New York and the East Coast: The birthplace of hiphop, its crown jewel, and perennially home of the very best in rap. With such a rich history and diverse sounds over the years, it will always evoke the same feelings. Cold autumn nights on the corner, hustling, struggling, surviving. The city’s signature sound in the 90’s was boombappy and hardcore, with classics such as Illmatic, The Infamous, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and Reasonable Doubt. While we are far removed from this being a boundary pushing genre, it has thankfully made a major comeback in the past decade. Through the influence of artists such as The Alchemist and Roc Marciano, the East Coast has a flourishing underground scene focused on these same gritty sounds and vivid street tales. Here we will discuss the groups core to that revival.
Keep in mind, this list is far from exhaustive. The East Coast scene is extremely deep and talented, while this list only covers the core groups. Many artists work on their own, including some of the most influential and best who we didn’t even mention here. To discover more, always check out the features and production credits, and read more from Anywhere the Dope Go!
By far the most popular artists out of this scene, Griselda’s core is comprised of three direct relatives from Buffalo: Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine. Westside Gunn is notoriously the “curator” of the group, focused on putting out projects with interesting lineups and combining high art with the reality of street life. Meanwhile, Benny and Conway are versatile, deeply talented MC’s. They bring vivid, menacing raps about dealing and violence in their lifestyles. Conway in particular has potential to go down as one of New York’s finest rappers, with his storytelling ability, emotional cuts, and tragic background. All three members just bring a thousand different ways to talk about cooking. Boldy James and Rome Streetz (check out our ’21 recap playlist for a good intro!) are also recent signees who bring clever wordplay and hungry flows, while former member El Camino had a penchant for melodies.
Also based out of upstate NY, Trust Gang is headed by rapper/producer 38 Spesh. Spesh is notorious for pumping out production collabs at a high rate in addition to his own talents as an MC. He has a truly unique flow and voice, while his beats are just quintessential modern boombap. Signee Ransom is a true veteran in the rap game; With some successful mixtapes in the late 00’s, he actually went on hiatus for a couple years before returning for a series of phenomenal collabs with Toronto producer Nicholas Craven. He brings absolutely top notch wordplay and thought provoking themes to the revival formula while commanding the mic like no other. Be sure to check out our AOTY review of Ran’s collab with Big Ghost LTD! Finally, there is Che Noir – The rare female MC in this scene. That being said, she can rap circles around anybody. With great storytelling and a unique perspective, these three combine for a really prolific and talented crew. Frequent collaborators include Eto, Klass Murda, The Musalini, and of course Griselda members.
Consisting of Mach-Hommy, Tha God Fahim, and Your Old Droog, Dump Gawds are among the most esoteric out of the scene – arguably as influenced by the likes of MF DOOM and Cannibal Ox as Prodigy, for example. Mach-Hommy is certainly the crew’s most hailed artist, bringing a monotone delivery and clever lyrics which take a lot of thought and relistens to pick up on. A former member of Griselda, there was a long beef between them which was recently crushed as he linked with Westside Gunn for 2021’s phenomenal Pray 4 Haiti. He is also quite mysterious and favors a dark, poetic image. Meanwhile, Tha God Fahim is a talented producer/rapper who is constantly dropping something new. Fahim is a bit of an acquired taste with his unique shouted flow, but he has a phenomenal ear for beats (having collabed for full projects with DJ Muggs, Nicholas Craven, and Camoflauge Monk among others). His themes also lean a bit more spiritual and studious. Finally, there’s Your Old Droog. Droog is the most traditional sounding rapper of the three, but he has his quirks of course. For awhile, he was almost a punchline rapper (not in a diminutive way) with how every bar was chock full of obscure references and wordplay which he emphasizes heavily with his flow. On his more recent projects (featured on one of our authors’ AOTY list!), he has evolved and gotten more introspective in addition to that raw MC’ing talent.
Based out of Toronto, Da Cloth is a deep group which represents the revival scene in its purest form – Aubrey Graham this is not. Frequently working with producer Futurewave for full projects, the group is primarily comprised of Rigz, Mooch, MAV, and Rob Gates. These rappers all cross over with each other for collabs a ton and compliment each other well. The beats rarely diverge from their typical sound – real gutter shit, maybe with a dreamy twist when Futurewave is on the boards – and their lyrics are among the darkest in the scene. Every bar is just vivid details of cooking, dealing, and drilling. Daniel Son (check out our review of his newest album with Futurewave) and Asun Eastwood are strong and frequent affliates. There really isn’t much more to say but that if you enjoy East Coast revival for the dark and grimy vibe, Da Cloth is for you.
Founded by Hempstead MC’s Hus Kingpin and SmooVth in the early 10’s, The Winners are a crew that really pioneered the sound but has remained distant from other big names in the scene, in part due to a notable beef with Griselda and Dump Gawds. While they’ve branched out lately to dabble in triphop and international samples, The Winners are rooted in the luxurious, yet menacing sound signature of Roc Marciano. Rosewood and Giallo Point are other core members and standouts on the mic.