“Doing it for the culture” is one of those terms that gets tossed around way too often, in every circle of hip-hop.
From Diddy uttering the line before pouring Ciroq on a pile of money to Khaled yelling it into an Instagram-ready smartphone before executing a fully clothed swan dive off a yacht, the catchphrase too often becomes linked with the flamboyant lifestyle that’s typical of hip-hop stars today. But far from the culture of carelessly throwing money around, there remains an actual, living, breathing culture of crafted hip-hop, built by craftspeople.
Enter YC the Cynic, the born-and-bred Bronx emcee who’s probably never uttered that phrase in his life. And shocker: YC embodies the saying as much as anybody else out there. Creating brilliantly well-crafted, thought-provoking hip-hop for the better part of five years now, YC first turned our heads in 2010 with his You’re Welcome mixtape and again in 2012 with his critically acclaimed debut LP GNK.
But behind the music lies a thoughtful, intelligent young poet, wise well beyond his 23 years, and a community leader attempting to raise social awareness and activism through hip-hop and art as a whole.
Intrigued by the young guru’s ability to blend message, method, and style, we took the 6 up to 149th in Hunts Point, to spend a day with YC and get the grand tour. What we believed was going to result in a video spot-check of the young emcee turned into a full blown visual portrait—an intimate tour of his local stomping ground. From the DIY RDAC-BX Community Center where his craft was cultivated to the current upheaval and gentrification of his neighborhood, get to know YC the Cynic, the new sound of the Bronx.—Sean Stout