New Blood Pt. 2

Soulja Boy, as I discussed in this post has ideas about digital popularity that are germane to his age set. His song, for what it lacks in permanence, pops in other ways. Screaming, ringtone-obsessed teens can relate to it for a few months so the world, momentarily, pays him attention. But what of the newer rappers with exposure on smaller levels who are oppressed by their older counterparts. Lupe says he wants to quit after his next work, which is hardly credulous but who could blame him? Saigon has also expressed frustration at being wholly ignored by his label: the old heads shunning new talent once more. Joe Budden (along with LL Cool J, Redman, and Method Man) has specifically taken issue with Jay-Z hogging the limelight while his material and that of other newer artists has been neglected.

Joey in particular, who has chosen to release his Mood Muzik 3 mixtape with Amalgam Digital, is letting it be known that fresh faces would help more than harm. He uses the Jay/Jordan analogy against his boss just as he did it in the “Pump It Up” wars of 2003 saying that all the kids remember about Jordan is him getting crossed by Iverson. Telling indeed. The song expresses some of the unease among younger artists about the stagnation in the game.

Talk To Me

Which brings me to The Project…New York’s finest up-and-coming trio to give post-millennial rap some fresh prospects, challenge the pecking order. I know the members of The Project personally but, they have easily some of the best rap on the rise in years. Along with Brooklyn emcee Cavalier, The Project has renewed my sense of metropolitan pride. A few weeks ago, they performed in a star-studded bill with Little Brother and Evidence. I had seen Little Brother in October with Brother Ali, and thought them thoroughly upstaged by the Minnesota albino. This time, in a more intimate venue, they shined and proselytized appropriately with soulful tunes and Phonte’s irrepressible comedy act. The Project opened for Little Brother respectably with tunes to keep the crowd dancing like their soon-to-be hit “Soul Banger.” I had an epiphany about soul rap at that Southpaw show, wondering aloud if boom-bap had lost its soul, preferring to concede to the predictable head nod of whiteboy college fans. For instance Torae, whose work I love and listen to, served up his Premo banger from Skyzoo’s mixtape but then slipped into several boring songs that showcased his skills but not what is exciting about new rap.”Callin’ Me” is his new video single but layered between Evidence (shamelessly boom-bap) and Away Team (ditto) he could not even make that incredible song stand out. There’s something to be said for rappers who can flex lyrics and still make the ladies shake and move. The Project fills that gap nicely while other scenes stick to a prolix script of “we-hate-that-other-stuff-so-listen-to-our-homely-raps” propagated by some of the acts with which they shared the stage. Emcees Jah C, King Gutta and Supanova carefully balance infused wordsmithing with astute knowledge of catchiness and song versatility. Newcomers always seem studied in comparison because they make their entrance based on everything that came prior. The Project takes that scholarly approach to new heights with their new self-titled album — full of soul and unabashedly local in its execution. The first time I heard it in 2004, I was floored. I hadn’t thought sincere emcees still existed in the Northern hemisphere and found acts like Little Brother too maudlin and imitative to merit more than a few listens.

Now that they’ve come into their britches with label-mates Panacea and potent connections to the New York scene, The Project stands to create a new format for New York rap that includes jazz and dancing. Odd that we had come so far from what put us on the map but absolutely fitting that it is back 15 years later. I copped a few flicks for the memories. Here they are.

Bridging generations of black men together is a poignant, potent imperative. When I saw Beanie Sigel and Bill Cosby march alongside one another in North Philly last week, I was thoroughly relieved. Cosby may not endorse the lyrics, but he would not let that stop him from uniting with Beans in a show of solidarity for young brothers who might be influenced by both of them. I thought that Cosby might see the importance on the young blood in his cause, that our generations are intrinsically linked and must be recognized as such. Collaboration over conflict for the New Year should be the motto.

This is a shout out to all my brothers in spirit.

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