The Search For The Ultimate NY Anthem

Illustration by Tony Bones

It ain’t no mystery that New York has been the subject of a wide variety of rap dedications, being the birthplace of hip-hop and whatnot. But which Rotten Apple dedication deserves to be top of the heap? After selecting thirteen tracks that reference NY in the title, the next step was to run my selections by three esteemed residents of Gotham to get their opinions on which cuts win and those that don’t make the grade. Finally, the final six finalists will then be put to vote.

Three Times Dope:

Tony Bones – Graphic Designer and MC, currently located in Harlem.

Dallas Penn – Evil Genius and Internets Celebrity, Planet Brooklyn.

eskay – The Greatest Blogger Alive, Yonkers.

2Face – ‘NYC’

T: Overall pleasant, but you could pretty much replace NY with any city.

D: Track was dope too, but it doesn’t rank at the top musically or lyrically

E: Cool track, but this and the word “anthem” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence.

Kool G Rap – ‘Streets Of New York’

T: Pure quality. Paints a vivid picture of NYC at that time. (I went to High School with the ‘wife w/ the knife’ in the video).

E: Possibly the greatest New York anthem of all time. Lyrically and musically on point, timeless, and dirty in every sense of the word.

D: On a musical level it’s an amazing track, the drums are sharp along with the organ and piano riffs. When G Rap rhymes slow enough for us to understand he creates one of the greatest lyrical masterpieces on par with Melle Mel‘s ‘The Message’. G Rap describes all the heroism and depravity inside the NYC ‘hoods with equal aplomb. This is unquestionably NYC’s rap anthem. Nas, Big Pun, Mobb Deep, Wu Tang, Joell Ortiz are all outgrowths from G Rap.

M.O.P. – ‘New York Salute’

T: Lovely stuff. Nuff said.

D: MOP made a hardcore lullaby with this joint.

E: I think Brooklyn when I hear this, the rest of New York, not so much. But that goes for damn near every Mash Out track. It’s dope but, not enough energy to be called an “anthem”.

Nas – ‘NY State of Mind’

T: Classic. Captured that mindset honestly and beautifully. *Sniffle-sniffle*

D: A legendary song with mad quotables but it doesn’t carry the universal NY anthem status. When Nas gives up his NY specific references he can’t be stopped.

E: The quintessential New York rap song. I listen to this and I smell nothing but subway system and permanent marker.

Nas – ‘NY State of Mind 2’

T: This is good stuff. Stands up well next to the original. Kudos Nas.

D: 2nd place, but what an incredible track from the lil homey.

E: This shit is dope, and to be honest, he paints more of a picture of the city on this than he did on the original, but I’ll still take the original.

Nas – ‘Talk Of New York’

T: That’s 3 NY tracks – all quality. This one in particular feels like 125th at night in ’92.

D: Nas has raised the stakes again by being the best rapper of all time. Empire, Rooftop, Skate Key, USA. That is NYC that only an OG can recall. This could be the new millennium New York City anthem.

E: Another damn near perfect joint from the Little Homey. That beat sounds like you just hopped off the train at Broadway Junction and 5 niggas are following you.

In other words, it’s a problem.

Rakim – ‘New York (Ya Out There)’

T: I remember being confused by how dope this was. It was some outer-space shit. Who else put things like that?

D: Sounds like filler musically. The God MC has never been accused of being generic, but this song is generic and cliche (old heads gasp at my review).

E: Impeccable rhymes from the God and impeccable sample selection. He touched on just about everything that makes New York New York, like only he could.

AZ feat. Ghostface & Raekwon – ‘New York (Memphis Sessions Remix)

T: Solid performances by all, but pretty unremarkable.

D: This joint was dope. It’s sitting in third place solid.

E: Superb lyrical performances all around, but musically it’s more “mint julep on the porch” than “boiled hot dog on the corner”. The original would probably fare better in this showdown.

Large Pro – ‘NY At Night’

T: Me likey! Grown-man shit.

D: Certainly reminiscent of a night in NY, but not every night.

E: Reminds me of driving down the West Side Highway in the rain. At night of course.

Royal Flush – ‘Rotten Apple’

T: NG. NFG. Sounds like a nasdeep impression.

