N.Y. State of Shame

Yesterday’s blog had the brightness of an Esham record, which I apologize for; when something’s front-and-center in your head, it’s tough to maneuver around the elephant in the mind. Even though my topic today isn’t necessarily for the laughs, it’s much more pleasant to digest. The mirror is still pointed inward, though, and this time it’s a result of my last XXLMag.com blog week. For those who recall, I put together a couple of regional-specific posts—the first, reminiscing about Pete Rock and Marley Marl’s “Future Flavas” radio show, and the second, a collection of my favorite storytelling rap songs of the weirdly-conceptual kind.

I’d thought both would be immune to the anger of the commenting sect, but then a strange, unexpected thing happened; I was accused of perpetuating an apparent East Coast bias on this site. My first reaction was one of disbelief and self-defense. But then, the more I thought about it, the accusation brought me back to 2004, when Democratic candidate John Kerry lost to George “Dubya” Bush—or, American history’s biggest dumbass—in the presidential election. I’d lied to myself throughout that entire race; here I was, living in New Jersey while working in New York City, both areas predominantly liberal. Of course Kerry was going to wreck shop in the nearby polls. So when Bush started whooping his ass on election night, the U.S. map on CNN covered in red all over the South, I was stunned. Not as much by disappointment, but by the shock of my ignorance. “Shit,” I thought, “I really am NY-centric. To my own narrow-minded fault.”

Which brings me back into the hip-hop side of things. As hard as I try to tell myself it isn’t the case, I really am overly partial to the New York sound. There’s always my love for all things Outkast, Scarface, N.W.A. and Hieroglyphics, but when it comes down to it, I’ll always pick the Skyzoo album over the Lil Boosie disc. People keep telling me to fuck with those new Nipsey Hussle mixtapes (and I do, because the guy can definitely spit), but midway through I can’t resist the compulsion to switch the iTunes over to Apathy’s Wanna Snuggle? (Ap’s from Connecticut, technically, but his sound is truly Eastern-minded; and that new album is serious, for the record).

All of this leaves me to wonder: why can’t I completely embrace a new Gucci Mane song? What is it about the NY sound that works best for me? I love all hip-hop, and my CD collection wouldn’t be over 1,500 deep if I’d only copped albums from my neck of the woods over the last 15 years. In fact, I had MC Ren’s “Behind the Scenes” on repeat for hours yesterday. So I’m not close-minded; I’m just a rap head who’s fortunately self-aware enough to acknowledge his downside.

It’s funny, because my older brother and elder cousin used to bang West Coast records over my head back when I was in grade school. Especially tracks by Above the Law (“Murder Rap” is actually a top 10 all-time song in my book) and Eazy-E. If they’d tried even harder, I could’ve written this asking why I’m a New Yorker who can’t stop bumping Cali music. But, alas, that’s not the case. I was reminded of this problem back in college; I went to St. John’s University, out in Jamaica, Queens. One of my good friends there was from South Central, Los Angeles, and he was full of out-of-town habits that were all foreign to me. For instance, the kid walked slower than an elderly woman nursing a Charlie horse, a stroll that he attributed to the slower LA lifestyle. My fellow Metropolitan area folk, we break out in that speed-walk to compete with local insanity.

The craziest thing about my Cali friend, though? He’d never heard of M.O.P. prior to stepping foot onto the St. John’s campus. That absolutely blew my mind. I specifically remember lying on my bedroom floor back in ‘96, ripping the shrink wrap off of my new Firing Squad CD, and running through that dopeness until it was dinner time. Out on the Left Coast, though, this guy could give two shits. He was, and still is frankly, West Coast biased. And that’s proof that regional preferences go all ways. Maybe it’s because I’m from NY, but I always feel like New Yorkers get the “Open your ears” shouts more than others. I can almost hear John Kerry himself yelling that at me. “That’s essentially why Bush was given another four years to drive us into the ground.”

