Traditionally the trend for super groups has been a feast or famine type of deal. These team ups either assemble like the Avengers, or come off like an offbrand, eco-friendly Voltron; weak. Unfortunately for one of the latest collaborative unions, LuvNY, their self-titled debut LP places them firmly in the latter category. The group’s ethos ostensibly takes heads back to the days of when The Big Apple was the undisputed center of the hip-hop universe. The lineup consists of NYC OG’s A.G. and O.C. of one of the original supergroups DITC, the supremely creative Kool Keith, Roc Marciano, Kurious, and producer Ray West. It’s a roster that looks great on paper, but like the 2004 Dream Team, this squad fails to bring home the goods.
There are notable individual performances, A.G. and Kool Keith bodying every track Ray West throws at them. “These Rappers Under the Hex” is a solo A.G. endeavor, and West’s laid back, flute-laced, boom bap compliments an MC with a flow 20 years in the crafting. Kool Keith maximizes his shine time appearing on three tracks, two of which find him riding shotgun with A.G. on “Extreme Status” and sparking his own rally on the dolo joint “I Been Luvin’ U.” In the past Dr. Octagon has told any and everybody who would listen that 99% of rappers in the game bite his style but he possibly has a valid point. He’s been one of the game’s most original spitters, with laugh out loud subject matter and barely-comprehensible stanzas that somehow always end up making sense at the end of the day. He may not have directly fathered their styles, but Ghostface Killah and Weezy owe this man a debt for pushing lyrical boundaries.
Regrettably it appears O.C. doesn’t play well with others and makes just two appearances, both alone, on “Acid” and “Legacy.” Maybe he saved all his best bars for Trophies, but on both tracks it doesn’t seem like he’s giving his best effort. There’s nothing blatantly wack in his verses, just nothing memorable. Ray West’s production doesn’t help the cause either. His sound on LuvNY is oft times banal, mundane, and vaguely amateurish in it’s failure to get the listener to even think about flexing a neck muscle. Roc Marciano gets some tick on “Egyptology” and “Pressure Up”–and depending on what your stance is on the man, fanboy or hater, you either think he did his thing or still can’t figure out what the big deal about Marcberg ever was. What isn’t under contention is “Shorties Watching.” Kurious makes the most of one of the rare decent Ray West beats on the project with thoughtful verses about the roles adults play in the lives around them.
LuvNY’s album’s got some highlights but in no way, shape, or form, is it bringing New York back or even a suitable tribute. One reason may be that while they have been billed as a ‘supergroup’ there’s not one song where more than two emcees of the group make an appearance. This lack of teamwork along with Ray West’s lackadaisical effort on the boards may have killed this team’s chances to really do something special. As the sole producer crafting the sound for a project with this much promise, West underperformed when his job was to set the tone, get everybody on the same page, and get every MC to realize their potential and work together effectively. This simply didn’t happen. This Dream Team thought it could step into the arena and step out with a W based on it’s component parts. L.