Review Summary: One of the most underrated hip-hop records of all time?
Uncommon Nasa is a New York MC who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, and talks with Anthony Fantano on twitter about his dog. No one I know seems to have listened to this album, and I think that’s a real shame.
New York Telephone is a pretty grimy album that calls back to the classic days of hip-hop. It seems impossible to talk about a throwback hip-hop album without mentioning Illmatic, but they do share similarities. However, I’d say that New York Telephone resembles Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt even more. It feels gritty yet also strange, building itself on previous legends, but also creating something of it’s own. The MC has a slow and winding kind of flow, that builds like a Jenga tower. Both have some strange “skits”, Reasonable Doubt has “22 Two’s” where Jay performs A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It”. New York Telephone has a recurring skit where there is a small loop of muzak that progressively gets faster while random New York citizens tell us what they love about their city. In opposition to this uplifting message, the lyrical content can be rather dark. On “DestiNY”, Nasa says that 1999 seems like such a long time ago, and even a long time before 9/11, despite a separation of only two years. Nothing mind-blowing in terms of political lyrics for the modern age, but they are all solid and occasionally hilarious.. There are some very good features from fellow underground rappers Billy Woods & Elucid, who both come from Backwoodz Studioz. Looking at the track “DestiNY” a little closer, the song has sound effects of the New York subway station that really immerses you in its world. The beat is based off of a simple guitar loop and builds up into this whirling wind sound that gets cut off soon after. The guitar keeps changing the base note, and sometimes switches right back. The beat is very off-kilter, but somehow suits Nasa perfectly.
I should mention that this album is not at all “immediate”, or “catchy”, even though it does have a bigger focus on hooks that some other underground hip-hop albums. This album slowly grew on me with it’s grimy beats and plodding bars. This album deserves way more attention.