Lynching is a word synonymous with murder. Staten Island’s NYOIL, tired of seeing the metaphorical death in the eyes of “shorties around his block,” decided to fight back by spittin’ truth. Voicing his frustrations through his edutainment style of MCing brought forth the October 2006 release of NYOIL’s (pronounced N.Y. Oil) self-produced single “Ya’ll Should All Get Lynched.”
When asked why he didn’t title the song “Ya’ll Should All Be Embarrassed” or “Ya’ll Should All Be Ashamed,” the answer came quickly. “Imagine how that would have sounded? You should all get sent to the corner. It wouldn’t have popped,” says the thirty-something year-old rapper. Pausing for effect, he continues, “In all honesty, I didn’t come with the chorus as contrived. In fact, that’s why I never sold the song. I let people download it for free because I wanted it to be clear of what came to me. I make mad songs, I got mad joints, but of all things that come to me, this came to me. Lynched. I’m tired of this s**t! The general goings-on in the neighborhood was getting to me. I was never with the status quo. I’m watching shorties lose their composure; I’m watching shorties take on characteristics that aren’t even them.”
Seeing the demise of quality images for the community also generated the desire to bring back some of the conscious style of MCing that’s missing in mainstream Hip-Hop today.
“I came upon this video by Miss Peaches called ‘Fry That Chicken,’” begins NYOIL. “I was tight behind that and all the disrespect. The concept for the song had been brewing in my mind for a while about how cats in the entertainment business do s**t and are so irresponsible it’s ridiculous.”
Using the grassroots power of the web, he also produced an equally controversial video to accompany the single. The video, filled with historically disturbing African American images and some of today’s top rap stars, only increased the buzz. “My frustration wasn’t just with the Hip Hop community,” the MC confesses. “Right now, Hip-Hop and pop culture is the crux of where people are getting knowledge right now. It isn’t right, but youth are really using it as the template and I used that to tell the story. To give something that people would immediately get quickly. I force-fed the message but the medicine was inside.”
After posting his MPC made rhyme on his MySpace page, it didn’t take long for people to key in on the songs many messages. “When I did it, I had 200 friends at the time. Once I put up the original version of the song, I got almost 400 friends overnight,” he boasts, “I have never requested anyone as a friend.”
After hearing the original version of the diatribe, one of those friends, Delaware-based DJ Slice offered to do the remix, and before long, the Shaolin MC was burning gas on I-95 to make it happen in person.
Creating provacative video was the next logical step in a long thought out plan to get notice. When asked about some of the imagery in the video, NYOIL explains his vision, “There is a degree of artistic license in the video. I felt like I could tell the story better by using rappers and celebrity images to bring things together. Of course I am trying to get attention. The imagery in the video is Hip-Hop. If there is someone in this music business, not trying to get attention they are a liar.”
After he’s captured their eyes, NYOIL went for their hearts. “At first, you might laugh, but somewhere in the middle of the video, you see enough slaves and lynchings, and the White boy and Black girl on a dirty mattress, and you get mad. That is what it was meant to do. I slipped in the jab in, knocked them out, and got some knowledge in on them.”
But when it comes to other bold statements about young Black culture, NYOIL might hold a double standard. For instance, he is sore over Nas’ recent Hip Hop is Dead campaign. “That disrespects all the underground brothers that are good and haven’t sold out – the ones that aren’t like Nas and Jay-Z,” begins NYOIL. “If you are talking about selling out and making stuff sound wack, they are the ones. They were in a position to do whatever it is they wanted to do, but then say it’s dead? That doesn’t make sense. I heard the Jeezy conflict on the radio. He is the first one to say he’s not a rapper. He said he’s a hustler, so why does he care?” he laughs. “If Mele Mel said it, it [still] wouldn’t mean anything to me. Who is anyone to say that? I think sometimes people take themselves and [their] position too serious. Just ‘cause you aren’t doing what you are supposed to be doing with it, you can’t jump up and make the edict that it’s dead.”
Skeptics might point back to NYOIL’s own campaign, which, on the surface, seemingly supports a bloody act of American hate history. Equally, NYOIL refuses to reveal his name, face, and various other details about his identity and past. The MC defends his platform in saying, “People don’t even care who I am. They care about what I am saying. Ain’t that a beautiful thing in music? When people hear my music, it doesn’t have to be about me. My songs aren’t about me. I rhyme situations.”
And what about those cynics and skeptics? He offers little for them to debate. “How cynical can you be against me if everything I’ve done thus far is not consistent with your cynicism? I said what I felt. I’m not trying to ingratiate myself to anyone. At the end of the day, what I said it what I meant. I have yet to promote this song to anyone. I don’t take meetings with people. I never sold the song. People were literally saying they wanted to buy it to support me to make more. I haven’t made any money off this song.” Gimmicks, by definition, translate to sales, making NYOIL’s argument strong in the face of his critics.
Being controversial isn’t the only goal of NYOIL. Coming out victorious after winning New York’s Training Camp showcase and walking away with $5,000 in prize money was only part of beauty of winning. Getting the crowd behind you in one of the toughest places for an unknown to make it proved to be an accomplishment in more ways than one.
“The beautiful thing was [that] I did my thing. When I won, what I enjoyed most was the call and response with the audience. Everyone was there for there own people, but when I said, ‘Someone say Hip-Hop,’ the whole crown erupted,” boasts NYOIL. “In a way, it was like the good guy won. No disrespect to the other brothers, but they were coming in with the typical raps. To come with some pro-positive, pro-Black stuff and dominate and win hands down was cool. People are getting tired of the typical.”
With his growing fan base and mixtape due in mid March, NYOIL isn’t willing to rest on his laurels. “The pendulum is swinging. I hope that I am one of those dudes that are helping to bring that shift in. I’m trying to spark some critical thinking.” Despite his age, this artist has long-term goals. “I am trying to open a very heavy door that I need people to walk through. I’m trying to open the door that will create an opening for you to talk to you daughter – for me to talk to my son.” For a man waving death at the actions of others, he’s as committed to the cause, “I’m going to try till I die; my grind is serious. It’s worth dying for and this is a good way to go out. I want to live long and have a good life, but if this is what I gotta go out for—dropping knowledge on people, I’ll go out for it. You’ll never forget me.”
At this rate, that may hold true.