Bobby Schmurda

Beyond Bobby Shmurda: A New York Drill Playlist

Winston Cook-Wilson

By Winston Cook-Wilson

on 09.04.14 in Features

After only one major single, it would be crazy to argue that Bobby Shmurda — the East Flatbush rapper behind recent hit single “Hot Nigga” and its accompanying Shmoney Dance — is putting New York hip-hop “back on the map.” However, it’s true that the city hasn’t had such a refreshing street-rap prospect for some time. Ironically, part of Shmurda and his GS9 crew’s novelty (and infamy) stems from the fact that they are so un-New York musically: Their beats and rhyme patterns create resonances with Southern trap and the drill music of Chicago’s South Side instead of Nas, Wu-Tang or 50 Cent.

As much as their preference for chilly, machine-gun-cymbal-heavy production and slow-flow rhyme patterns, the content and perspective of GS9′s music (and the style of their videography) invites the frequent drill comparisons. In their verses, Shmurda and his primary associate Rowdy Rebel are caught up in obscure street action, without adopting an outside perspective or stance on it. Their songs are full of the names of friends, enemies, cross-streets, buildings and guns, as well as cryptic allusions to specific incidents that befell their crew. Their lyrics show, not tell, like those of the most effective drill records.

Though blogs are cooling on their Shmurda obsession, the rest of the country, it seems, has not. With the rapper now signed to Epic, “Hot Nigga” is hanging out in the middle of the Hot 100. One wonders not only if Shmurda will be able to sustain his popularity, but if his success is inspiring A&Rs to scour the rest of the five boroughs, searching for Shmurda-like street rappers where there were once considered to be only Papoose-like ones. Sifting through poorly labeled SoundClouds, assorted YouTube channels and Adware-laden forums turns up a good deal of NYC area rap that draws from Shmurda’s wheelhouse of influences.

This round-up is motley by design: These songs point only to pockets of semi-unified activity, not toward any connected zeitgeist or untold, vibrant New York “scene.” The uniting thread is that it is all post-drill music delivered with a youthful attitude that is unconcerned with adhering to any stodgy hometown traditions. It is the product of a rapidly nationalizing hip-hop culture that draws from everything from Top 40 radio to today’s most inventive Atlanta mixtape rap. I doubt any label will ever hear this music, but there’s a lot more where this came from if Bobby Shmurda, against all odds, becomes a more resilient cash cow.

Charlie Cee and Shavez, “Aim”

Harlem rapper Charlie Cee disappeared from the Internet in about the first half of 2013, but he is featured in street videos going back to 2010. His most popular song — a collaboration with fellow Harlemite Shavez (aka Rockstar Sha) from last year — is a rote imitation of drill in the vein of Chief Keef’s GBE gang, channeling their staccato rapping and abrasive production. “Aim” later showed up on Shavez’s mixtape Public Housing, and it’s the only song of its kind on the tape; the rest are sample-punctuated and pop-oriented, avoiding trap rhythms altogether and occasionally sounding like pitchy Kid Cudi. Contrasts like this are typical of the catalogues of many of the artists on this list, making it clear that drill and trap are one reference point among many.

Pop Dollaz, King Tae and Ryder Ro, “We Be Coolin”

The unifying principle of this group (sometimes known as Hoochie Life) is not stylistic consistency; it’s an interest in having fun. Like Shmurda and GS9′s Rowdy Rebel, teenage MCs Rich Ro (or Ryder Ro), his brother Pop Dollaz and Ty Stacks dance and spar with one another, goofing off as much as grimacing and trigger-fingering at the camera. They hop on everything from garden-variety trap to ubiquitous old-school New York production. Their signature track, “All About the Hoochie Life” is a flip of “All About the Benjamins,” and one of their best songs uses the beat from Swizz Beatz’s “Everywhere,” which the group turns into a West Coast-flavored dance song. Tracks like this one (and the more overtly GS9-meets-MMG “On the Ave“) are chock full of the flamboyance which makes “Hot Nigga” such a great record.

Mally Stakz, “Lil Boy”

Oft-Auto-Tuned North Bronx rapper Mally Stakz is one of the few MCs on the list who has been garnering any wider attention, having collaborated with former Dipset producers-of-choice The Heatmakerz and Slaughterhouse’s Joell Ortiz. Despite these more traditional New York connections, he’s remixed Chief Keef tracks, and collaborated with up-and-coming Chi drillers. He often suffers from a lack of a palpable personality; at his worst, he deals in sub-Future warble-balladry and at his best stark, precise and melodic raps in the style of Lil Durk. Judging by corny one-offs like his interpretations of “Body Party” and Justin Bieber, we can assume that Mally is destined for odd and inconsistent future ventures. Check out “Lil Boy,” his recent and most polished single to-date, from his mixtape Mallachi.

Shaq Doe and Young Bhippy, “Bang”

White Plains’ Shaq Doe (who collaborated with Stakz on an “I Don’t Like” freestyle) has been intermittently releasing drill-inspired tracks since early 2012. “Bang” is a particularly heavy collaboration with compadre Young Bhippy over an industrial-grade, Sonny Digital-esque beat. Bhippy’s verse employs snippets of the Migos-patented triplet flow, though this video dropped several months before the release of their Y.R.N. mixtape. Though Shaq Doe isn’t as fun or creative as either Shmurda or Migos, he turns out some enjoyable cuts.

