NYOil, a nerdy motormouth from Staten Island, is arrogant. Really arrogant. He’s unapologetically confrontational and contrary, dissing almost everyone in the rap industry (from easy targets like Dipset to head-scratchers like Nas) with scorched-earth abandon. He’s not just positioning himself as a community leader in the tradition of Chuck D and KRS-One; he’s assuming the mantle is already his, and behaving accordingly. And that’s in spite of the chilly reception he’s gotten over the last two years – the video for his comprehensive hip-hop riot act “Y’all Should All Get Lynched” was unceremoniously yanked from YouTube for copyright violations, and the ’07 release for his debut LP Hood Treason (on Masta Mix) got some gushing reviews and then sank into cult oblivion.
But he’s conceded nothing. He’s still talking a gang of shit. And now, he’s releasing Hood Treason again, with a full disc of bonus material and a more serious promotional push, convinced that it’s the street classic that he thinks it is.
Well, grab a glowstick, because there’s an unqualified rave coming. It’s the street classic that it needs to be. While most circa-now “conscious” MCs either take on society at large (which NYOil occasionally does, as on “Self Destrukkktion,” and which has always been the course of least resistance and lowest yield) or lick their personal wounds (which NYOil does on “I Tried” and “The Hate That Love Made,” which do serve to humanize the man when it’s most needed), NYOil is strongest when he obsesses about this rap shit. Because, as he reveals on “Hip Hop Ya Don’t Stop,” his statement of purpose, he’s followed every twist of this rap shit. This rap shit is his prism. It’s his perspective on the world. And when he focuses his rage on the weakness of this rap shit in its hyper-commercialized post-millennial form, that’s when his arguments have the most impact. That’s when Hood Treason has the power to upend the industry and rearrange the culture, in much the way that NYOil seems to think he already has.
Not only does NYOil have the hard-hitting lyrical skills to bolster his major-league aspirations (“Rep your set / Rep for respect / Or you’ll get tested and disrespected to death / Be yourself homie / Or find yourself lonely / We only rock with real dudes / We ain’t fuckin’ with no phonies homie…” It ain’t exactly “Welcome to the Terrordome, but say that three times, really fast), but he observes the best of Chris Rock’s visionary hip-hop dicta: A conscious rapper needs some ignorant beats. Most of the original Hood Treason sounds like Just Blaze on an indie budget: a little bit endearingly sloppy, but all-the-way loud, immersive and galvanizing, the ideal compliment for NYOil’s persona. The bonus disc is even better, with more variety, more resolute beats, and better-informed jeremiads. Together, they comprise the strongest hip hop debut since Ready to Die, equally conflicted, determined and unforgettable. If you care about hip hop (and he hasn’t already insulted you personally), you have no excuse for sleeping on this again.