Hi there, are you new to the "Vs. Everybody" series? That's awesome, welcome, I'm so happy to see you. Come in, I baked scones. Before you start yelling at me though, might I suggest you go back and read the first post in the series, where I spell out the premise in almost obsessive detail?
Yeah, you're right, fuck it. Who's going to leave this post, read another post, then come back? I honestly don't even know if I'd do that, and I wrote that post. I'll do a bullet points version here instead.
- Hey, "Detroit vs. Everybody." That was cool. What if we picked out a roster for every city?
- You get to pick four rappers to rep the city, plus one hype man who doesn't rap a verse but can yell stuff throughout the track (aka the DH).
- You're not neccesarily looking for the "best" rapper, but you're not necessarily looking for a battle rapper either. You're looking for someone who's so aggressively, shockingly dope other cities would be scared to go against them. Hence the "vs."
- They have to be alive, and you're getting them as they are now. (ex. You'd be getting Animal Ambition 50 Cent, not Get Rich or Die Trying 50 Cent.)
Got it? Good. Now let's move onto this week's roster for the one and only New York City. For the record, I'm legitimately scared of doing this one. Not just because New York City is the historical epicenter of hip-hop and there are approximately 47 million rappers there, but because I know I'm going to get more "what the fuck, you didn't pick me?" texts, emails and tweets from angry NYC rappers. No one's more willing to let you know they're angry than a NYC rapper. Except maybe Wale.
Oh well. It just became Lucas' job to handle all my hate mail, feel free to reach out. Here we go.
So Who's on "NYC vs. Everybody"?
Diddy (DH): The only easy pick in this roster. I'm not letting him within ten miles of a verse, but when it comes to making Shyne take a charge yelling on an intro/outro, he's the unquestioned GOAT. The only real question is what iteration of the Diddy rant do I ask him to do? The hilariously stuntin of something like "Holy Ghost" or the pure intensity of "Nobody"? Either way you really can't go wrong. Mr. Combs, welcome to "New York City vs. Everybody." Go get your own goddamn cheesecake.
Jay Z: I really took some time with this one. Hov seemed like the obvious choice, which is exactly why I was so hesitant about choosing him. Jay Z? Really? Are you sure?
Yeah, you know what? I'm sure. First and foremost, the man is the global representative of New York City - he helped BUILD A NEW STADIUM IN BROOKLYN. He rocked a Nets hat while cavorting drunk with Beyonce on the beach. He's NYC to the bone marrow. What made me pause was the rap skills though, and if I was writing this right after MCHG dropped, I'd be harder pressed to include him here. But his more recent verses, particularly "Seen It All," have proven that when he really cares he can still absolutely destroy a verse.
Nas: First and foremost, as I laid out in the original post that you didn't read, one of the keys here is thinking not just about each individual artist, but how all of these artists would fit together. With that in mind, how crazy would it be to have both Jay and Nas on this song, joining forces to rep their city? Before either of them even said a word, just both of their presences on the same song would create a historical moment no other city could match.
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Second, Nas is still very much a beast on the mic, and while he may not be as aggressive anymore as I might like for these purposes, that's more than fine. If he brings some crazy, unfuckwitable lyricism that's all I need from his roster spot. I'll bring in a young gun for the wild, crazy energy on another spot. If he gives me his guest verse on par with "Triple Beam Dreams"...after Jay opens the track with some classic Hov? Praise Sweet Baby Jesus.
A$AP Rocky: Tough choice for me. After Jay and Nas I felt like I really needed to get someone from the younger generation in here, and while Rocky ironically blew up by incorporating Southern sounds in his NYC roots, he's still the most prominent NYC artist of his generation.
Plus, while he's not making my "best" rapper list, I need some different energy on this song for versatility purposes. I could have gone with someone like a Joey BadA$$, and I wouldn't have been wrong, but he's a little too close to Nas and if Rocky gives me something close to what he just dropped on "Multiply," he could really bring a nice change of pace and style to the cut.
Related Note: I could have gone for Ferg for the same insane energy that Danny Brown brought to "Everybody vs. Detroit," but Rocky over Ferg is still the automatic A$AP Mob selection.
Ghostface Killah: The last pick is always fucking impossible because choosing means you just shut the door on 400 other worthy candidates. (Reminder - send your hate mail here.) I could have played up the "NYC is the birthplace of hip-hop" and brought in someone like Rakim or Big Daddy Kane. I could gamble that a legend like 50 Cent or Busta Rhymes will rediscover that spark they seem to have lost for this track. I could recruit a new-er emcee like a Torae, Skyzoo or even Action Bronson, if I wanted to mix it up. You know what? Let me stop there, because they more people I name the more people I don't name, and I don't need to dig myself an even bigger hole.
Ultimately, I had to go with Ghost for a few reasons. First, because it felt like having a Wu-Tang representative in there was neccesary, and if it was going to be anyone, it was going to be Ghost. Second, because that man can still fucking rap. Third, because he's a nice bridge between Nas and Jay and Rocky; older, but with a more energetic, stranger style. And fourth, because he's quite possibly my favorite rapper of all-time and this is my goddamn article so fucking deal with it.
The good news, though, is that, despite my best attempts, this isn't a dictatorship. You can add your picks to that handy-dandy widget below, and of course tell me what a moron I am in the comment section. I love when people do that, so go ahead and do it.
Either way, while we've still got a long way to go in the this series, looking ahead I'm already not really seeing how anyone's touching a potential NYC line-up.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome.