A note from the editor:
Welcome to the Lambert 15. This will become everyone’s most debated volume series this site will have to offer. I encourage you all to reach out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or directly on this site and voice your opinon. Andrew Lambert is going city by city, state by state, and week by week he will tell you his top 15 projects from that city. Enjoy each volume and take it for what it is; a debateable topic.
The Lambert Top 15: New York City (Vol. 1)
By Andrew Lambert
Photo via: Fine art america
A note from the author:
These lists are based off of my own personal opinion. I do not take into account commercial or critical success, and these lists may differ from your own opinions or appear biased.
New York City was the birthplace if hip hop music. When Sugarhill Gang release “Rapper’s Delight” in September of 1979, music was changed forever. As a result, and to no surprise, there has been a plethora of talented artists. In this list, I will explore fifteen of my favorite albums delivered by a New York City artist. There may be some projects that will come out of left field, and there may be some projects that you’ll be just as hyped as me about… deadass b.
15- “Disguise the Limit” – Nyck Caution (2016)
Pro Era stormed into the rap scene in 2012 when two rappers dropped revolutionary projects, but the other artists in their crew don’t get enough credit. Nyck Caution is a mad-mouthed MC who can deliver classic New York punchlines, and has an unmatched flow. His raspy voice somehow seems smooth, and makes for great additions on Pro Era’s unique style of production. “Disguise the Limit” features a number of classic rap songs, including “What’s Understood” which was produced by Metro Boomin and features no other than Joey Bada$$. It also includes a tribute to his late friend, Capital STEEZ, on a track called “Out of Reach”
14- “Vacation in Hell” – Flatbush Zombies (2018)
The first time I heard Flatbush Zombies I was a freshman in high school (2012), and “Thug Waffle” came on. I honestly thought it was a joke, until I started exploring more of their music. Although Meechy Darko’s voice was an acquired taste their unique style and border-line psychedelic rap is nothing short of ear candy. “Big Fish” and “Leather Symphony” are just two tracks of the many that stand out on their first studio album, and as a producer, I marvel at Erick the Architect’s abilities to create, and was surprised at how little samples he uses.
13- “Amerikkkan Korruption” – Capital STEEZ (2012)
There is a lot that can be said about Capital STEEZ, and after his mysterious suicide in 2012, the enigma of the crazy lyricist only become more vast. STEEZ had a lot of mental health issues, including schizophrenia. These complications mixed with his heavy use of shrooms and LSD lead to his unfortunate demise. He believed he was a god, an indigo child, and thought the world was going to end in 2047 in which he will come down and reveal himself as god. He became obsessed with the number 47, and even released this project on April 7th (04/07). The number 47 is visible in a lot of STEEZ’s artwork, as well. His extremely wild mind did make for some amazing music, however, and when I first saw the music video for Free the Robots, I was instantly hooked. Long live STEEZ!
12- “LONG.LIVE.A$AP.” – A$AP Rocky (2013)
A$AP Rocky, in my humble opinion, is an unbelievable artist. He has managed to prove himself in almost every rap genre, including trap, east coast rap, experimental, grime, and more recently collaborating with new wave Soundcloud rappers. His undeniable swagger and touch of psychedelics make for an interesting mix, and his debut studio album delivered all of the above. From “P.M.W.” to “Fashion Killa”, it is clear of how diverse Rocky can be, and there are plenty of bars where Rocky flexes his ability to spit.
11- “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” – Joey Bada$$ (2017)
I know, it is pretty clear of how much I enjoy music by Pro Era. Joey Bada$$ has proved himself to be one of the best lyricists in the game, and although this project gets some hate by fans, I happened to enjoy it greatly. Songs like “For My People” and “Temptation” really showcase Joey’s soul, as well as his ability to provide something different than aggressive New York rhyming. His flow and tenacity are still evident, and he shows so on “Rockabye Baby”, a collab with ScHoolboy Q that is nothing short of a Pro Era and TDE classic.
10- “Evermore: The Art of Duality” – The Underachievers (2014)
If you haven’t heard of The Underachievers yet, you better get yourself acquainted. The duo from Flatbush is, in every way, one of a kind. Their projects feature a blend of New York MCing with a vibrant style and taste for psychedelics and separate universes. Their song “Allusions” is a timeless display of their rapping abilities, while “Rain Dance” puts their creativity on the forefront.
9- “12” – A$AP Twelvyy (2017)
When someone from the A$AP Mob dropped a project, and it wasn’t Ferg or Rocky, I did not know how to feel at first. I wasn’t sure if it would be any good. It was summertime, so I said why not and threw it on while I was painting. A$AP Twelvyy is as New York as it gets. His intense flow tells stories that take you to the streets of New York City, and make you feel like the shooter Twelvyy once was. “Strapped” and “Periodic Table” show just how in touch with his concrete jungle roots he is, while “Diamonds” and “Ea$tSideGho$t” display how creative he can really be and make a name for himself in the new age of rap. The album even features a wild collaboration with Flatbush Zombies on a track called “A Glorious Death”, and the switch in that song will leave you speechless.
