Take the time to drive a few miles east of Mecca, past the quasi-suburban locales of Southeastern Queens cited in the music of LL Cool J and Run DMC and venture off into the wilderness of Strong Island. You will inevitably encounter the heavily Black and Latino hamlets and Census-designated places that Havelock Nelson, Jeff Chang, and other writers have identified as the locus classicus of a new school rap movement that managed to dictate the pace of NYC street culture from a distance.
"You Can Still See New York City Through The Trees"
The Black Belt of Long Island is a Twilight Zone of sorts – not nearly as blighted as NYC’s worst ghettoes but a far cry from the picture perfect Levittown idyll of Robert Moses’ twisted imagination. A place where the comfort and repose afforded by detached single family housing is counterbalanced by staggering educational disparity. Where a thriving car culture and ample highways provide a temporary from the inequities of “small box” governance. Where park jams and mobile DJ sound systems and mix shows bloomed not long after the seeds drifted over from the five boroughs. A dynamic, fluid collection of zones frequently depicted by its native rap artists as the expansive magical sum of the Island’s hopes and disappointments.
Join us on a journey through Strong Island, from Hard 2 Obtain’s “12 Block City” (Lakeview) to Keith Murray’s dirty stinking corner (Central Islip) to the birthplace of De La’s D.A.I.S.Y. consciousness (North Amityville) to the stomping grounds of EPMD and Rakim (Brentwood and Wyanadanche) to every spot mentioned in Original Concept’s “Knowledge Me,” a hilarious and timelessly ill ode to L.I.’s underappreciated hip-hop pioneers. — Thun
Original Concept “Knowledge Me”
Public Enemy “M.P.E.”
JVC Force “Strong Island” (Blue Mix)
MC EZ & Troupe “Get Retarded”
K-Solo “Rockin’ For My HomeTown”
Leaders Of The New School “International Zone Coaster”
EPMD “Brothers From Brentwood, L.I.”
Resident Alien “Emergency”
Keith Murray “Sychosymatic”
Hard 2 Obtain “L.I. Groove”
Punk Barbarians “L.I. Zone”
De La Soul “Long Island Degrees”
Rakim “Strong Island”