As the New York rap movement rises like a phoenix from the ashes on the backs of artists like A$AP Mob and French Montana, one group that has been conspicuously absent from the resurgence are Latino MCs. While Pun, Fat Joe, and N.O.R.E. put indelible marks on the game in the late 90s, it’s been awhile since the birthplace of hip-hop (and the United States as a whole) embraced their Latino brothers and sisters in the game.
Enter Tanboys, the crew assembled and led by Spanish Harlem’s Bodega Bamz. Menace TAN Society, the collective’s first mixtape, presents a united front from a group of hungry Latino rappers determined to be noticed in today’s hip-hop landscape. The group is comprised of Bodega Bamz and his real-life brother Ohla, plus Lil’ Eto, Bonnie B, Kanary Black, Tanboy Luka, and Rossi Rock. The finished product sounds more like Junior M.A.F.I.A. than Young Money, with influences that tread much more of 90s New York territory than present day hip-hop does. The throwback vibes are a welcome alternative to the current trap music craze, which is teetering on overexposure.
Bamz does most of the heavy lifting throughout the set, and his aggressive, commanding delivery on tracks like “Bad Man” and “Be Like We” (featuring non-Tanboy Latino rappers Dro Fe & Kap G) makes it obvious why he was a natural choice to be the leader of the crew. There are other members who display serious potential here as well, though. Lil’ Eto’s drawling, nasally flow, reminiscent of Curren$y, is best paired with the soul sample instrumental that appears halfway through “Get Away.” Meanwhile, Bonnie B plays her role as the crew’s token woman MC, and while she could easily rest on her laurels based on that alone, she sounds eager to make a lasting impression on “Finesse.”
At 20 tracks deep and with few high profile guest appearances (A$AP Ferg appears on the intro while elsewhere Collie Buddz provides a hook), Menace TAN Society is a daunting undertaking determined to make a name for its performers based on their own merits. It succeeds to a certain degree, especially for listeners who loved the dark hood tales of heyday Mobb Deep but aren’t as into Tumblr rap. However, the set could have benefited from cutting the track listing down by about a half dozen songs. By the second half of the tape, the production starts running together interminably, unable to be uplifted even by Bamz’s fiery technique.
Though it has its shortcomings, Menace TAN Society does prove that there are plenty of Latino MCs who want back into the culture they helped create in the New York hip-hop scene. As East Coast MCs are slowly getting their mojo back on a national scale, it’s about time the U.S. rap scene had us representing again.