Even as it changes, rap music from New York born artists has always had a distinct sound. After all it is the birthplace of the genre, and while the art form created at 1502 Sedgwick Avenue has reverberated throughout the world evolving along its journey, each passing generation of hip hop influenced youth derives another iteration of what rap music is “supposed” to sound like. With the internet collapsing the borders of what music can be heard in a given place, the progression of what sounds good and what people want to hear is advancing as fast as technology itself. A testament to this is the recent popularization of drill rap within New York’s boroughs. With drill music’s origins rooted in Chicago and later adopted by South London artists, the 808 heavy trigger finger of trap has elevated the young careers of New York artists like 22Gz, Lil TJay, Bobby Shmurda, Sheff G and most famously the late great Pop Smoke. The rap music of NYC is finally being influenced by rap across the world, though obviously with a spin that could only be conjured up in the five boroughs.
The one major shift going on right now is that while the subject matter for rap is staying the same, the rappers spouting it are getting younger and younger. The overt references to gang affiliation, drug dealing, guns, and violence are also surprising in how the cadences fit on top of those 808’s giving the songs so much bop you can’t help but dance.
Harlem has a particularly young star making a name for himself right now. Edot Babyy blends the charismatic demeanor of Harlem’s native Dipset, with aggressive shit talk born from Harlem’s street life. At 15 years old, the first thing you hear on “Ready 4 War” are the playful giggles of a child. Followed by the adolescent voice of Edot’s signature “Gang, gang gang” war cry. Already racking up over 1.5 million views the song has served as an introduction to who Edot is. He wastes no time before shouting out Sugar Hill, a small neighborhood between the Broadway McDonald’s Hov references on “Empire State of Mind” and Harlem’s Rucker Park. Surrounded by an equally young entourage Edot Babyy displays his gift for gritty bars spitting, “I heard them niggas want beef / Sugar Hill, we get the money / You don’t be running the streets / Two Chops for Two Opps / So please do not run up on me”. The Yamaica produced beat gets your feet moving while Edot Babyy continues with “Don’t run up, and try to take something from me / My shooter he scoring from deep / Or pass and assist it to me”. Painting a vivid image of the gun play involved in the lifestyle he lives.
Jay Critch makes a cameo in the video, but you hardly notice on first watch as Edot garners all the attention concatenating verses that ride the instrumental pristinely. It shows Edot’s skill and stickiness as an artist that he was able to create a sound that requires multiple playbacks before you’ve gotten your fill. In rap how you say something is often more important than what you’re saying, the slang used within your neck of your borough is often the strongest way to differentiate yourself. On “Different Shit” the follow up release to “Ready 4 War”, Edot flexes his smooth bounce floating over Maaui’s clipped 808 patterns. Edot continues with some choice storytelling about his upbringing, “Imma talk my shit / I was like 13 and toting a grip / Then I started trapping and got into rap / I walk to the store know I’m toting my stick”. The song is full of Harlem argot from the catchy and recurring “Gang, gang, gang” to terms like, “deady”, “ratty”, “ yerkie”, “grrrta pow”, and consistent mentions of “the O”, in reference to OY, a Harlem crip set. Even the way he stretches the word “like” has a distinct meaning, roughly translating to a threatening question mark, “They can’t compare / I heard they mans had shot in the air / That n*gga a dummy I know he was scared like (what?)”
What separates Edot Babyy from other artists is how his vocals naturally slide on the beat, making you feel as if he’s singing his raps. The melodic pitch of A Boogie’s vocals is what gives his songs that danceability. Even without autotune Edot is still able to recreate that bounce, balancing lyrics centered around gunplay with his soapy pitch. It stands out more when another rapper hops on the track. “James Bond” features Brooklyn artist Leeky G Bando who empties a clip worth of gun lines. The pain in his voice feels like the hardened precursor of what Edot’s may sound like in years to come. The contrast felt when Edot steps up to the mic is glaring. Mirroring Leeky G’s arsenal of gun bars Edot raps, “I keep a chop and I’m ready to flock lil b*tch / Spinnin’ with mops and sh*t / He panicked and froze hit his heart / He dropped and sh*t”. The youthful exuberance in his voice brings that needed sauce, turning the song from a head nodder to a hip mover.
For the immediate future Edot seems centered around putting Sugar Hill on the map. “Sugar Hill Get The Money” is his motto and with a six song EP released last week titled The Baby in the Game, he’s slowly making that happen. The Baby in the Game taps Bronx born Sha Ek and Brooklyn’s Omb JayDee on two tracks. As a first project there’s some growth needed, with the first two tracks “GET DEADY” and “FIELD TALK” sounding mighty similar to one another, which makes it feel like there is a 5 minute intro. Things start to turn around at the third track, “Ready 4 War pt. 2” where the project picks up steam off the RicoRunDat instrumental. A follow up to his biggest song, the second installment brings even more energy, heavier hitting bars, and that same bounce Edot is known for. Sha Ek steals the show on “Triple O” and has another feature on “Kobe and Shaq”. The brute strength in Sha Ek’s vocals give his verses that much more punch. They spend the track spinning back and forth off each other, trading lines on route to glory like the titular Kobe and Shaq and ending the project with the tape’s strongest performance. More reminiscent of a LeBron to Bronny alley-oop, Edot shows he can hang with more experienced rappers, commanding the same respect while showing he still has things he can learn.
As we continue to move forward in our technological mad sprint, we’re able to do more things from home than we’d ever imagined. Young artists have learned how to produce and release their music directly to their followers which has led to more artists finding success at younger ages. Edot has a million listens on “Ready 4 War” at an age younger than Soulja Boy was when he released “Crank That”, which although impressive has began to become commonplace in rap. Often a rapper’s rise can be too fast and can lead to the public moving on to the next person fighting for our attention. What will take Edot farthest in his career is continuing to tell his story on records. That is a difficult task for most young artists without the necessary life experience, but the life Edot has lived to this point is that of someone decades older. If he continues to endear himself to the masses through his charisma, story telling, and the unique sound he’s created within New York drill it will take his music from vibrant songs with repeatable Instagram captions to certified hits that encapsulate the essence of his native Harlem.