Beast Coast: Escape from New York (Columbia) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Beast Coast

Escape from New York

Columbia

Jun 04, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Even New York's most ardent supporters must admit that if the city still holds the crown as hip-hop's center, it does so off history alone. Bar the brief excitement around ASAP Mob at the turn of the decade, the city has scarcely produced national stars or a defining movement. Sure, artists like Cardi B, Lil Peep, and 6ix9ine have had attention-grabbing and influential success, but none of them feel profoundly linked to the city—they exist either as Internet success stories or affiliates of the South's trap sound. In 2019, if you want to know where hip-hop is moving, you would be advised to head to Atlanta, or even LA, before travelling to the genre's founding city.

Beast Coast therefore appears as an attempt to re-establish New York's reputation as a major force in hip-hop, by collecting together some of the city's most notable rappers from Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers. The group's name invites attention, as does the album title—which may allude to the city's lack of breakout stars over the last decade. Yet, Escape from New York is a surprisingly unambitious and uneventful project. There is no doubting the talent in Beast Coast but what they do with it leaves little to be desired.

Beast Coast are at their best at their most beastly, when on "It Ain't Easy, It Ain't Easy" and "Left Hand" members trade quickfire verses over sharp, sinister production. Lyrically, it is standard stuff—boasts of musical and sexual prowess are frequent—but there is a charm to the way these verses pile up and clear chemistry between members. That charm is unfortunately short-lived though, as Escape from New York drags over 13 repetitive, unnecessary tracks. It is almost impressive how little of note can be said over the pages of lyrics on offer here.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the trivial nature of many of these songs, but it requires Beast Coast to be creative and memorable at the very least. Too often members approach verses with the glib professionalism of a contractual feature. Beast Coast's roster is not Wu-Tang Clan quality, yet even by their own standard, it doesn't feel like anyone has brought their best material. And if Escape from New York's livelier tracks are often guilty of being banal, its slower tracks are drab and unappealing. Sex appeal was not a selling point of Beast Coast's individual records so it is unsurprising that "Far Away" is such a stiff attempt at an R&B crossover.

These issues make it hard to see what the point of Escape from New York is. Beast Coast have been around since 2012 so a debut record was no longer expected imminently. It does little to honor New York's history or construct an original sound for the city. And most frustratingly, it feels like an afterthought for the group's members. While many verses make boasts about the superiority of the collective, this shallow record does little to prove it. There is too much talent in Beast Coast for Escape from New York to be outright bad but ultimately it is a symptom of the city's lost relevance rather than a cure. (www.beastcoastmusic.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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