I could deliberate this for hours, for a neverending series of paragraphs, so I’ll quit while I’m (hopefully) ahead. The question I ask, however, is: for those brave enough to fess up to having one, how can we best explain our regional bias? Is it simply a result of growing up in areas where radio stations favor the local sounds? I reply to that, “Well, I watched Yo! MTV Raps religiously, so I’ve always been exposed to every style.”

Is there even a definitive explanation for this? I’ve long thought not, but what do I know? I’m the same guy who visited Waco, Texas (don’t ask), once and stood in amazement at the first sight of a dude wearing a cowboy hat. “They really wear those out here,” I asked my girl at the time. “Yes,” she shot back, “what’d you think, that those only exist in western movies? You really need to leave the Tri-State more, man.” As my friend from Cali used to say, “Chuuuch!” And, yes, he really did say that. -Matt Barone

  • jonny bizness

    i don’t think u need 2 b from New York 2 b biased towards that brand of hiphop .Im from Birmingham [not alabama] and my first records i b hearing was nice n smooth,das efx etc that got me deep into hiphop in the first place and my favourite mc’s all came from new york and still do.That is where it began and will end.

  • thomas everett

    silly newyorkers

  • Bobo D

    I’m far from the West. But I am biased to buying more West Coast albums then any other region. I don’t know what I can attribute it to. My cousins use to bumb 2Pac when I was really small, but I never felt a liking to him at the time (this was before I got into hip-hop), so it can’t be that. At the end of the day we are different and all have different perspectives of life. There is no golden rule to hip-hop except to live it.

    Oh, and about East-Coast being self-enclosed and biased, I think it’s more easy to see (especially on blogs). Which there is nothing wrong with that, it’s someone else’s opinion as long it is not ignorant.

    P.S.
    I always wondered why dudes from the East call each other “B”?

    • $ykotic/Don McCaine

      “I always wondered why dudes from the East call each other “B”?”

      Short for black, or brother.

  • giantstepp

    One benefit of being from DC is that we never gave a shit where an artist was from and we never carried the bias as other areas did. We loved the westcoast, and we loved the eastcoast!! Once the south came up, DC embraced them too! Obviously individuals feel a certain style mosreso than others, but if I bumped Pac, and my Homie bumped BIG, it aint have a damn thing to do with where they were from, or what they claimed.

  • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grands

    I think it starts off young as pride in your distinct region. Then, around the upper-teen years, it becomes narrow-mindedness due to convenience. Your region is just more accessible. I can drive for no more than 30 minutes to see Nip or Cube or Ras Kass perform. But how often does Rae, or Red or ‘Kiss come to L.A?

    Today, it’s different story of course, because a lot more money is involved, plus the ‘Net access, but for those of us who grow up during the time where you area had to be the best, thats how it came about, in my opinion.

    Artists didn’t get the same shine, exposure, outlets that they have available now.

    Ftr, I have always been more NY-centric than LA crazy. I was heavy into Hip Hop early, so I was on Royal Flush, Nature, Mic Geranimo, Just Ice, Masta Ace (back when it was “Master”), MOP, Mobb, KMD, Brand Nubian & all the usual suspects way back when. I got more (or less, depending) regional as I got older.

    • Sincere

      Co-sign Grands

      I’m from the tri-state and sad as it is to admit what really did it for me was the whole “East Coast vs. West Coast” shit. Before that I was listening to whatever I could get my hands on. But then Pac got on his bull and Snoop came thru and crushed the buildings. Instant line in the sand; it was like “Word, nigga I live here, Fuck me? Nigga fuck u!” kind of thing LOL.

      • Sincere

        Joell Ortiz said it best on “Hip Hop”

        “If you from the south finger snap till your hands hurt. If you from the west throw your W’s in the air. If you from the east coast act like you from here.”

        Good music is good music now though either because I’m older or the access the internet allows me. I still can’t really get behind a Gucci Mane or a Juiceman though, call me crazy.
        Aye, Aye, OK damn brrrrrrrrrr

  • newyawka631

    newyawka631 says “no comment”

    • http://myspace.com/federalranga Federal Ranga

      Damn, my nigga, where you been at? What’s been happenin with the track and shit?

