and garner more attention. Because there are a lot more people who are incredible here. Other than that, I don’t think of it in regions.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: Money. Don’t let your favorite artist fool you. What’s the best advice for an up and coming artist? Get more money. It costs a lot to be successful. It’s an investment.
Plans for 2014: I just want to continue to push GNK to reach its full potential, and work on the follow up with Frank Drake. I’ve learned what I did wrong on the business side and the next one will go that much farther. So, I’m really excited about it.
Steel Tipped Dove:
Highlight of 2013: My own personal highlight is a bit obvious, haha — the Crazy Motherfuckers mixtape was such a pleasure for me. It taught me a lot of things about collaborating, marketing and stuff like that. But really, it was just so amazing to be able to put that thing together with so many talented artists and have it actually see the light of day.
Your most underrated song of 2013: “Neotropical Vacation” by SAFE and Lakutis. This thing should be played on radios worldwide — it’s unlike any other song vibe-wise.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: Bill Dings’s albums Untouchable and Jawn Dough.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: I would like to see people link up more. Work in small but talented groups. like on some union shit.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: Money or free PR.
Plans for 2014: I’m excited about my instrumental audio collage album called Nothing Touches the Ground Here which will come out February or March. Also Lakutis’s album which drops in January — that’s going to be dope as hell. And I hope SHIRT out of Queens drops some stuff we worked on too — that guy is awesome. Also looking forward to the dude DVS dropping some gems.
Highlight of 2013: Definitely a lot. The touring, dropping HARK and completing Peace Kehd [the next album].
Your most underrated song of 2013: “Skin Yarmulke” may have gotten lost in the sauce, but we love that song. A true embodiment of the Dopp.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: Probably “Versace” by Migos. The style was so new and fresh. To be able to make an impact like that was pretty impressive.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: To see people stop mentioning NY and start making cool stuff.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: A guest performance spot on Jimmy Fallon would be the tits!
Plans for 2014: The new album Peace Kehd, BFBV3, and maybe more!
Billy Woods (of Armand Hammer):
Highlight of 2013: I have to say getting Dour Candy and Race Music out in one year and having them both be well received by fans was really rewarding. If I had to boil it down to one moment, maybe rocking this year’s Yule Prog at Paperbox in Brooklyn and having it be a success and being able to ring in what was a great year for me artistically with a bunch of my peers and an enthusiastic crowd.
Your most underrated song of 2013: I am torn between “Patra” on the Armand Hammer mixtape Half Measures and “Lucre” on Dour Candy. “Patra” because as an album type cut on a mixtape it’s naturally going to be overlooked and “Lucre” because conceptually that song was a real challenge. Shout out to Henry Canyons — I wrote that in his crib in LA and he had to listen to that beat over and over.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: “Blame The Devil” by Elucid.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: I’d like KA and Roc Marciano to do a show together, live, in New York. I have told them both this in person. Some promoter out their needs to make it happen.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: Touring. I really need to do the US and overseas.
Plans for 2014: 2013 was pretty hectic. I can’t really call it. I know Willie Green and Elucid are both working on LPs that hopefully I can be a part of, but other than that I’m just recharging.
Highlight of 2013: Working with Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest and Buckshot on my debut project, #THEEWAYEYESEEIT.
Your most underrated song of 2013: “The Error,” the last song on #THEEWAYEYESEEIT.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: “Whole Crew” by Lil Bibby. It’s not a secret — I need that beat for the remix.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: Pro Era and the whole Beast Coast movement (Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers) to be respected and viewed as the next big forefront of the NYC scene.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: Murking a few mainstream artists with my feature verses on their own songs.
Plans for 2014: A new Pro Era project and more videos for #THEEWAYEYESEEIT.
J57 (of the Brown Bag Allstars):
Highlight of 2013: It’s a tie between a few things: having a sold-out headlining show on my birthday while on tour in Europe; Red Bull bringing Koncept and I out to LA to record our album at their studio with them; Koncept and I having our first meeting with Interscope and them being interested; and being asked (this week) to work on the next Roots album.
Your most underrated song of 2013: Being that 2013 was easily the best year of my life, personally and career-wise, I was extremely lucky enough to have had great exposure on just about everything released with my name on it — except for one song that I was shocked didn’t receive a lot of attention because I personally love it. The song is J57, Booda French and Koncept’s “Full Bottle.” Booda French, Koncept and I toured Europe this year and the name of the tour was the Full Bottle Tour — so we decided to make a little posse cut after having a successful tour together.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: It’s funny, in 2012 I would have had a short list of those types of tracks, but this year there were only like one or maybe two that made me say, “Damn, I can’t do that.” And I think for me that was A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” because Hit-Boy is a genius producer and Rocky really made me a fan with that one.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: I’d like to see the current divide disappear. There’s a divide between young and older artists as well as a divide between boom-bap hip-hop and trap-influenced hip-hop in NYC right now. I’d really love for everyone to shut their mouths and just make music. There needs to be a balance — it can’t all be just one lane because that’s boring and horrible for the culture, the music, and the listeners.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: I’m not going to say who it is, but one of the top five biggest rappers in the world recently reached out for beats, so I’ve been steadily working on production specifically for him. It will be career changing when he takes a beat (or more) from me in 2014.
Plans for 2014: 2014 is going to be the year that everyone finally gets to hear this big unique sound that I’ve been working on for years now. So far nothing with that sound has dropped yet — not one song — but 2014 will be all about that when we drop Koncept and J57’s Flight LP, Koncept and J57’s The Fuel EP, and a Soul Khan LP produced entirely by me. I’m beyond proud of these projects and I promise the sound is original, powerful, digestible and nothing that anyone is expecting. The boom-bap purists will love it just as much as a die-hard pop radio fan.
Highlight of 2013: Yule Prog 7. I got to see so many incredible acts all in one night including Breeze Brewin rock “Romper Room” and his new stuff. Perfect cap to the year.
Your most underrated song of 2013: “Background Check.” It was designed to be an album cut and not a single structurally so I can see why, but the subject matter is something that I think anybody can relate to.
Song from another artist you wish you’d made: “Old Friend” by Quelle Chris and Cavalier. Time travel, death and life cycle examinations, de ja vu; kind of Serling-esque and right up my alley writing wise.
What you’d like to see happen in the NYC rap scene in 2014: We need more of what I’d call middle-class venues. So venues that have legit sound systems, stages and lighting but aren’t at capacities that are un-attainable for the underground. We also need more venues that have a love for hip-hop and respect the culture and its history and importance in this city. That’s how the scene can continue to grow again.
Thing that would help your career most in 2014: More word of mouth. Does word of mouth lead to more press or does more press lead to more word of mouth? I’d like to think it’s the former. The best thing that can happen for me is that people hear my stuff and tell a friend to tell a friend.
Plans for 2014: Working on a new album called New York Telephone. I produced a ton of it along with Messiah Musik who did stuff with Quelle Chris and Armand Hammer in 2013; Black Tokyo, Agartha Audio and Skribe1 also contributed production. Don’t want to drop the cameos yet, but this album is about my life coming up in NYC in the ’90s and ’00s and the guests reflect that.