Everyone once in a blue moon an emcee comes along that has both the talent and the determination to make a difference in Hip-Hop. In 2008 NYOIL (pronounced N.Y. Oil) is poised to be that emcee. Staten Island’s answer to what a socially conscious emcee should be, NYOIL is primed to tell Hip-Hop, and in turn the world, the way it really is. His controversial single “Ya’ll Should Get Lynched,” which called out rappers perpetrating current mainstream ideologies, made him an internet sensation in 2006 and his full length LP, HoodTreason, finally hit record stores this week. With NYOIL clearly on the verge of doing something great, RapReviews sat down with him to discuss who he is, what he stands for, and why he places a significant amount of blame on the veterans of Hip-Hop for the current state that rap music is in.

Adam Bernard: Start everyone off with some background info. Who is NYOIL and what’s he all about?
NYOIL: NYOIL is an everyman, bro. I’m any dude out here that’s just trying to live this life, trying to raise his family, trying to do the right thing, and loves Hip-Hop. I heard that boom bap when I was young, ten years old, eleven years old, found out I was good enough with words to do that a little something and loved the feel of being able to sing lyrics to beat. That’s what makes me tick. That’s what makes me become who I am, but to be the type of person, the character that I am, my characteristic is born from having lived in a variety of different paradigms and a variety of situations that make me respect life and make me want to fight for life. I know that sounds a little out there but the fact of the matter is when you see a little bit more than your block, and you experience more things than just the corner, you understand your place in this world and the value that you bring to it and you understand the need to help sustain value in the world.

AB: How far out from your block have you seen? You sound like you’ve been traveling the world.
NYOIL: I’ve been as far as London and I’ve been all over the United States and I’ve had experiences with people from all over the world. Being an internet sensation, as they say, I interact with people from Australia, Germany, Japan. I got this internet translator that lets me translate my conversations so I speak to people in their language a lot of times. It just opens you up to realize that this world is bigger than you. I think a lot of people kind of feel like they’re the star of their own show. You ever sometimes feel like you’re the star of the movie, like this is a movie and everybody’s an extra, but the movie’s really all about you because for you it is? Sometimes you lose track of the fact that these people aren’t really just characters that live and die by your lead, they’re actually stars in their own movie and they’re existing and they’re having unique experiences in this world and it’s important to recognize that. Being able to recognize that feeds you, but also it humbles you and that’s a good thing. It’s good to be humble sometimes.

AB: That’s right, be humble or you will be humbled. You mentioned being an internet sensation. You actually had a video banned from YouTube, your clip for the song “Ya’ll Should Get Lynched.” Last time I looked there were videos of people ghostriding on cars on that site so I have to ask, what does it take to get a video banned from YouTube?
NYOIL: You gotta wonder, man. First and foremost I was blown away when the video got banned because within 48 hours… now mind you the video went up in October of 2006, this is how heavy the legend of this particular video is, in 48 hours it had over 6,000 hits and this was before you could blow up a video on YouTube. This was before people were getting a million views. People weren’t hip to YouTube like that, it was still growing. We were everywhere you turned on blogs and message boards and all the conversations were crazy and what’s really notable is that the content was all derived from YouTube and Google’s moderate safe search, so everything was something you could easily get online. (According to YouTube) they banned it for inappropriate content. Some people say it was banned because it was a black man speaking to black people and telling them to get knowledge of self and stop all the foolishness and stop degrading yourselves like you are for nothing but green money.

You think that you’re an entertainer and that you’re amusing people, but not in the way that you want to be. Some people think that it was because maybe somebody felt that I was talking about them. Maybe it was one of these rappers whose faces I put in the video. I really can’t say because YouTube provided no explanation. At the time they were merging with Google so it stands to reason that maybe they wanted to be extra safe but at the same time if you put the word “booty” in the search engine you will see nothing but young black girls shaking their asses in their drawers, and young white girls for that matter, young Spanish girls, whoever, young girls, underage girls, shaking their ass on camera. It’s kind of bugged out that that’s permissible but a video like mine was flagged for inappropriate content.

AB: Now the video is up in a few other places.
NYOIL: Yeah, that’s the beautiful thing about it, man. All of my supporters just keep taking the video and re-upping it. They’re keeping it alive and that, to me, that says a lot because we’re talking about a song that’s now almost two years old and songs really don’t last like that any longer. Most songs may get a little shine for three months, if it’s a really great song it might get six, but for a song to consistently be rediscovered, that’s unique, man, so I’m really excited about it.

“Maya Angelou said it best, a bird does not sing because it has the answers, he sings because he has a song.”

AB: The title of the song has the word “lynch” in it. It’s a word that got a golf announcer in A LOT of trouble earlier this year. What do you hope to gain by using such a powerful word?
NYOIL: You know, I don’t have anything to gain by using such a powerful word. Maya Angelou said it best, a bird does not sing because it has the answers, he sings because he has a song. All earnest, I did not make the song with the intentions of it being a hit. Yes I am intelligent and I have a marketing background, I have a sales background, I understand movement and I could see what was happening once it happened, but the intent wasn’t there at the outset of making that song. I made the song because I was upset, bro. I was disappointed, disenfranchised, aggravated, let down, frustrated. The emotions that are present in the song and in the video are the emotions that I felt and the sincerity permeates through the video and through the song and people connected to it for that reason.

