New York struggles to effectively hold the title of its status as the birthplace of hip-hop, and this is evident more and more with each new wave of Empire State MCs. Rappers from NY have one of two choices: they can find inspiration outside of their state’s history and borders and risk the ire of fellow New Yorkers, or they can dig in and create a sound akin to what rap listeners have come to expect from the city of dreams at the cost of a wide range of listeners and mass appeal. The Doppelgangaz have made no bones about their choice, and it makes for a highly stylized, well executed, but largely unenthused effort, Peace Kehd.
A group whose name is a sensational spelling of the German word for look-alike who reside in New York have availed themselves to a lot of easy puns with their homage-laden effort. Backed by nostalgic production, EP and Matter Ov Fact rhyme well and exhibit a great level of chemistry on the mic. Upon numerous listens, you get the feeling it sounds more like a compilation of never before released Camp Lo and Mobb Deep cuts than something original. However, the duo does venture outside the NY golden-era blueprint such as “KnowntchooTahLie,” which is one of the better songs on the LP. It’s only flaw, though, is that it comes across as contrived not because of a lack of quality, but because it doesn’t quite belong with the aesthetic found in the other songs.
The onus for the pitfalls of Peace Kehd lies less on the Gangaz themselves and more on the current climate of New York hip-hop. On one end of the spectrum, there are acts like Action Bronson, Troy Ave, Joey Bada$$ and others, who have seemed to mix up what NY should sound like and add their own formula and spice. These MCs are outnumbered in the eyes of the mainstream by acts like A$AP Mob—who love NY but freely drawn upon other sources of inspiration. Both ends of the food chain are shortened by the belief that rappers from X should sound and look like Y because of the legends before them.
As time progresses, New York rap fundamentalists began to act like football fans who abhor the forward pass, and this is the attitude that may be contributed in some large part to Peace Kehd. It’s a release chocked full of talent and attention to detail, but weighed down by the heavy hand of the old guard.—Jordan Lebeau