I've been to America a bunch of times to tour and perform but for some reason I have never been to New York City so I was quite excited to visit for the 1st time. I have to confess that I am not too happy with America right now because of what I had been seeing going on in Ferguson with an unarmed teenager, Mike Brown being shot to death by a cop. Even in New York there had been Eric Garner who had been choked to death by cops. As much as I love America, in recent times I have fallen out of love with America due to all these kinds of things happening. Saying that a post-racial America is a myth is kind of redundant at this stage.
With all this in mind, flying out there I was kinda not in the best of moods but once I touched Manhattan and Madison Ave where I stayed for the whole week I was there, I can't lie I was totally enchanted and seduced by my first bite of the big apple. I did feel myself tighten up whenever I saw cops about with their guns though but all the same I was caught up in the magic of New York City.
New York to me is like London on steroids with an American accent and a dash of that Lagos hustle that I am familiar with. I have to be honest though, NYC wasn't as frenetic as I expected. I guess no city to me can compare to the hustle of Lagos. I had to respect the hustle of a cab driver who ASKED for a tip which was new to me haha. The subway system isn't as good as the London underground system (i know some will debate me on this but this is my opinion) but big up the air conditioning all the same (TFL need to sort that out and get air conditioning into every underground train line). New York City was hot and still experiencing summer even though it was September. Kind of like how London is still warm now but even hotter.
New York is the birthplace of Hip Hop. I have felt a connection with this city for years and years. From the 1st rap songs I ever heard ("Paid in Full" by Rakim and "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five) to my favourite rap album ("illmatic" by Nas) All the way to the fact that I am a Hip Hop artist myself. American Hip Hop is a huge influence on my style, for years in the UK some people have said I have slight American inflection to my voice
Another thing that struck me was the fact I got to be in New York on September 11th. To me that was deep. I met a guy who lost 8 people in the towers. The only frame of reference I have to even begin to understand all that is when the July 7th bombings happened on the underground trains in London in 2005 and even that cannot compare to the scale of what happened on September 11th 2001. All I can say is rest in peace and may comfort be upon the families.
I now understand even more why a British rapper who does hip hop will find it hard to break into america, I mean big up Slick Rick and all but he had to move there as a young un and adapt before he could break in with his unique style, also that was a whole different era in rap music when variety was
Being in New York City had a great effect on me and I think listening to Lecrae's brand new album "Anomaly" in the birthplace of hip hop added to it. It was a very fitting album to be the soundtrack of my visit. Lecrae is a Christian who does hip hop that is kind of an outsider but somehow is breaking through due to becoming top of the food chain in his niche market and subgenre/subculture of Hip Hop through consistent hard work and quality output. I'm so happy he went no. 1 with it. That's so inspiring! He even had a billboard in Times Square promoting it! I also got to perform in New York for the 1st time ever. I can't lie it was emotional ha!
That's what hip hop is you see, outsiders who were shut out of the "American dream" creating from nothing a culture that kicked down the door of the mainstream and more or less made people listen to their stories by the sheer force of beats and rhymes. That is fundamentally it. They were locked out of the mainstream downtown party so they created their own party and now the whole world is partying and turning up.
So there I was a kind of London/Lagos hybrid, a hip hop anomaly that doesn't really fit in anywhere but somehow feeling at home in New York far away from home. I arrived back in London on the very morning of my birthday. I even made a beat in the air on the way back hehe. I feel inspired, reinvigorated and thankful. I returned to London to see that an interview I did with MOBO has been published, click HERE to check it!
Check out the beat I made on the plane ha!