      @ Grand$…
      What’s poppin cat? I too think it starts off when you’re young, but I believe that since you’re unable to cop your own shit and experiment with what you like, you go with what everybody else is listenin to at the time which usually IS your region.

      I’d say that for me… I like NY beats, west coast slang, down south fun, midwest harmony… I just can’t get all that on a single song… let alone an album…

      On Yo Ass!!! coming back Oct/Nov 09!!!
      Welcome to Culmer Metrorail Station
      federalranga.blogspot.com
      J7M!!!

  • AZ40

    no clue, I’m just like you I l enjoy “good” music whereever it may come from but I’ll still pick an good east coast artist over someone from any other region, but i give props where props are due…i guess most people like what they like, most people’s biases are based on pride though they hate on someone just b/c of where they are from not on the music…and i guess it also has to due with relatability as well niggas can relate more readily to someone where they’re from

  • DetroitDraper

    I honestly dont believe Detroit has a regional bias because we dont really have an established style…We/I bang everything from the most lyrical NYC type rap to some good Gucci.

    MAYN HOL’UP

    • Detroit P

      Complete Cosign….we’re like a drain and all the other regions music just end up here(late, i might add)all we really have is whats played on the radio, other than that you gotta do your own searching for music you like…and niggas here hate on each other too much for there to be a real local scene…anybody with a productive future ahead of them will tell you that if you’re from Detroit and you want to be successful, you should most likely leave…I still love my city tho, go figure.

  • Brooklyn

    i think it does have to do with pride, because when someone from your city or region does it big, it makes you feel good to claim that person. and it makes you feel good to let others know that that person came from your area. the problem with that though is that people support bad artists just because they’re from a certain area, like when oj da juicman was guest blogger and southern cats were claiming that those who didn’t like him had some regional bias. maybe, but oj is a bad artist in whatever geographic region that you rep. supporting him because he’s from the south is stupid because he’s garbage and he perpetuates the stereotype that southern artists are garbage. east coast listeners are usually considered to be prejudiced against other regions, but that’s not exactly it. the fact is that hip-hop was created here, so we hold it to a higher standard than many in other regions. it was more than music here, it was a culture, and east coast niggas usually seek to protect it’s integrity.

    it’s also that rap evolved differently in different areas. east coast and west coast rap always tended to be more lyrical. that’s why i as a brooklynite can fuck with west coast artists and would fuck with a west coast artist before many southern artists. southern rap was usually more beat driven, so the lyrics were usually subpar, but the beats were vicious. that’s a generalization though, that’s not to say that there aren’t any lyrical southern artists or that all east/west coast artists are lyrical because that’s not the case. but generally speaking, it is. i always found mid-west rap to be a fusion of all the styles, because their location in the middle gives them access to east coast, west coast, and southern artists.

    i have a preference for east coast rap, but as long as it’s fire i’ll listen to any geographic region. right now i’m bumping nipsey hussle and j. cole, one from cali and the other from north carolina. i’ve always been a bone thugs fan, and they’re from cleveland. i used to fuck with juvenile and he’s from new orleans, and i thought trick daddy was nice and he’s from florida, so i figure that my tastes were pretty broad.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    I don’t see what’s the big deal. You clearly like lots of different styles of rap. But you seem to like East Coast rap the most. I feel the same. So what?

  • General

    I think because hip hop started in New York and was the center of hip hop for so long that there is always an east coast/new york slant in the coverage of hip hop, especially in the magazines…

    Its the reason why everytime there is an argument about G.O.A.T. it inevitably turns into LL, BIG, Rakim, or Jay with no mentions of Scarface or Ice Cube…

    Just for one second imagine if Lupe was from New York, or if Common had been from New York, or Xzibit or Royce. We would never hear the end about how they were the greatest, but instead they have all been thrown to some second tier status in any debates about who the best in the game are or were…

    I think everyone usually relates out of pride and enviroment to their own region more than others and it is not a negative thing unless you are completely unwilling to open up to what other regions are doing and show respect to a great artists regardless of where they are from….