8- “Illmatic” – Nas (1994)
You can’t talk about New York City and not mention the legend, Nas. If you played the video game Saints Row 2 back in the day, “N.Y. State of Mind” would be immediately recognizable. There was something so badass about driving around in gang wars while listening to Nasty Nas spit heat. Nas’ project features hard N.Y. bars, and even soulful flare in songs like “The World Is Yours”. This classic is a must have in your music library.
7- “1999” – Joey Bada$$ (2012)
It is amazing to think that Joey Bada$$ released his legendary debut mixtape at only 17 years old. What’s even more impressive is the nostalgic sound he produced as a teenager, and his ability to create some of the most exhilarating punch lines. Joey’s debut mixtape will take you to the 90’s while keeping you grounded here today. It is a classic mixtape that features some of the most iconic Pro Era songs that helped their rise to stardom, including his epic collab with Capital STEEZ, titled “Survival Tactics”.
6- “The Black Album” – Jay Z (2003)
When I saw Jay Z live, he played about 30 songs. Whenever the legend, who some argue is the greatest rapper of all time, performed anything off his 2003 album, the arena went haywire. It is hard to pick which Jay Z albums are my favorite because he has so many. Jay Z’s distinct voice and slick flow, matched with his expert ear for good production has helped this project become a staple in music libraries. From “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”, to “99 Problems”, it is clear Jay Z may have 99 problems, but this album certainly isn’t one.
5- “4:44” – Jay Z (2017)
I may get some flack for including this album and not some other Jay Z classics like “Reasonable Doubt” and “The Blueprint”, but there is something special about being alive when a legend like Jay Z drops something and being able to experience it. The first time I heard the instrumental for the title track off this album, I was immediately inspired. The music video for “The Story of O.J.” is not only a classic vibe and showcases Jay Z’s creativity, but it is something that was needed for the time. Jay Z is as honest and open as he ever was on this album, and it made for some emotionally incredible music.
4- “Cozy Tapes, Vol. 1: Friends” – A$AP Mob (2016)
While I did not enjoy the second edition of the Mob’s “Cozy Tapes”, Volume 1 is a journey and a half. Every song sounds completely different, from production to flow, and really shows how well A$AP Rocky in particular can work with other artists. The album features hard New York flow on songs like “Money Man” and “Crazy Brazy”, a touch of grime on “London Town” and “Put That On My Set”, and even some more experimental and psychedelic anthems like “Way Hii” and “Telephone Calls”. The visuals for the album took my breath away, as evident from the visually stunning music video for “Yamborghini High”, which is the most popular song on the project. A$AP Rocky put his creativity and acting skills on display as well, with a short film for the album with “Put That On My Set” and “Money Man”.
3- “B4.DA.$$.” – Joey Bada$$ (2014)
Before the money… badass. Aside from the cool title, this album is in my opinion Joey’s best work. He fused classic New York style MCing and production with ideally modern elements. Joey flexes how talented he is on the mic on songs like “Christ Conscious” and “Big Dusty”, while showing his creative side and his ability to send a message on songs like “Paper Trail$” and “Hazeus View”. This project is as New York as they come, and there isn’t a single song on it that you can’t bump with the volume all the way up.
2- “Too High To Riot” – Bas (2016)
While J. Cole is clearly the ruler of Dreamville, Bas is slept on too heavily. This project is something I can’t even put into words. The production is not like anything I’ve ever heard, and he almost fuses modern-style trap with nostalgic vibes and a jazzy touch. Bas is clearly a man on a mission, and the album sends a message. As creative as the subliminal undertones are, it is really the unique flow and wild production that blows me away on this album. His soft side and emotions are on display on songs like “Live For” and “Penthouses”, while he narrates his bad experience with drugs on “Methylone”, and just in case you forget how talented of an MC he is while getting lost in the creativity, Bas makes sure to remind you on songs like “Night Job” and “Housewives”.
1- “AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP.” – A$AP Rocky (2015)
I’m a sucker for Rocky, I know. But come on, it is impossible to deny how creative he is. There is not a stone Rocky left unturned on this project, and while some argue his debut album is his best work, I disagree. From slow moving, jazzy instrumental rap songs like “Holy Ghost” and “Jukebox Joints”, to psychedelic masterpieces like “L$D” and “Fine Whine”, and to new age bass fueled on songs like “M’$” and “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye”, Rocky covers all aspects. I think he best displays how creative he can get while still keeping it G and delivering top notch bars on songs like “Canal St”, “Electric Body”, and “Max B”. This album, best when listened to start to finish, is a peak into the mind of a gangster turned artistic genius in A$AP Rocky, and if you choose to take a look, you will be delighted with what you find.