Twelvyy represents his native New York hard on his debut.
It seems as though New York hip-hop has been on a winning streak these past two years. Songs, verses and albums from our legends like HOV, Nas, Fabolous, Jadakiss, A Tribe Called Quest are all being reinforced by a new generation rising out of the concrete jungle. This new wave is being led by none other than Joey Bada$$, French Montana, A Boogie, Dave East, Don Q, Casanova and Cardi B, just to name a few. However, as a collective, no other group can be compared to NYC’s very own A$AP Mob. When it comes to consistency in producing dope records, igniting new fashion trends or showing the world how to always strive and prosper, A$AP Mob will always be in a lane of their own. With A$AP Rocky’s name chiseled in the history books, the Mob has been unloading their artillery by rolling out talents like A$AP Ferg, and now, A$AP Twelvyy.
A$AP Twelvyy, born in Harlem and raised in Castle Hill, Bronx, NY, dropped his debut album 12 on August 4th. Twelvyy, real name Jamel Phillips, proudly carries the namesake of the area code of his beloved birthplace, Harlem 212 or 2-twelve. This A$AP representer was first introduced to the rap game in 2011 when he dropped a fire verse on "Trilla" off Rocky’s Long.Live.A$AP album. Since that verse he has yet to show any let-up, releasing songs like "12 Unleashed," "Glock Rivers," "Xscaped," and many more. Still, despite all the loose songs surfacing from the rapper, we never received a proper body of work. Even the teasing of his mixtape 2127301090 resulted in nothing-- the project was ultimately scrapped for personal reasons. Whatever happened behind the scenes, Twelvyy is finally ready to showcase his voice and style as part of the Mob collective.
After almost 10 years within the creative process, 12 is a manifestation of years of hard work, patience, creativity and a unrelenting love for hip-hop. The 28-year old Bronx native kicks off the album with the harrowing and urgent "Castle Hell." With metaphors as vivid as the large tenement buildings that young Jamel was brought up in, this track serves as the perfect lead into the rest of the album, quickly bringing you into his NYC neighborhood and setting the tone, and by extension, expectation for the rest of the album. "Castle Hell" concludes with a monologue by hip-hop’s sensei and leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA, further cementing his dedication to New York and the sound.
If you listen to 12 closely you might be able to hear the subtle stomach growls of young MC who thinks he’s ready for his seat at the table. The first single off of the mobster’s album, “LYBB (Resolution)” carries a sentiment of NYC-gritty determination and that same sentiment, fueled by Twelvyy’s proclamation of this being his “Last Year Being Broke,” echoes throughout most of 14 tracks that make up this project.
In “Riviera”, a track that serves as somewhat of a contrast to “Castle Hell,” you’ll hear 12yy sharing scenic tales of some of his international adventures and just when you think he’s boasting about these success he uses the hook to remind you that although he’s probably no longer in “Castle Hell” he’s is still “on the way.” Where is he en route to exactly? One can only speculate it’s to a greater life and he plans on using music as his mode of transportation. “Riviera” can also be seen as a reaffirmation to himself and his fans of his intentions of reaching a higher level of greatness and not allowing time to be an obstacle or hindrance.
Twelvyy created a project that entertains and more importantly motivates. He uses this album to not only to tell his story but use his story as a testimony to encourage others to persevere through whatever storm to obtain success. You can dab to “Hop Out” or you can get in your zone listening to “Sunset Park,” a track where Twelvyy really puts his lyrical talents to work. “Sunset Park,” named after a NYC neighborhood and the 1996 basketball movie featuring rapper Fredro Starr, who coincidentally also appears on this album, embodies yet again that struggle-for-success mentality and storyline.
The unfortunate part of this album is that the weight of it rests heavily on tracks that were put out prior to dropping this album. Although we enjoyed hearing songs like "LYBB (Resolution)," "Diamonds," "Strapped," "Yea Yea Yea (Maps)" and "Periodic Table," as they were being rolled out, a better move might’ve been to keep a few of those songs in the stash and keep them for a first-listen alongside the album as a whole. By contrast, “Hop Out,” a song featuring Trap Lord A$AP Ferg, would’ve made a great single to drop following “LYBB (Resolution)”; with it’s catchy hook and bouncing beat, it had potential to be on the summer 2017 turn-up playlist. The lack of a surprise-factor created by the numerous pre-released tracks on the album seems to be the most noticeable blemish. In retrospect, it may have been a good idea for Twelvyy to warm the streets with that mixtape we never received, prior to this album.
From the cover art, to the features, to the sound, to the hustler’s mentality perpetuated throughout, if there is one takeaway from Twelvyy’s album it’s that he reps NYC at all times, in all ways. Appearances by A$AP Mob members (and a tribute to A$AP Yams on “EA$TSIDE GHO$T”), along with NYC legends like Fredo Starr and RZA; in conjunction with established NYC-bred talents such as Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ solidifies Twelvyy’s commitment to the city that raised him, and fostering an OG NYC sound that’s still palatable to today’s generation. He also used this album to illuminate some rising talents like Telana and fellow Bronx-native Smooky Margiela.
The most magical thing about the stories Twelvyy illustrates on 12, is that like his name, his music embodies something special about New York City. Still, the album lacks a certain gusto -- Twelvyy doesn’t necessarily feel like a mainstream star in the making, like his brethren ASAP Rocky, despite his clear hunger for success. Twelvyy wants to put New York on, or back on, as is evident by this body of work. Whether or not this will allow him to garner the level of success he seeks to achieve, remains to be seen.