Lynch pin

Driven by pride and anger, a Staten Island MC attacks stereotypes in rap.

UNIVERSAL MC The message of dignity coming from NYOIL, left, with supporter Afrika Bambaataa, is aimed at Black America, but it applies to everyone.

UNIVERSAL MC The message of dignity coming from NYOIL, left, with supporter Afrika Bambaataa, is aimed at Black America, but it applies to everyone. Photograph: Courtesy of On the Fly PR

In October, a new song and a video clip were posted on NYOIL’s MySpace page. Though the site explains his acronym as standing for New York’s Original International Lover, the track in question was anything but romantic. In the video, as images flit by—archival photos of racist propaganda mixed with stills of current rappers like Young Joc, Jim Jones and 50 Cent—NYOIL gets right to the point: “All you bullshit Mcs / Pay very close attention.... Y’all should all get lynched.”

In between verses expressing abject shock and disgust over the verbal and visual messages in much current rap, NYOIL returns to the chorus: “All you coon-assed rappers, y’all should all get lynched / And all you fake-ass gangstas, y’all should all get lynched / Because Malcolm X died for you to act like this.... And this is the best you could come up with?”

It hardly needs to be said that a song called “Y’all Should All Get Lynched,” aimed at African-Americans by an African-American, would get people’s attention, and there’s been plenty of vociferous debate about it in the online community—which is all good with NYOIL. “What I’m saying is that these rappers are exposing the public to the things they’re doing,” he says, “so I’m subject to it too. And this is how I feel about it.” For now, NYOIL is divulging neither his identity nor age. But “Y’all Should All Get Lynched,” as well as the similarly intense “What Up My Wigger” and two other songs on his site (myspace.com/nyoil), are clearly not the work of a newbie; sitting across from him in his St. George, Staten Island, apartment, it’s obvious NYOIL’s no kid. He’s aware that the cover of anonymity leaves him open to criticism, but “if people knew who I was, they’d put labels on me that would make them unable to hear me the right way. If I was an artist who just never made it, people would think, Oh, he’s just bitter, that’s why he’s trying to get on it now.”

NYOIL’s transformation from whoever he was to who he is now was both a slow build and a confluence of tipping points. “I was making some music in September, and I was going to release it as this unknown MC, try to create a little mystery,” he says. “But the way I was approaching it was too typical of hip-hop, like, [Raps] 'I wanna punch you in the face!’ It felt hollow. Then I made 'What It’s Come 2,’ and in talking about the things that frustrate me, I realized this was the music I wanted to be making.”

NYOIL’s neighborhood also played a major role. “I grew up here,” he says, referring to the apartment we were sitting in. “It was an oasis, a beautiful place; we used to play freeze tag, all of that. Come through now and there’s weed smoke everywhere. Then one day I saw a video by this dude Ms. Peachez called 'Fry That Chicken.’ ” The video, easily found on the Web, is full of the sort of imagery that NYOIL rails against. “It was like, Come on, man, how could you put yourself out there like that?” he continues. “So you know, [Raps] 'All you coon-assed niggas, you should all get lynched.’ I knew some black people weren’t gonna dig it, but so what? If they dog me for it that gives me the platform to say, 'Now, how could you sit there all these years and allow them to make the black woman a bitch above all other women? How could you allow these cats to sing about bringing drugs into the neighborhood?’ ” His tone goes somber. “All these years of them promoting gang violence, how could you allow that? But now you’re up in arms because invoking the word lynched is some sacred wrong? Get the hell out of here.” He pauses. “I’m trying to bring my people to a place where they’re like, You know what? We did fuck up on some of this stuff. Let’s take some ownership of it. We dropped the ball, but that’s cool—now we’re handling our business.”

At the end of the interview, his wife and three kids (aged roughly 10 to 15) emerge from the back rooms of the apartment. His wife shows off the jewelry she makes at home; his sons discuss their own mixed feelings over their dad’s use of lynched. Afterward, NYOIL walks me to the elevator. He nods in the direction of his front door. “Right there is the real reason I’m doing this,” he says. “I’m doing it for them.”