D: Smooth as silk, that Bob James sample underneath everything is easy listening NYC. I’m crossing the Queensboro Bridge peeping the city lights at night. Nice track. NYC anthem B-sides status.

E: This is by no means wack, but is by no means New York anthem status. The Nas sample does a lot of the heavy lifting for Flush if you know what I mean.

Sadat X – ‘Back To New York’

T: Besides a horrid chorus, Sadat is at his best (a bit of ‘tough-love’ in there as well).

D: Real and contemplative, but it ain’t the knock that New York needs to come back like crack.

E: Sadat is speaking truth on this, but this ain’t it.

Muggs feat. Call O Da Wild – ‘New York’s Undercover’

T: My all-time favorite NY tribute. Goosebumps every time I hear it.

D: Yeah, I liked this joint. The beat had some thunder in it. Unfortunately I just re-listened to G Raps joint again. So its gonna be hard for someone other than maybe Nas to get a word in my brain. Sorry fella.

E: I wasn’t familiar with this track, but this shit goes hard. Can’t go wrong with Muggs on the boards. Nonetheless, this would have a hard time standing up against some of the other cuts on this list.

P Bros – ‘NY Fanfare (Outro)’

T: I challenge anyone to keep from making the ugly-face. I wish it was 10 minutes longer.

D: P-Bros got the right idea with the horn intro because NYC needs to be heralded like majesty and shit. I’m still not hearing that knock though.

E: Nice cut. This is Canyon of Champions theme music right here.

Not Included: Busta‘s ‘NY Shit’, since I would really prefer never to have to hear that song ever again (blame Swizz). Juganot‘s ‘En Why Cee’ with Joell and Uncle Murda, just because dude tried to sue Breeze Brewin’ and them for using their own group name. As for the Ja Rule shit with Jadakiss and Fat Joe….no.

The Finalists: Looks like Rapper Nas has the NY anthem game in a fuckin’ headlock, but can his two biggest influences pip him at the post? Results announced next Monday.

Which Track Is The Ultimate NY Anthem?

  • Nas - NY State of Mind (56%, 170 Votes)
  • Kool G Rap - Streets Of New York (24%, 73 Votes)
  • Nas - NY State of Mind 2 (10%, 29 Votes)
  • Rakim - New York (Ya Out There) (6%, 19 Votes)
  • Nas - Talk Of New York (3%, 10 Votes)
  • Muggs feat. Call O Da Wild - New Yorks Undercover (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 305

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33 Comments so far
Leave a comment

ROFL at eskay’s review to ‘Talk Of New York’

Comment by DP 10.14.08 @

Voted for NY State of Mind, because it’s been a favorite for years.

En Why Cee would have been a tough contender though.

How come Nas’ Rotten Apple didn’t make the list or a mention?

Comment by SeventhSun 10.14.08 @

Gotta be Nas’s ‘NY State Of Mind’ foe me, with Kool G Rap a very very close second.

Comment by Disorda 10.14.08 @


This was such a great blog post idea.

Im jelly.

Comment by 10.14.08 @

“How come Nasí Rotten Apple didnít make the list or a mention?”

Maybe because it doesn’t exist.

Comment by Robbie 10.14.08 @

Where It Started At (NY) by Papoose, Talib Kweli, Jadakiss, and Raekwon? It might not top the list, but it derserves a mention.

Comment by Sam 10.14.08 @

Yup that joint is called One On One, not Rotten Apple. 1

Comment by The Funkologist 10.14.08 @

Ja’s.. I’m from New York…

Comment by NWS 10.14.08 @

de ja vu kinda was bigger than all those songs

Comment by mercilesz 10.14.08 @

– F.Sinatra

Comment by Greums Da God 10.14.08 @

Welcome to New York City – killa ft. hov, definitely deserves a mention just because that’s not a DJ mashup, or fake titled innanet track, but an actual collabo released on a platinum album, crazy as it might sound now…

Comment by Universal Em 10.14.08 @

i completely forgot about T.O.N.Y., you want anthem, that’s a fuckin anthem

Comment by Universal Em 10.14.08 @

LA LA by CNN!!!

Comment by el pres 10.14.08 @

i don’t fux with any of those tracks. Ja Rule’s I’m from NY is better than those. An anthem should be uplifting and shit to make you get rowdy about NY.

