The Social Dig: Honest Raps From The City That Never Sleeps

Photo courtesy of Uncle Poster

Photo courtesy of Uncle Poster

Chanell Noise, Web Staffer

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A year later, it’s time to reflect on the reach of young, authentic and niche NYC artists’ albums.

Vacation In Hell, Flatbush Zombies second studio album, celebrated its one year anniversary on Apr. 6. The group released their album through their own independent record label, Glorious Dead Recordings.

Rap fans will also remember that Apr. 6, 2018 was the day Invasion of Privacy dropped! Cardi’s debut album, released through Atlantic Records highlights the best blends of hip-hop, trap, latin and R&B music. Although both of these album are borne from New York-based artists and fall under the hip-hop umbrella, they are vastly different and find common ground in content.

Honesty is a common denominator between the albums. Between Cardi and the Flatbush Zombies (Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliott), a clear picture is painted about the hardships that young people face today. Both Cardi and Flatbush Zombies capture the reality of striving for success and pitfalls along the way.

Vacation In Hell features crunchy raps over polished beats. The production is contemporary: sequenced loops of tight hi-hats over warm low-ends. Invasion of Privacy is a bit similar with the production style. Many of the rap-heavy songs on Cardi B’s album are digestible percussion loops with warm low-ends and quick repetitive high hats.

What sets these albums apart are the rappers’ unique flows, delivery and content. Specifically, “Reel Girls” (feat. Bun B) features Meechy Darko on the hook. His flow stretches his vocals into a throaty salute to girls who like to party.

On the other side of the coin is Cardi’s song “I Like It“. Her hook samples the song title repetitively and mixes in her Latinx heritage. “Oh he so handsome- what’s his name?” she questions on the hook that makes use of mariachi-styled trumpets.

The social impact of what would be two critically-acclaimed albums dropping on the same day is easier to see a year later. Vacation In Hell and Invasion Of Privacy showcase the diversity present in hip-hop, the black community and New York City. These albums represent for underserved, often overlooked and underrepresented communities of color. Again, the albums sound vastly different but at the core share some of the same themes.

“Ask Courtney”, a song based in an extended metaphor on love, explores heartbreak and and familial pains from the male perspective. The song also comments on the issues between the NYC community (specifically Brooklyn, where the group is from) and law enforcement. “Crown” (feat. Portugal. The Man) is another song that questions responses to health/financial hardships and over-policing in Black and brown communities.

Similarly, Cardi raps about coming up from an impoverished Bronx community in “Best Life” (feat.ChanceTheRapper). Her raps hit differently and are more upbeat than her Brooklyn counterparts. Her commentary also focuses more on cyber-bullying and cyber harassment of women of color. “Before I fixed my teeth, man those comments used to kill me…. pissy elevators, now every dress tailored,” Cardi raps.

“Get Up 10”, the first song on her album, also features transparency on financial insecurity and the pressure of providing for family as a breadwinner; “Only person in my fam to see six-figures. The pressure on your shoulders, feel like boulders when you gotta make sure that everyone straight,” Cardi raps.

Besides the positive representation aspect of two NYC burrough successes putting on for their community–the impact of these albums reaches to the overall music industry. Rap is much more honest. Emcees turned from the trend of rapping about excess and conspicuous consumption (buying the cars and jewelry) to keeping transparent in bars about the inequities in their respective communities.

Artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Maxo Kream, JID, Earthgang, Tierra Whack, bbymutha and others have found success in this landscape. Rappers are experiencing support for an authentic portrayal of themselves and journey from their communities to fame. We watched Cardi go from sex-positive Vine videos to the Grammys. We witnessed Flatbush Zombies’ ascent from New York’s psychedelic subculture and underground to a world tour that garnered critical acclaim.

Usually, honesty, diversity of sound and stories of a “come up” are reserved for mixtapes. In Vacation In Hell and Invasion Of Privacy’s cases–the stories deserve the platform a studio album can give.