I have a confession. I’m a sucker for New York Hip-Hop. I used to own countless overly dubbed, distorted cassette tapes. I used to crave DJ.Clue, Funkmaster Flex, and Ron G. to name a few. Biggie Small, Nas, Jay-Z, M.O.P, Fat Joe, Boot Camp Clique, Wu-Tang Clan, and Mobb Deep were always in heavy rotation in my stereo or Walkman. I love block pharmacists turned lyricists who paint priceless, graphic poems depicting the dark side of inner city life on dirty murals. Fulton Ave, Marcy Projects, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flatbush, Queensbridge, Harlem World, these were landmarks where legends lived perfecting their craft, vying for the coveted title “King of New York.” Dealers draped in camouflage clothing, Pelle Pelle, Karl Kani or Guess; making money dreaming of prosperity while surrounded by the smell of death, despair, blunt smoke, and freshly urinated staircases. I gravitated to movies like Fresh, Juice, and New Jack City. Forgive me, I do not wish to glorify these illegal acts as they are conducive to destruction, minority mass incarceration, and far too many funerals. However, in those times there was a certain percentage of that generation that lived that hood famous, socio-economic quote by fictional drug lord Nino Brown in “New Jack City”…”Cause you gotta rob to get rich in the Reagan Era.” Today, there is a small, hopeless population in underserved communities that believe you have to trap to triumph in a Trump Presidency. I believe their stories should be told. In this tradition we have A$AP Twelvyy’s debut album “12.”
A$AP Twelvyy has an all too familiar problem in an over saturated gangsta rap genre. Twelvyy just doesn’t stand out. Where guns, girls, grams, and excess are the norm creativity is a lost art. On “Castle Hell” under the sound of I’m guessing police helicopters Twelvyy chronicles the everyday struggle of inhabitants of low income housing. The A$AP mob member lectures us on money and murder, gang banging, paranoia and sleepless nights due to his lifestyle choices. “Strapped” is more of the same. This project gives me an attention deficit. Songs like “Yea” Yea” and L.Y.B.B (Last Year Being Broke) just seem uninspired. It’s almost formulaic. Add guns, women, money, murder, and misogyny and you have a song. Shades of the movie “CB4” come to mind. “Sunset Park “is more of the same substance and no style. “Hopout” is a great song especially with the enthusiastic hook from A$AP Ferg, but what sticks out the most is Twelvyy’s lack of verbal prowess compared to that of his counterparts.
Let’s not write of “12” yet. On the vacation inspired “Riviera” he shows flashes of brilliance. On “Diamonds” featuring his A$AP Rocky, and his patented chopped and screwed flow Twelvyy rides the; what feels like fairy-dusted production like a pro. “Periodic Table” and “Ea$tSideGho$t” are decent, but they just don’t compel me to hit the download button on my Apple Music.
I remember the euphoric feeling I got when hearing the Wu-Tang affiliated “Only Built for Cuban Links” by Raekwon & Ghostface Killa, and the satisfaction when GZA’s offering “Liquid Swords” was of the same quality. With heavy hitters like A$AP Ferg and A$AP Rocky (whose releases were great) in his camp, Twelvyy is going to have to go back to the lab and deliver a stronger project.