Art by Tyler Farmer
MANO: I understand the impulse of wanting to move to New York as a journalist, creative, or hell, anybody who just wants that rush of being where culture is happening. Late 2022, I became one of those transplants. The city has been amazing for meeting like-minded people, reconnecting with old friends and family and most of all, going to shows damn near every night. But this past year, I saw how this city’s media class is more of an echo chamber than I could’ve ever imagined, and how that reflects mainstream coverage of music.
As a person working in media in this city, I have often found myself in spaces that my friend winkingly calls “The Twitter Saloon.” These are the bars, shows, and clubs of New York that people in extremely online circles tend to populate. You look around and everyone’s in baggy jeans and glossy Asics and you soon realize you all kinda like the same things. There isn’t much disagreement. Every piece of art discussed is “cool” or “fire” or “you’re gonna give it another shot.” Sometimes it’s unclear whether people are even listening to this music or they just wanna talk about it.
It can be hard for me to escape this hive mind of nothingness. I’ve tried connecting with all types of people in the city, hanging with old buddies instead of new journalism friends, even leaving the city for stretches. But it’s not so simple as branching out and returning with what’s cool somewhere else—so long as it's worthwhile, whatever you start posting about inevitably gets absorbed into “the discourse.” Don’t get me wrong, Ganger by Veeze is great, but a perfect storm of quality music, discourse, and marketing pushed a bars-first Detroit rap album to the top of almost every publication’s End of Year list. Nothing is immune to the sterilizing gaze of New York. This is a whale shark of a city, vacuuming little bits of culture into its gullet and mashing it all together into this specific soup of Taste and suddenly everyone’s talking about Bar Italia or whatever. If monoculture is dead, then why does it feel like everyone likes the same things?
When I got laid off last June, I took it upon myself to visit Milwaukee, whose hip-hop scene I was intrigued by in the way most rap critics are. Despite the microscope on the city, actually being there was probably the first and only time all year I actually felt like I’d escaped. You can talk about Certified Trapper all you want and even read multiple reports about the scene, but to actually be in a car with a local whippin’ around the Eastside listening to nothing but AyooLii and Maz G is an experience you can never replicate at Baby’s All Right.
These lists are about what I listened to as I tried to be more curious about what wasn’t directly in front of me.
quinn - “80mph”
Anycia - “So What”
Babyxsosa - “Baby G”
K$upreme & Big Yaya - “Jill Scott”
phreshboyswag - “hottie”
Al.divino feat. Estee Nack - “DIMELO”
Devstacks - “Praise God”
Lil Tecca, Kodak Black - “HVN ON EARTH”
10. Summrs - “Shake It”
DJ Rennessy blended this Summrs/BNYX club rap track perfectly in a set last year and it just clicked. Most of my friends hate when I play this around them but idc it’s Powerful.
9. Tony Shhnow - “Limpin”
Absolute gem of a Tony loosie from the SoundCloud trenches, he skated on this dreamy club beat.
8. Marney’SpacedOut - “All I Really Need”
Yeah it’s an Ohgeesy imitation but does it still go? Absolutely.
7. Vayda - “prima donna”
Put this song in my back like a battery and I could run a half marathon.
7. Niontay - “THANK ALLAH”
Saw him do it live at a MAVI show last spring and immediately became a fan.
6. AyooLii - “phones down”
Love “Shmackin Town” as much as the next critic but the minimal, gospel-tinged “phones down” is AyooLii’s real masterpiece. Milwaukee low-end meets Phil Collins.
5. Lil Yachty - “Strike”
I’m a nice guy, I can forgive all the psych rock and oddball opinions about hip-hop he spews if he can record something as iconic as the “holster” bar every six to eight months.
4. Club Casualties - “Fall of the Leaves”
A hypnotic gabber incantation from Western MA pop duo Club Casualties, who somehow did not miss a single beat after a multi-year hiatus.
3. NBA Youngboy - “Not My Friend”
Let us not forget YB started 2023 by dropping a damn RAGE album and it goes. “Not My Friend” is a sweltering anthem I’ve belted way too many times in my car.
2. Izaya Tiji - “I Eat Humans”
1. Playboi Carti - “H00DBYAIR”