  • http://xxl ryan

    People from the south claim that the east coast people hate on them for no reason. well the reason we hate yall so damn much, yall rather support rappers like gucci mane, oj da juiceman, n soulja boy rather than good rappers yall got like j.cole who is fire and little brother who have been doing their things for years now. also killer mike doesnt get much respect down there from what i see. the south has so many great rappers from their region but you will never hear from them cause they cant make a new dance.

  • DopeMan922

    reading this blog and ur comments makes me realize that i dont lissen to rap nearly as much as you guys do.

  • Curtis75Black

    I’m glad I came up in the era I came up in !! In the height of the Bronx/Bridge wars, being from the Bronx, I repped to the fullest. Honestly by me moving to the south in my teens, it made me see Hip Hop on a more grand scale than just a 5 borough thing. When NWA dropped, I wanted to hear what they had to say !! The same goes for The Geto Boys and D.O.C. Miami had a party element that NY forgot about because they kept it on a more lyrical base. Outkast had me intriged also with their sound. I feel as Hip Hop fans, we have to be honest with ourselves and our choice of music instead of frontin’ like you down with everything, knowing Damn Well you’re not. We know what’s hot, can’t lie to your heart and soul.

    • capcobra

      complete co-sign…except on the bronx/bridge war..i was on the juice crew side…lol…other than that you hit it on the head…travelling..networking..and being yourself keeps you from being musically bias.

  • DV8

    back when I was like 8 or 9 years old is when I got into hiphop. At this time I was living in Atlanta and we didnt have a official voice in hiphop till Outkast kicked in the door. We had what was considered club/booty-shake music back then. Kriss Kross had they little thing going but they wasnt truly respected. Not even in the A. So us Southerners would listen to any and everything. From DJ Quik to Wu- Tang, BDK to Too Short and of course UGK and Ball & G. So for me I basically came up on East Coast shit (THANK GOD FOR COLLEGE RADIO!!!!) but have always been open to all regions. I never understood some NY’ers extreme bias to theyre own but up until the late 90′s NY (East Coast) was running shit till Death Row and No Limit had they run. Now it seems in order for a East Coast artist to get some kind of burn they have to go to a region that they home-region used to (and in some cases still do) shunand hop on a track with a southern artist. Funny how things change huh?

  • http://www.ronmexicocity.com Ron Mexico

    it’s regional bias to not like gucci mane? word?

    sounds like the WSHH comments section done got to more people than i thought.

  • Smel

    I think I’m partial to experimental and backpack (Pharcyde, Outcast, Dungeon Fam, De La, old Mos, Q-tip, Immortal Technique, Asheru) …because I went to art school? And smoked? [asthma>weed] And still carry a backpack? I don’t know.

    I’ll listen to damn near anything though. Just don’t respect it all.

  • $ykotic/Don McCaine

    I didn’t know I was biased because I grew up in Brooklyn listening and seeing hip hop in it’s early stages.

    I thought I was just enjoying what was accessible around my environment. Pardon me.

  • http://www.myspace.com/emcdlthemusicprofile EmCDL

    I’m from VA, so I guess thats considered east coast or southeast coast or whatever. When I was younger, all that Baby-Boy/Ruff Ryders era was blowing up, so it was mostly east coast influence where I was. I listened to ATCQ, PM Dawn, Doug E. Fresh, and Outkast at the time also, and thought they were all dope IMO. But VA was mostly east-coast biased at that time.

    Once I got out of Virginia and joined the Army, I was able to meet different types of people and started listening to their types of hip hop (down south, west coast, midwest, etc), and it broadened my mind to want to listen to more in the end. I’m a fan of all types of hip hop as long as the talent is there; no matter what type you listen to, it still ends with ‘hip hop’ or ‘rap’ am I right?

  • ri067953

    Bottom line…it boils down to liking music you can relate to. If you live in L.A. and somebody is spitting about what’s going on in the streets of L.A., you are going to prefer a west coast MC because you relate to it. Same thing goes for all other regions. For instance, I am from L.A. but don’t really listen to Bay Area stuff, because I don’t relate to what’s going on up there.

