New York City hails itself as the birth place of hip-hop, an area that claims it has produced the best rappers and still dominates discussions in terms of who runs the genre regionally. Their radio stations matter, if an artist from another city goes there to perform, it’s a big deal. Despite all of the grandiose notions about NYC hip-hop, it’s most promising rookie at the moment doesn’t even sound like a NYC hip-hop head.
ASAP Rocky represents Harlem, which according to Diddy is the swag capital of the world. Rocky is different in some areas. He doesn’t tweet (although his fan handle @LIVELOVEASAP does), thought selling drugs was stupid so he stopped and by and large has developed a cult following thanks to his flow & cadence. That flow? An elongated stutter step where everything is punctual, made to be understood in its simplicity, not for complex. He can dance around a beat with the best of them and despite everything about him that screams another Texas rapper, he still gets “HARLEM!” chants the same way Vado does.
Rocky’s music is perfect for the new age wave of screw culture and how it’s territorial markings in Houston have evolved all over the globe. The druggy mindstate has now gone pop, appearing on shelves in forms of carbonated drinks, R&B singers with rapper mentalities and more. There’s a glaring issue with this however. Can you name a Southern rapper who at present time is the titan of all things “purple swag”?
You can’t. Because that guy’s actually from Toronto.
Houston’s never had a real problem with people making fun of what we do and then jacking our slang (c. Jay Electronica). It’s a city that marinates beef within itself far more than what outsiders think. For Drake, it may be a far more open ended debate on whether or not he truly “fits in” with screw culture. He palms two Styrofoam cups in the same vein as say a Killa Kyleon or even a local upstart in Doughbeezy, makes constant references to Houston hip-hop, grey tapes, DJ Screw and more but it’s the way he does it. Most in the South will quickly congratulate him on such a thing but it’s the sort of culture poaching that gets overlooked time and time again.
Let it be clear, all of the constant pandering towards Southern hip-hop heads fits Drake’s MO. I don’t hate his music, nor do I hate Rocky’s as both of them create audio moments that will take you somewhere for three minutes without any care in the world. Drake has carved a lane that mixes the drab yet precocious nature of somewhere who doesn’t get fame with the drugged out alternative of excess and cough syrup. Without one or the other, Aubrey Graham in a hip-hop sense would be another rapper from up North that is witty. In shorter words, he’d be a light skinned Fabolous.
"Pimp flows, screw flows / my shit soundin like grey tapes."
Most appreciate his music, same with Rocky’s for at least showing the world the culture that still controls how most think in Houston or Texas in general. Despite what many may thing and how many different representations sprout up, the world still believes Texas is trapped in a time warp even when Drake makes references to its forefathers. Still, in order for it to be known by a Texas cat, someone else that may not even have a Lone Star State ID has to tell you such. Running with said culture for one song, ala Kendrick Lamar on “Blow My High” from Section.80 is one thing. Building a career off of it is something far more different, just like when Fat Joe turned Southern for half of the last decade.
They used to laugh at the style. Now? It’s seen from sea to shining sea with different models and press kits, all outfitted with the same starter package and instruction manual to respect UGK, Geto Boys and more.
Weezymania truly kicked off when bloggers & writers past the Mason-Dixon line confirmed what Southern rap heads already knew, Lil Wayne was going to be something. Maybe not the pop monster he is today but something. When he switched his style up and became more intricate in wordplay and non-sequitirs, the hipster (before it became hipster) media rejoiced. It was almost as if he walked into a room with a golden tongue in a country that only produced silver ones. Phonte spoke on this five years ago and David D. of The Smoking Section unearthed it once more about the newfound fascination and truly, it translates just as well now as it did then.
50 Cent sounded Southern thanks to a gunshot wound to the face and rode it to success. By some shrewd extension, he’s the last big thing New York produced (unless we’re really counting Nicki Minaj) and while he was a muscle bound bully with charm, take away the muscles and guntalk, add a grill and a snapback and what do you have? Rocky. Attempting to place a direct definition on what attributed to the climate change may be moot but in 2011, I can barely tell where regional rap ends and begins.
Maybe the stew of Southern hate & discourse died once New Yorkers discovered Tumblr & social media. Bridges have been built, sounds have become blurred and many in Texas will scream, “When will those from my spot be heard?”