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37. Because New York Rap Is So Awesomely Weird

Since the century turned, New York has slowly been supplanted as rap’s epicenter. First southern trap music, then Chicago drill, among other regional forms, rendered our hip-hop marginal. Turns out, though, the margins are a great place to be.

Take Bobby Shmurda. The 20-year-old whirlwind from East Flatbush posted a clip for his gonzo, lyrically violent “Hot Nigga” to YouTube in March. Not long after, Vines featuring his accompanying “Shmoney dance”—which mimics the flailing of those inflatable air dancers at used-car lots—went viral. The song’s video has been viewed more than 77 million times, and, retitled “Hot Boy,” it went all the way to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the kind of hit no A&R executive could’ve conjured, and it’s East Flatbush to the core. “My music is straight facts,” says Shmurda. “There are a lot of gangsters in my hood.”

Shmurda isn’t the only example of rap resurgence: Bushwick’s Ratking trio draws on CBGB hard-core blare and the sonic grit of Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan (and the odd lyric decrying NYU’s Greenwich Village fiefdom) in their April debut, So It Goes. Bed-Stuy’s 19-year-old Joey Bada$$, who blends questing verses and a barking delivery, turned down a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, and Coney Island’s Your Old Droog, 25, picks up where Nas left off back in the ’90s—all sharp reportage and sly delivery. (Before photos got out, some listeners speculated YOD was Nas.)

All these rappers are fiercely idiosyncratic and proudly local. “New York City is back,” says Shmurda. “We rapping that real shit that people can relate to.” And he now has a rumored $2 million record deal to prove it.