As a member of the Queens-based rap collective World’s Fair, Dominican MC Nasty Nigel recalls gritty, New York-style hip-hop with plenty of goofy flair. Last month when he sat down with Remezcla, Nigel told us it was time for him to tell his individual story, beyond his work with the six-man hip-hop crew. New York rap has experienced a flashy renaissance in recent years (think A$AP Rocky), and Nigel’s persona-centered solo debut is a welcome throwback to the scene’s mid-90s heyday – without sounding dated. With the release of his debut solo EP El Ultimo Playboy: La Vida y Los Tiempos de Nigel Rubirosa, Nigel lays out his hip-hop origin story with a brutal honesty that is at once grimly relatable and aspirational.
Though the dapper don alter ego (Nigel’s is inspired by real-life playboy Porfirio Rubirosa) is a tried-and-true method for crafting a rap persona, El Ultimo Playboy takes the path less traveled by choosing to introduce the character at his rock bottom. Over the sinister instrumental of “Groundhog Day,” Nigel delivers an aggressive tale of an exhausting, unfulfilling, and repetitive life of substance abuse and disappointment with equally down-and-out family and friends.
“Boone’s Farm” finds Nigel weaving Ghostface-like stories of “raising [his] pinky near the Pink Houses to Boone’s Farm” and “doing lines of K.” The Cities Aviv-assisted “Home Box Office” narrates what it’s like to grow up in an environment that breeds hopelessness. Drawing on the visuals of the premium cable network’s hits like The Wire, the duo raps, “Queens is like a canceled show on HBO, every night a different set, a different episode…and how the story ends we may never know.”
The closing song, appropriately titled “Fin,” isn’t any more optimistic than the rest of the set. The soulful vintage instrumental finds Nigel lamenting the state of his life, tired of chasing record label dreams and considering whether or not to abandon his group in favor of a life on a far-off island. The last verse abruptly segues into a Spanish-speaking balladeer mourning the change in his lover. A dark way to end a hero’s tale, perhaps, though you can’t help but get the sense that this just the end of the beginning – not only for Nigel Rubirosa, but Nasty Nigel himself. By embracing the bleak realities in contrast to Rubirosa’s indulgent spectacle, Nigel reinforces that there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s an intriguing bit of retro hard-knock rap that serves as a convincing intro to Nigel’s solo career.