Did Fat Joe bring NY back to National Radio from the South?
Once upon a time in Hiphop there was the East side (New York) and the West side (LA). The South was always there from the beginning with legendary groups such as the Geto Boys, 8Ball and MJG, UGK, and even controversial (for the time) Miami based 2LiveCrew. Later there was OutKast and Goodie Mob really generating sales and putting Atlanta (the future “capital” of Hiphop) on the map for good. For all this exposure still the south seemed like the underdog, while huge megastar status was usually reserved for artist in NY or LA. Mostly NY to be honest. After all it is the birthplace of the Kulture, the B-Boys, the Graffiti, The Pioneer DJ’s. Where the were kids spinning on their heads and writing their names in giant multi colored letters on public property more than anywhere else. While the West coast had NWA, Snoop, Dre, and Tupac (actually from NY) among others, the New York list is a bit bigger. Biggie, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, Nas, Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, Big Pun and many others all had hits on rotation. Even KRS-One had a billboard hit on mainstream radio with “Step Into a World”. Though Cash Money Records had hits with Lil’ Wayne and Juvenile with “Bling Bling” and “Back That Azz Up” the south was still a region of minor focus. NY proved that it had the numbers and attention more than anywhere in the Hiphop world. It’s artists had the longevity thru the decades and the crossover appeal to stay on the charts. To be king of NY meant to be king of the Hiphop game. Until the Southern explosion occurred. Artists like Ludacris, T.I, 3 six Mafia, Lil’ Jon, T-Pain came smashing thru switching up the flow and production style. Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ John, Gucci Mane, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Lil’ Flip (remember him?) and (Young) Jeezy became household names. Screwed and Chopped remixes of everything. Lean. Slow hi-hat filled 808’s. Highly localized indecipherable slang. Trap. Not that it strayed so much from the topics you find in rap songs anywhere else. Everyone was rapping about money, guns, cars, clothes, jewelry, and hustlin’ from every corner of the Hiphop world. It was the entire structure and criteria that had been changed. New artists took pride in having no connection, aspiration or even respect for the original (NY) rap. Not even wanting the title of MC or rapper this generation rejected the notion they were even artists or story tellers. Rapping ability was not a major concern; more important was that you said what you did. Being a rapper doing dirt and channeling the experience thru an artistic persona was replaced with a hustler that makes music to directly translate his exploits in a literal sense. In other words metaphors, role playing or messages thru storytelling declined in popularity. Rapping strictly as yourself and what you do, how much money you make, and how many women you get because of it became the desired and respected product. The creative advantage became unwanted and obsolete. It remains like this today no matter where a rapper is from. The original NYC sound and cats that still progress with it are seen as throwbacks or nostalgic. What were once considered (and still by many) strengths and points of pride turned to weakness and outdated approaches as the south grew stronger. It so remains today. To get the ear of the average Hiphop consumer you gotta do it like they do in the south. Even Drake all the way up in Canada rocks a suspiciously southern drawl in his delivery courtesy of his “mentor” ‘Lil Wayne. All the above mentioned components plus some auto-tune and a Lil’ Uzi Vert feature if want to get on the playlist. It may sound sarcastic but it is as such. Many even take joy and delight declaring that NY Hiphop is dead or dying and some artists use their platform in interviews and social media to publicly ridicule the whole sound altogether. For some time the attention of the Hiphop world has been off of what happens in New York. Until recently that is, now that “All the way up” by NYC legend and Hiphop pioneer Fat Joe (feat. Remy Ma and French Montana) continues to bang thru stereo speakers at clubs, cars, and radio stations. What is important here is that Joe is not just a longtime MC/Rapper. He is a former Graffiti all star in his youth, founding member and CEO of the longstanding Hiphop organization Terror Squad, holds a seat in KRS-Ones’ temple of Hiphop and contributes to communities of inner city youth as a public speaker. He is a businessman, father and entrepreneur, a man of integrity and responsibility in his own right. Not to say he is soft on any account. Joe is as real as you get. He wouldn’t be able to make the claims he does for the years he’s been doing it in the toughest spots this side of the world if he was just a studio gangsta. In an era where the new artists attempt to portray NY pioneers as dinosaurs, Joe proves a man in his mid forties can have the hottest joint without face tattoos, cough syrup or mumbling. He stays true to his style and even though the beat is slow and the hi-hats are plentiful, it has that gritty NY feel that has been missing from the hits for a while. The song currently is getting remixed by every rapper coming up just as much as any Panda. Without compromise Fat Joe has brought the attention back to NYC with this one. To be honest are we surprised here? That a man with a true foundation in Hiphop Kulture and massive recording experience can outshine cats half his age and twice as popular? It shouldn’t be such a shock. Would you expect anything less from a man who used to break into train yards and write CRACK across whole subway cars as a teenager?