Comment by kyo 10.14.08 @

damn man g rap got it. it sounds like the hip hop soundtrack to the movie taxi driver. en why cee by ortiz got my vote for the new millenium joint. there was also this underground group, if you live in ny and bump college radio that had a track called if you with me, it was all over college radio like 5 years ago. if anybody remember that track or can upload. true ny anthem. oh and does ghetto jiggy from the lost boyz count. dope post overall peace

Comment by mr.martin 10.14.08 @

what about Onyx’s new york joint off they second album ..

Comment by dolo 10.14.08 @

” We dont throw gang signs in NY !!”

Comment by dolo 10.14.08 @

I dunno, it’s just too wide open, I see you went with reference “NY” in the title, but what’s the rest of the criteria and/or does a title make an anthem? Just for fun…

Jesse Jaymes – Go New York Go
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
James Brown – Down and Out in New York City
KRS-One – 5 Boroughs (maybe it’s not as bad as I recall)
Gang Starr – New York Strait Talk
Black Star – Respiration
Digable Planets – Where I’m From

I second, Frank Sinatra’s version of the “Theme from New York, New York” as far as the official anthem.

or maybe, “New York, New York” from Bernstein’s “On The Town” – “New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground. New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!”

Comment by jowhite 10.14.08 @

I ain’t even from New York, I’m from Cali. 2 cents from here, if somebody asked me the biggest NY anthem that we felt all the way on this side, it was Lord Tariq and Peter Gunns…Deja Vu. Second, I’d have to give props where they’re due…Ja Rule’s ‘I’m From NY’ got crazy radio spins out here considering it was an anthem from the other side of the country.

Comment by For What It's Worth 10.15.08 @

hell yeah!!

The Message….a NY state of mind of the times

Streets Of NY = cos its too classy a tune!

NY State Of Mind…pt.1

BIG’s Unbelievable…

Ego Trippin’….total NY anthem, All City

Capone n Nore T.O.N.Y….

Rebel Without A Pause….classic

Sucker MC’s……

Eric B for pres…

Show & AG Soul Clap…..

Just Ice Going Way Back….

Big Pun NY Giantz ft. MOP…..

Main Source Just Hangin Out…

Main Source Live at the bbq…

Comment by crunchtime 10.15.08 @

Yeah, you’ve got to have Deja Vu in there. And these guys you’ve polled think Talk of New York is better than Rotten apple? Are they fucking deaf?

Comment by Drew Huge 10.15.08 @

With all due respect, but, not for nothing, Chicago is now Gotham, as evidenced in `The Dark Knight`.

Comment by fosterakahunter 10.15.08 @

Word to T.O.N.Y.

Comment by brian beck from wisconsin 10.15.08 @

A curveball choice from ’05, Aasim’s ‘Streets Of New York. That joint was nice. And no ‘Big Apple Rappin’ by Spyder D? Damn.

Comment by Hugh L 10.15.08 @

the Green Lantern remix of Jay & Cam ‘Welcome To NYC’ is dope – worth seeking out.

the OG mix of the AZ/Ghost/Rae track has to be up there, plus the Ja/Jada/Fat Joe track was getting burn all over NYC when it dropped.

Comment by step one 10.16.08 @

Streets of NY-G Rap

Always liked Brooklyn Queens by 3rd Bass as a runner up.

Comment by chronwell 10.17.08 @

New York New York – Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

’nuff said.

Comment by ceedub 10.17.08 @

It’s not so vintage, but Welcome to New York City” with Hov and Cam was pretty hot

Comment by juknow 10.17.08 @

I might be bugging out, but in order for a song to qualify as a New York anthem or dedication, shouldn’t the song at least be ABOUT New York?

Comment by Tony B1s 10.17.08 @

I always liked Trag’s ‘Welcome To QB’ remake better than Killa’s version.

Comment by Robbie 10.17.08 @

Kool G Rap has to take it. Classic. What about Mos Def’s Brooklyn?

Comment by BIG SPICE 10.17.08 @

I do think Ja’s song deserves to at least be mentioned here.

Comment by Tray 10.18.08 @

Where’s “NY State of Mind pt. 3 (Streets of New York)” with Rakim and Alicia Keys?

Comment by Biz 10.28.08 @

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