AB: If someone only hears that song how good a view of your work do you think they have?
NYOIL: Believe it or not I think that “Ya’ll Should Get Lynched” is one of the least of my songs, but, again, it’s the most controversial. It’s plain and straightforward, there’s no fluff in there, it’s very to the point. If they get anything from it (regarding me as an artist) they can hear my ability to articulate a position and stick with that position throughout the song, to have a cohesive thought and present a solid argument, to an extent, in a song. That’s something that’s true in all my music. I pick a theme or a topic, an issue, to speak to and the full body of the song will be consistent in congruent to that theme. You know, I hate that Bob Dylan, although he’s a legendary songwriter, he’s a really overrated dude in terms of the songwriting. At the time it probably was avant-garde and out there and really WOW, but when you look at his body of work and you hear what he said it wasn’t really all that hot to tell you the truth. He’s talking about how nonsensical rap music is and that frustrates me when dudes like that can stay stuff like that and it’s like wow bro, it’s important for me as an MC, I’m not trying to do battle with nobody like that, he’s earned his stature, but I’m just saying that I don’t want dudes like that looking at the culture I come up with and devaluing it because they’re not hearing artists of my caliber articulate an idea in a song, so I’m really trying to make every effort that I can to make the type of music where people have to respect our culture, respect this Hip-Hop.

AB: Does the fact that an artist like yourself has such a strong buzz right now give you a strong amount of hope for the future of Hip-Hop?
NYOIL: Yes, it does. That’s what my purpose is, to bring hope to Hip-Hop, bring hope to the future of this culture and this music and this genre. It needs a shot in the arm. I was explaining to a friend of mine that there’s somebody somewhere that is a great MC, but he has to make a choice now whether or not he’s going to make this very thought provoking, introspective music that will touch the souls of people if they get a chance to hear it, or if he’s going to make some type of snap, crackle and pop song that he knows will get him signed because he really wants to live the lifestyle. I would like to be able to present the example that you can make substantive music and still be successful, so I can inspire a generation of real artists and great writers. This music should evolve as time progresses. Skill sets should evolve as time progresses. We’re at a point where it’s come full circle, it’s almost like it was when Grandmaster Flash and them was rhyming; Hip-Hip hibby to the hibby Sugarhill Gang type of stuff. No disrespect to them at all, but…

AB: But that was 1978.
NYOIL: Yes sir and this is 2008. You’re talking about 30 years later. 30 years from now brothers should be able to articulate songs and song structure and really be able to stretch the music out on a level and in a way that’s mind blowing and we don’t see that and I think it’s sad that’s not happening.

AB: So, other than yourself, who are you listening to?
NYOIL: {*long pause*} A lot of dudes… I just don’t care. There aren’t any more rap stars anymore, I’m not a fan anymore, and that’s no disrespect to young kids doing it, it’s not their fault that they’re misled, it’s older dudes’ fault that they’re misled. The older dudes didn’t invest the time and help develop a new crop of great MCs, people that understand the culture. You don’t need to be a backpacker or a purist or nothing like that, ain’t nobody talking about that nonsense, the stupid titles people take to try to be xenophobic about something, always want to seem like they were the ones who owned it when it was great. It’s not about that. I don’t care, man. The music don’t move me. I don’t be wanting to hear it really. I don’t know any music that comes out now that I’d want to play.

AB: We have a lot of MC who decided to stay in the game rather than develop anybody.
NYOIL: Yeah and they’re real selfish with it and that’s a shame on them, man. They’re reaping the whirlwind. You sow the winds you reap the whirlwind and they are reaping it right now. Their failure to do is now their inability to do because they’re not involved in anything. They’re not responsible for nothing. They didn’t open any doors. I had a verse I used to say “old school MCs get mad because they don’t get props in my Hip-Hop / but here’s where it stops / why you ain’t open up a damned record label? / Open up the doors so the new kids will be able / to uplift your name in the height of their fame / but you fell short, that’s why you out of the game.”

“Apathy is a commodity I cannot afford at this time. I have an opportunity in my lifetime to see a black president.”

AB: Nice. Now, you know I can’t speak with anyone this year without getting an opinion on the presidential election. Do you have any thoughts or predictions for November, or do you stay out of it?
NYOIL: I couldn’t stay outta something like this. Apathy is a commodity I cannot afford at this time. I have an opportunity in my lifetime to see a black president. What an incredible thing. That’s the fulfillment of America’s promise for many of us, the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about and the travesty that Malcom X spoke against. So it’s important to me to be as much a part of this opportunity as I can. My oldest son just turned 18; it’s an opportunity for him. It’s his first chance to vote so we’re going to go down to make sure his registration is on point, make sure mine is on point, so that we can say that we voted in this historic election, so I can only pray that Obama makes it and it’s not just because he’s black, believe me, I truly believe he brings something to the table that America hasn’t seen in a while, which is hope, which is the willingness to be engaged in the process. Motivated people are all you really need. When people are motivated to action that’s what’s important. Most times you gotta anger them to action. Most people don’t do anything until they’re pissed.

AB: And then they don’t think reasonably.
NYOIL: Exactly! But now you have people motivated for change and the change wrapped in hope so now we’re talking about a positive change. So here it is, it’s not a civil rights thing, it’s not trying to get freedom, it’s a march to be engaged in a positive way in the country. That’s something we should all be excited about, regardless of your background. Even if you’re some white kid that’s tired of hearing blacks complaining about what a tough break they got you should be excited about this election because it’s a chance to say you know what, the page has turned, I can have the expectation in these dudes that I think are just complaining to do better. Fuck it, we should all be excited that the opportunity presents itself to do better.

AB: Finally, on a much lighter note, is there any chance I can blame you for NY oil prices?
NYOIL: {*laughs*} Well, think of it like this, bro. Right now oil is really putting a lot of people under pressure. It’s causing you to change your lifestyle. It’s causing you to rethink how you spend your money, how you move from one place to another, and I’m doing that in Hip-Hop, so maybe I’m a harbinger of things to come. Maybe it’s time for change, bro.