Polo Rell, “Trueys and Polos”

Doe’s friend and collaborator Polo Rell, on the other hand, has more verve, dabbling in sing-songy rhymes recalling swaggy ATL rap from F.L.Y. to Rich Homie Quan. Check out June’s infectious, steel-drum punctuated “Trueys and Some Polos.” His collaboration with Young Bhippy “Flexin” is more standard-issue drill: A tribute to lean, the song features heavy synth chimework and a second verse which opening with a “Versace” quote.

3Some Pookie, “Safe Side”

Slut Gang’s 3Some Pookie is an inventive young rapper from the Northeast Bronx who has been prolific since the release of his debut video “Slut Gang Bang” in 2012 (anchored by the excellent refrain “That’s your new thing/That’s your old thing/Hoes ain’t nothing/But some money and pussy and mood swings”). His flow is deadpan and sloppy, indicating affection for Soulja Boy and Main Attrakionz, as well as Keef and Lil Reese. Pookie’s rhymes are peppered with phrases like “pretty bitch” and tales of bedding the aunts of his adversaries which can’t help but recall the Based God parlance. Though he gravitates toward trap production, Pookie will flip almost anything: His most recent mixtape SuperSaiyan3Some takes its source material from everyone from Young Chop to Pretty Ricky. Though Pookie’s asymmetrical, peaked-out ramblings sometimes verge on the unlistenable, he often creates infectious, spacey songs thanks to his good ear for hooks.

JayRich, “Til I Meet NuMoney”

Closer to GS9′s geographical radius, I found the most explicitly drill-indebted music. For instance, self-professed “Brooklyn drill” purveyor JayRich of Rich Mafia. He’s released music with OTF/GBE collaborator RondoNumbaNine, and tends to growl in Gucci Mane-like flow patterns over death-rattle, post-Flockaveli production. His latest single — a tribute to a deceased Rich Mafia member called “Til I Meet NuMoney” — uses the beat from King Louie’s “Til I Meet Selena” and mimics his spirited delivery, as well. Halfway through, Jay slips into part of Bobby’s “Hot Nigga” flow and closes out with the line: “Bust the shmoney dance when a body drop, nigga.” JayRich is all obnoxious self-confidence, professional presentation and precious few original ideas. But his commitment to trying to make New York drill a legitimate movement is charming.

Lat Mekado, “First Things First”

A loose clique of rappers in Bed-Stuy centered around the prolific and un-Googleable Spills draw more modestly from trap and drill. On recent tracks, the MC showcases a deft flow that demonstrates a debt to Meek Mill and neighborhood hero Hov as much as Gucci and Waka Flocka. However, this new piece of alt-trap from his affiliate Lat Mekado is based in a trap-derived, anti-virtuosic stop-and-start flow. The unusual beat features a string quartet sawing away against some stark, tinny 808s, and makes “First Things First” one of this list’s better tracks.

Young Bart, Lat Mekado and Spills, “Fly Is a Must”

Another member of this clique, Young Bart, is sometimes happy to ride a soul-sample-based beat and look speculatively off toward the horizon, but on this cut, featuring Spills, he huddles in front of public housing with his crew and spits vociferously over a Young Chop proxy beat. Listen for him dropping “Stuy-raq.”

Nova CokeCaine, “Respect”

Nova Coke Caine, who’s collaborated with GS9′s Richie P, is another BK rapper looking to capitalize off of the success of “Hot Nigga.” Coke Caine’s overall opportunism is evidenced by things like his false tagging of his most recent mixtape, Rich Dreams & Broken Hearts Pt.2, creating the illusion he’s been sponsored by DJs from Envy to Drama. Also, a recent video features a quick clip of Power 105.1′s Angela Yee endorsing him, looking like she’s been cornered while walking in the park or something. The video’s description claims that his company Getstr8cashENT “along with GS9, are on their way to taking over NYC.” Though tracks like his recent “823 Bars Freestyle” are clearer documents of his heavy Lil Durk influence, one of his more interesting tracks is this interpolation of Aretha Franklin “Respect” over a lite-trap beat that samples Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.”

Ty Generale, Spadez B, Lil Sdot and Ozzie B, “GS9K”

There are also the inevitable Shmurda disses, like this sinister anthem from a Flatbush Blood-affiliated crew. In his other work, the head MC Ty Generale demonstrates a wholly different musical and lyrical sensibility than GS9 (see his recent mixtape, The Demo, on which he freestyles over beats from Fabolous, Snoop Dogg and Drake), making it seem like his complaint with the group might be musical, as well as gang-related. It’s interesting, then, that the group chose to make their diss a serious trap track over unique production rather than mocking Shmurda on his own beat or something (as did this rapper from Hartford who racked up twice Generale’s views claiming the “Shmoney Dance” was a poor imitation of his “Gzz” one). It’s also strange that Generale would tweet out the track repeatedly to Lil Durk as “New York drill music!!!” but hey, when life hands you lemons…