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Best of 2023: Finals, Kieran Press-Reynolds, Ali Rosa-Salas

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As stated in the (brilliant) kimdollars1 post kicking off Finals' EOY content, this year I feel like making it all about New York City, out of a sense of gratitude to this great city that I will not expand on. So that’s what we’re doing.

With that in mind, I got friends of the blog to kick in their top NY stuff of the year. We got City Island restaurants, digitally-damaged rap, the end of the unofficial drill ban...stay tuned for at least a couple more installments before we enter 2024.

First, my fav New York 2023 music developments, as I look back on the year.

Drill blackball lifted

The fast-changing, clone-infested but ultimately still exciting local rap subgenre was finally allowed in clubs, I think, a development which allowed new stars like Brownsville’s 41 to more properly shine, unlike virtually all NY drill before them.

Ice Spice on top

Perhaps the initial force which may have sweetened the police’s/mayor’s/talent buyers’ stance on drill, Ice put a pop spin on it last year and hit big with “Munch” (peep my interview with her producer Riot from basically minutes before that happened, when I was compulsively jamming “Name of Love”). This year she went supernova, bringing a plethora of styles to the masses, both solo and with collabs that got serious radio play featuring Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Pinkpantheress.

Cash Cobain and Evilgiane break thru

These two long-rising NY producers are now getting major looks (Drake, Kendrick, Pinkpantheress, Travis Scott) by making drill adjacent music their way like Burger King. Crucially they stood out from all the type beat producers (though, no hate to them) by innovating. Instead of following trends, they trusted their ears and guts and blazed new trails, while connecting with rising pop stars and A-list rap.

MIKE is a primary color for New York

The free Young World day festivals, which MIKE curates, have evolved into NY’s underground Summer Jam. This year was amazing as usual, highlighted by Earl Sweatshirt’s debut performance of one of the songs of the year, “Making the Band (Danity Kane).” That, plus a bunch of great rap projects + his 10k label hitting home runs = crazy year for MIKE. He’s been excelling for 7-8 years now, and has established himself as an essential force in the city. Can’t imagine NY without him.

AMANI curating the underground

AMANI is a crazy talented artist in his own right (message me and I’ll slide you his deleted Spook Sampler project from last year), but this year he was all about spotlighting others. His roving, mostly-Brooklyn show-organizing as STILL/MOVING was genius — he was out here throwing incredible showcases, often. These were events where “opener” and “headliner” made little difference to the people who showed up; they knew the whole thing was gonna be sick, top to bottom, whether rap, rock, jazz, whatever.

And now, Kieran Press-Reynolds’ fun and idiosyncratic top 7 NY music from 2023 (either music from the city, or which was performed in the city), with some anecdotes.

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OLTH’s “sOng fOr jOrdan.” It’s impressive how the vocalist sounds like windshield wipers being eviscerated by a blizzard. When this came on at their October Baby’s All Right show, I jumped into the pit with a viking hat (I dressed as a viking). Some hecklers grabbed my hat and tore it from my hands. I have no idea what happened to it. All I came out with was a single horn.

MGNA Crrrta’s “@ NIGHT.” Imagine if the resident DJ of the Night Club on Club Penguin played some crazy hard techno. It makes me feel like I’m raving at a sixth grade school dance.

CTRLFR33K @ Halloweeb Trans-Pecos. Shoutout Jameson for pushing the sextrance agenda and telling me about this show (the mix is tagged “fairytrance” but same cooked vibes).

Ice Spice’s “Deli.” Those dissonant drums are addictive. On Halloween night, I saw a woman dressed as Ice Spice twerking to “Deli” in Tompkins Square park. Across from her, some aspiring comedian types were hosting a freeform spelling bee, asking random passersby to spell phrases like “jealous loser syndrome.” It felt like a real New York panorama.

xaviersobased’s “1c in tha cut 2” and “u dk how 2 hoop.” I’ve seen Xavier live many times but the speakers never capture what this music sounds like with high quality headphones, the abyssal bass thuds and melted gurgles short-circuiting your brain. It’s some of the most entrancingly fried music ever.

cumgirl8’s “Pritney LLC.” A goofy little tribute to a dog that pukes in shoes and steals cigarettes, with an equally bizarre and bumbling beat to match.

Taraneh & Elusin’s “Spell.” I saw Taraneh play at a quiet spot in the deserted end of Bushwick; I can’t separate this bewitched and blissed-out goth rock from the surreal feeling of walking along those empty streets in the rain with the bright Manhattan skyline lurking behind me.

Thanks Kieran, that was fucked up and awesome! Now we pass the ball to Ali.

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Ali wrote her own bio:

"Ali Rosa-Salas is a curator whose approach is rooted in the belief that curatorial practice must serve the public good. She finds inspiration from the cultural ecosystems of Lenapehoking (currently called New York City), where she was proudly born and raised. Ali is the director of Abrons Arts Center, a cultural institution on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In addition to New York City and Abrons, she loves buttered rolls, her twin sister, citi bikes, and envisioning the DJ sets she’d do if she knew how to use CDJs."

Let's pray she learns those CDJs! As a new CDJ user myself, I'll say go for it Ali, it's easier than you probably think. Anyway here she is, with a multi-category list that I fking love:

Book of the year: My sister Marcel Rosa-Salas and our dear friend Isabel Flower finally released their long anticipated book Documenting the Nameplate: Jewelry, Culture and Identity. A culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of research, this beautiful volume explores the dynamic history of nameplate jewelry through photography, commissioned essays, and the personal anecdotes of nameplate jewelry wearers.

Culinary experience of the year: Every Labor Day, Isabel Flower and I make our annual pilgrimage to Orchard Beach, where it is mandatory for us to order the exquisite chicken fingers and fries at the Orchard Beach Snack Bar that are washed down with nutcrackers made by a titi-owned and operated cooler on the boardwalk. We always conclude our trip with Hennessy Coladas at Johnny’s Reef on City Island.

Performance of the year: What really excited me this year was the halftime performance by New York Liberty’s Timeless Torches (the Liberty’s age 40+ dance team) at the Liberty’s West Indian Night. The ensemble had me screaming my head off with their prideful, flag-waving tribute to JW & Blaze’s Palance.

Podcast of the year: In ODB: A Son Unique, photographer Khalik Allah chronicles the life of the prolific artist and WuTang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Through interviews with close friends and family as well as archival audio, Allah traces ODB’s rise to stardom, his relationship to the Five-Percent nation, and his complex representation in mainstream media.

Song of the year: Andrew asks that all my picks be New York City-centric, so I am cheating with this one (forgive me, Andrew!)--but no song defined 2023 more for me than Talibans by Kittian dancehall artist Byron Messia. According to Apple music, I have unapologetically played this track 200 times since it came out, and heard it just as much from cars, train platforms and during my citi bike rides around Prospect Park. This song belongs to our City!


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