My vote for the stupidest hip-hop development in 2006 is the New York/Dirty South beef. Seriously, I’m tired of hearing both sides of the complaining/blaming/defending. It’s nothing new in Hip-Hop as the west coast dominance in the 1990s created a similar conflict. Even this particular beef is nothing new as the Outkast found out when they were booed at the Source Awards years ago. Southern hip-hoppers need to realize that New Yorkers can be loud mouth and obnoxious in their own charming way and they need to be adults and let it slide. New Yorkers need to realize that whatever perceived deficiency of a New York presence in rap (and it is indeed a figment of the imagination as last time I checked Nas, Jay-Z, and Styles P are all New Yorkers and all dropped high rated albums this year) will not be cured by talking trash and they need to remember that their time will come again. What does this have to do with Wu-Tang? Nothing really, and though this mixtape put out by Think Differently flashes it’s Wu-Tang affiliation it also lacks a strong Wu-Tang connection. Instead, “NY Exclusive” is just a collection on NYC themed tracks with a few appearances from Wu-members. It doesn’t take any cheap shots, but just looks to celebrate the city and the quality of music is high enough that any hip-hop fan should be able to enjoy this.
The album starts off with Nas and both “NY State of Mind” and “NY State of Mind II” which seem to be the two appropriate tracks for a compilation of this nature. That is followed by “Streets of New York” by Alicia Keys featuring Nas and Rakim. I was excited to hear Nas and Rakim on the same track when this first came out, but its inclusion here reminds me of what I thought back then about this track. It’s an okay track, but since when does going platinum in R&B give you license to remake a classic rap track? The mixtape makes a jump into the new school next with “Where It Started At” from Hi-Tek’s latest album. This is where you’ll find the first and one of the only appearances from the Wu as Raekwon drops the last verse:
“Aiyyo yo, I rhyme for the streets broke niggaz rap when they feast
Who angry as hell, we yell from the beast
Wise killers up in New York, who lay for peace
Crime action get you trapped by the chief, no PC
Proud and have the hood stylin good talent most of us tellin
Drug wars, try to re-up, the law whylin
Can’t get no rest, the vest is on stress pound it
Schemin on somethin green, we eagles on the chef found it
While I take a trip back my first little pack
Had to open doors no time for broads I was scopin crack
Baggin like a newborn, barely profit beef pop off
We carry tommy guns and smoke trees and grab pockets
Pilgrimage life, real like with no money and no white
I had this white girl who work for me wipin pipe
Livin by the sword, a hundred niggaz daily
Who get on board and kill for some proper live on them acres board”
I’m not complaining about the quality of this verse, but aside from this the only other appearances from the Wu come in the form of “Live From New York” by Rae and “New York” by Ghostface, Rae, and AZ. With a crew who has repped NY so hard their whole career you’d think they’d be able to find a way to bring them in the mix more. It looks like whoever put this collection together wanted to include the word “New York” in every title, but they also included tracks called “Rotten Apple” and “Brooklyn Bullshit” so they could have at least dropped Dirty’s “Brooklyn Zoo.”
Once you realize that the focus of this collection is New York and not Wu-Tang’s contribution it turns out to be much better than the average mixtape. Interesting selections include Jay-Z and Cam’Ron’s “Welcome to New York City” considering the two aren’t on best terms any more. Busta’s new school NY anthem makes an appearance as “NY Shit” is featured. Aside from the expected selections, up and coming emcees get some shine here too. Tru-Life drops his “New New York” track which is a dope track and shows promise, but still reeks a little too much of complaining despite Tru-Life proclaiming he’s not trying to start beef. “Brooklyn Bullshit” is an entertaining track that shows why so much hype has surrounded Joell Ortiz. Joell pays homage to his hometown but infuses it with humor in the spirit of Big Pun’s “Nigga Shit.” Old school heads need not fear as GangStarr, Onyx, and Kool G. Rap and DJ Polo are all included (And please don’t email me about how technically they’re “golden era” rap and how real old school is reallyâ€¦I don’t care).
Overall, “NY Exclusive” is an extremely satisfying collection of songs paying tribute to the city that birthed Hip-Hop. There are some suspect tracks, but it’s a nice mix of both old and new. People should be able to get over the focus on New York since most of the tracks are enjoyable as music regardless of the message. The only question mark is the strong emphasis on the Wu-Tang brand as quite frankly this is a CD anyone could put out. The Wu-Tang rappers make a rare appearance and don’t contribute much. Regardless, Think Differently shouldn’t be docked points as they do pick out some choice cuts.