Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
The new New York has a wide variety of talented artists making their way into the spotlight in 2013, and one that we’ve been especially checking for lately is Bronx-born, Harlem-based rapper/skateboarder Black Dave. He first caught our attention last year with his video for ‘On Da Map,’ an ode to the five boroughs of New York City (the video also showcased his pro skating abilities). He has since put out a handful of dope visuals, most notably his newest one ‘Take it Back,’ a nod to the ‘90s Golden Era of hip-hop he was born into (check the Kids theme too), and some solid collabos as well, like this one with Meech of Flatbush Zombies that appeared on his Stay Black mixtape, and a more recent remix with Stalley.
For this edition of Heavy Rotation, we caught up with Black Dave fresh off the release of his impressive new project Black Bart, which features appearances by Bodega Bamz, Smoke DZA, Boldy James, and RiFF RaFF, to break down the five songs he’s currently bumping the most. And with this list, you can tell that skating aside, he’s hip-hop to the core. Check out his selection of ‘90s and early 2000s classics, and stay tuned for his new video “Million Man March,” dropping at the end of the month.
1. Big Pun ft. Fat Joe “Twinz (Deep Cover 98)”
Black Dave: “I’m from the Bronx. The Bronx created hip-hop, and started it from day one. [The neighborhood I’m from around Elder Avenue] was real dry. Ain’t shit was going on. It was real fucked up back in the day. Everyone was just bumping hip-hop real loud. But no one was skating, or none of that shit. It was real raw up there. I don’t even know how I gained the inspiration to start skateboarding. But from day one, hip-hop was something that was in my soul.
“During that era of hip-hop back then in the Bronx, Big Pun was looked at as a God. He was just taking over. And this really set the standard, and showed his lyrical ability. How he could speed it up, slow it down. It was the craziest video. And he kept it real to the Bronx, and showed what was going on, and how raw it was, and how hip-hop they were. [‘Dead in the middle of Little Italy…’], that’s one of the most repeated lines in hip-hop to this day.
“Pun was always out and about. It felt so real, because it was so real. Not only was he getting love, but the whole city and the Bronx was getting love, because now these areas and these hoods were getting showcased on these videos on MTV, but these were still the neighborhoods that they lived in, and they were still out there every day.
“Fat Joe, he had some sick singles, but I was always a Big Pun fan. Not to throw anything at Fat Joe, but Big Pun, he was completing the Terror Squad circle. [Fat Joe’s] lyrics were crazy, but it was Pun [for me]. All day. Rest In Peace.”
2. M.O.P. “Ante Up”
“I seriously listen to this every single day. Even though ‘Ante Up’ was a song that was in heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV, and it was that anthem for the summer in the city, it was so grimy and in your face. At that point, I wasn’t familiar with M.O.P. until I heard that song as a kid. And it was just like, BOOM. Still to this day it hits hard than any other track. It’s so raw, but they made it so you could play it on the radio, and get that same exact feel without changing it up, and kept it real to who they were.
“[Beyond] ‘Ante Up,’ they’ve got hits forever. M.O.P. is amazing. But ‘Ante Up,’ once that bass drops, it’s crazy. [And the remix,] ‘Busta Rhymes now! M.O.P. now! What’cha want now!’ That shit was crazy. That was an ill remix.”
3. Cormega “Get Out My Way”
“That song still, every day, just knocks, man. That was putting you on his block, showing you what the fuck he lives. Queensbridge. Everyone was used to Nas, and the storytelling and amazing music coming out of Queensbridge from Nas, but when Cormega came to the scene [with his first album The Realness] and with ‘Get Out My Way,’ it was crazy, crazy, crazy.
“My parents played all this stuff when I was a kid. My parents were young, and they were heavy into the hip-hop scene. [This song] was something that I heard, and then I tapped back into when I started to revisit that Golden Era hip-hop, and what really paved the way for me. I had to pay attention and pay respect to that before I went into recording any of my music. I had to take inspiration from that. I definitely get a lot of inspiration from Cormega, and his variety of songs.
“I remember the first time I ever picked up something and was like, ‘Whoa, this is a dope album cover.’ I was a baby, picking up the artwork and looking at it. It was The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. I’m looking at this like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’ And you don’t know what art is when you’re literally like two, three years old. And the Midnight Marauders album, with all the faces on it as well. I was born in ‘92, so I had to be two, three years old looking at these like, ‘Whoa, these are cool,’ not even knowing what kind of music it is. But that was so in my face, and around me. I didn’t grow up around The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. I grew up straight into hip-hop. My mom loved her soul stuff, like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Michael Jackson. But my pops was banging the hip-hop. He was really doing that shit.”
4. The Diplomats “Dipset Anthem”
“They’ve got a ton of songs, but this was a good one for them. It laid a foundation for those dudes, for Dipset and Harlem, and where they came from. You saw the Paid in Full movie, you saw how Cam’ron could change himself up and be an artist [and an actor]. But when Dipset came out, you saw how flashy they were, with the pink Range Rovers, the big jackets, big fitteds, big chains. It was just a whole different type of era. It was a different thing for people all around the world to see, and just be like, ‘Damn, New York is always ahead of the game! What is this? Who are these dudes with these big jackets with like every NBA team [logo] on them?’
“Also, with Cam’ron, he was out there every day. I remember when I was like twelve, thirteen, I saw the pink Range. It was out. I wasn’t physically on the street, but I would get rode around, we’d go to the barber shop, and I would see it. I lived in the Bronx [at the time], but we would always be in Harlem.
“Hip-hop was huge [for me]. It inspired me to pick up something and express myself. I didn’t begin making my own songs until two years ago, but skateboarding is so similar to music in so many ways. You’ve gotta stay creative, stay humble, and stay consistent. It just influence me to wanna get out there and create visuals, and get out there in a positive way. A lot of my peers that didn’t pick up skating and chose another route, they were getting arrested. Like, kids I went to school with, I was seeing them, like, ‘Damn, this is crazy.’ I wasn’t raised that way, so why do I have to live that life? It gave me [the drive] to want to work in a productive way.”
5. 2Pac “Young Black Male”
“That’s my favorite 2Pac album, his first album 2Pacalypse Now. I don’t want to say it’s slept on, because every 2Pac song is gold. Everybody’s gonna find what they like in their own certain way. But ‘Young Black Male’ and that album speaks to me, today. Even though it came out in 1991, it speaks to me today, and what’s going on in this world. Trayvon Martin. How kids are looking for the grimy, dirty way to get in, and that’s not how you need to get it. How intelligence is power. I found 2Pacalypse Now is that album that is still relevant, and I can listen to it every day. Front to back, it makes so much sense.
“Pac, when I was growing up, he came up with hits like ‘I Get Around,’ and started really getting mainstream [attention] with the singles. And then he passed away, and all that newer music [that was released after he was killed] lived on. But for me, it was just getting older, and revisiting [his catalog] for myself, and saying, ‘I’ve never heard this album.’ And this speaks to me. It’s on some Public Enemy, KRS-One, BDP, intelligent, grimy raw flowing, but sounding real. And there’s a message. And it’s relevant. And this is in ‘91, ’92. It’s like history repeats itself, because it’s more relevant than a lot of the music that’s coming out right now.”
Previously: Heavy Rotation with Mistah F.A.B. (Bay Area Edition) | Heavy Rotation with Hannibal Buress | Heavy Rotation with Chuck Strangers | Heavy Rotation with Sean Price | Heavy Rotation with MTV’s Rob Markman