  • brand-new

    i think us n.y. cats are allowed to be biased a little bit. we seen an art and culture that has been watered down and just been flat out exploited. something that was born on our corners, parks, b-ball courts,ect. i used to really hate southern rap, especially the late 90′s with the no limit and cash money bullshit. over time, i realized that some artists just gave them a bad rep. ludacris kinda was the first southern artist i liked, besides scarface.

  • http://www.myspace.com/sinistahmoneybagz Lord Sin 7-15-4

    its not that hard to explain….

    an East-Coaster, specifically the NY/NJ/PA/DE areas could relate more to NY State of Mind than an outsider, just like a fellow southerner could relate more to a “Southside” by Scarface or “Southern Hospitality” by Luda, or West Coaster can relate to a “California Love” or “Live and Die in L.A.” i personally think the Mid-West is the most diverse region in terms of musical taste, and it shows in the variety of styles their artists present, even those within the same city and even the same MC circles……

    It doesn’t mean that theres a bias, it’s just a familiarity and acculturation to musical taste due to region, i listened to all types of shit from all coasts, because back then the quality of music had no limitations to gimmicks, coasts, message, or nothin…. what was hot was hot and what wasn’t was simply left off the radar!!!!!

    don’t feel bad, i remember my highschool sunday nights, pause taping Future Flavas and then the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show back to back just to bring em to school the next day and share/brag about having that censored next shit, and if one has a problem with my personal preference, Middle Finger U, and thats word to Sauce Money!!!!!

    Peace!

  • http://J-Mace.deviantart.com Shawty J

    “All of this leaves me to wonder: why can’t I completely embrace a new Gucci Mane song?”

    I’m from Georgia and I can’t completely embrace a Gucci Mane song.

    Taste in music is kinda hard to pinpoint. Currently I don’t go by regions, but what catches my ear and what I’ve developed a taste for, that’s probably because I stopped listening to the radio…

    During high school most of the music I listened to was from the south because that’s what played on the radio. You wouldn’t really hear music from other regions unless the cracked top 10 on Billboard or were in heavy rotation on MTV and BET. And even still during my high school years, southern hip hop kinda took over.

    Oddly enough when southern hip-hop began taking over during the “Crunk” and “Snap” fazes I disconnected from southern music because I didn’t relate as much. Most of that music was party music, and I don’ party, so I stopped listening to the radio. And after I started working after high school I stopped watching music videos. I pretty much had to find music I related to via internet and magazines, and as a result I have a more diverse taste in music.

    In most cases it’s just a matter of exposure and what you relate to. If you’re from the East Coast and you relate to East Coast rappers it doesn’t make you biased. Now if you’ve decidedly said “fuck the other regions” then that would make you biased, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

  • brand-new

    word lord sin, r.i.p to strech armstrong…the first mixtape i ever bought was by him

  • 619

    I don’t understand why people keep talkin’ about “the south takin’ over rap” or “the south runnin’ the rap game right now”. The South fell off this year. Look at the top selling artists this year: Eminem and Jay. The best albums of the year: Rae. The artist getting the most radio play this year: Drake. The biggest underground buzz this year: Nipsey Hussle. None of these cats are from the South.

  • L.a Vet

    CO SIGN 619

  • chillin mayne

    word…i grew up in houston TX..i USED to big up every rapper from houston, just cuz they was from houston, but as i started listening to other regions i started putting houston rappers to the back…mainly N.Y.C rap…dudes got lyrics mayne…

    i still hear a old h-town classic and love it though…chillin with my broad, the barre baby, wanna be a balla, still tippin, in love with my money, platinum in the ghetto…….i could go on, but really the only cats i check for from houston now is chamillion and magno…im more into the lyrical side of rap now, regardless where dudes is from…N.Y.C, detriot, jersey(chino)…is all good, long as the lyrics is up to par…Miami aint got NOBODY reppin for them lyrically though